Robert Kim antiques are headed to auction in October
Anglophiles, collectors and design enthusiasts take note: the personal collection of the late Robert Kim – decorator for King Charles and perhaps the world’s most important collector of antiquities, art and antiques – will be auctioned with Dreweatt at a live auction on October 4-6 in the salerooms of Donnington Priory.
The sale, Robert Kim: The Personal Collection, comes just over a year after Kim’s death in August 2022 and presents his personal collection of art and antiques collected during a lifetime of travels throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East. It will include more than 900 lots, ranging in value from £30 to more than £100,000, from his homes: Warwick Square, his apartment in London, and La Jeunet in France, a Provençal farmhouse that Kim restored with his wife Helen and the architect Marie-Lou Arscot.
Kim achieved international fame for decorating Highgrove House in Gloucestershire and Clarence House in London for King Charles when he was Prince of Wales. He went on to design interiors for the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Daphne Guinness and Tory Burch, while selling antiques and his own line of fabrics inspired by historical textiles he acquired around the world, but Kim is best remembered for his avid collecting and works. Passion and deep knowledge of things.
“He had great taste and a knowledge base and vocabulary that was unparalleled,” says Joe Robinson, president of Drewetts Homes and Special Collections Sales. Against the background of his rigorous historical studies and keen vision, Kim’s collecting has been driven by instinct and familiarity, especially when it comes to collecting for himself. “When you see ‘Presented by Robert Kim,’ there’s an understanding that there’s an inherent quality in the item…but that kind of misses the point,” Robinson says. “He collected things that meant something to him. He was able to discover passionate The value is in things.”
Kime got his start as an antiques dealer while studying history at Oxford after leaving high school early to study language in France and Italy and work on archaeological excavations in Greece and Masada, Israel. according to Robert Kim By Alastair Langlands, a 2015 study detailing 12 of Kim’s decorating projects A financial crisis at home prompted him to sell furniture his mother had inherited from his grandmother. He then took up the antiques trade to pay for his college tuition.
The antique trade leads to decoration, especially when clients visit their own homes, which have been collected over time and exude a spirit of comfort and continuity. As King Charles wrote in the introduction to Langlands’ book: “[Kim’s]immense knowledge of history and art invests all his projects with an elegance and authenticity that is timeless and at once comforting and reassuring.” Langlands adds: “For Robert, it is essential that a house or a room convey a sense of security and a sense of permanence… It is also important for him that it resonates with the past, with real or imagined memories… By and because they are connected to the past and the present, their rooms become Khalida.
For Kim, it was continuing to live with a group that provided the security and comfort he longed for, perhaps due to his childhood during which he moved frequently. “His goal was always to create the illusion of permanence with interiors that, without resorting to imitation, look as if they have grown organically over several generations,” Langlands wrote. When he was decorating, “he wasn’t just designing interiors,” Robinson adds. “He was creating a home with a combination of things that made his clients feel comfortable and safe.”
Visiting his own homes, Druyatz Auctions offers an intimate look at how Kim lives with the objects he values most—particularly in La Jeunet, the place Kim and his family have retreated to since 1999, when they discovered it with American antiques. dealer and designer Michael Trapp, until the end of his life in 2022. “There was an anxiety about him, and he always wanted the next project,” Robinson says. “La Gonette was the only place he stayed. It was a haven, and he felt more isolated and safer there.
Kime’s interiors have the feeling that they were not designed at all, but merely put together to reflect the story of their owners. The hand of the designer, or decorator as Kim prefers, is almost invisible, and there is an effortless atmosphere that was of course not easy to create. Nowhere is this more true than at La Gonette.
Although the 18th-century Provençal farmhouse looks as if it has always been as it is today, the Kimes had to completely rebuild the interiors within the ruined shell by working with local craftsmen to install items they purchased in the area. All of the interior architecture – beams and coverings – was brought in by Kim and Arscott. Even the floors had to be redone, with those on the ground floor consisting of various antique tiles. “He understood the journey of the building, and he brought that journey into the building itself by weaving it into its surroundings,” Robinson says.
La Gonette is furnished with many antique rugs and textiles that Kime collected during his travels and formed the basis for his line of fabrics. “There was no instant gratification to his decorations,” Robinson says. “These are hard-traveled interiors.” “There is often a cultural contrast in the places where he buys these textiles, but his magic lies in creating dialogue and harmony between them.”
The Provençal farmhouse also embodies Kime’s approach to color, which was informed by a deep understanding and appreciation of place and environment. “He would have noticed the light from the beginning, and that contributed to his tactile approach to the colors he chose,” Robinson says. Even in the objects he arranges on tabletops, shelves and mantles, one senses how nature and landscape influence his interiors.
In addition to showcasing his antiques, the Dreweats Auction will also showcase Kim’s extraordinary collection of fine art, much of which reflects his lifelong passion for traveling to places such as Egypt and Greece. “He loved learning about other cultures, especially classical cultures because they still inform a lot of design today,” Robinson says.
But Kime also collected modern and even contemporary art, which he displayed throughout La Gonette. “His works by French painter Pierre Humbert have an ethereal look, a very special atmosphere, and are there to work with the wall but also with the objects around them,” says Robinson. Kime was also close to the English artist William Crozier, who invited him to paint at La Gonette.
The sale, which is expected to fetch more than £1.5 million in full, represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring back a piece of Kime’s unique aesthetic.
“What we have now is the distillery. These are antiques that he could never bear to part with,” Will Fisher says of the pieces up for auction with the Drewetts.
With his wife Charlotte Fremantle, Fisher founded Jamb, the English antiques and reproductions company recently recognized by VERANDA as one of eight British design studios every design lover should know, and he was a great friend of Kime’s. “Each of these things carried an intimate message, which perhaps only he knew. They gave him a sense of self, and the separation from them during his life would have disappeared.
To view lots and register to bid, visit Drweatts.
Steele Marko is Editor-in-Chief at VERANDA, where he covers design, architecture and travel trends for the brand.