Published: April 2, 2019
About every three decades, the auction world sees a new member of the Doyle family ascend to the helm of a Manhattan staple that has found the heart of the city and auctioned off its dweller’s possessions since it opened in 1962. Founded by William Doyle then and continued by Kathleen M. Doyle after his passing in 1993, the torch now falls to their daughter, Laura Doyle, who was promoted to the role of CEO in January, 2019. Laura has been involved with the gallery since she was a child, following her father around to estate calls and sales and even slamming down her first gavel at 7 years old. She assumes her lead in a digital age, but remains confidently committed to personal touch. We sat down with Laura to see what that approach looks like in practice and to hear where Doyle is headed.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice your parents have given you to help you move forward in this business?
Buy what you love. As we watch people create art funds and speculate on the market, it is easy to get caught up; but at the end of the day, if the market shifts, as we know it does, you better love what you have because it may be yours for a long time.
Do you think you’re faced with a different auction market than your parents were?
Yes and no. It is certainly more global. I think that technology is changing the way we do everything, but this is still a very people-centric business. It is easy to get caught up with wanting to be completely digital, but as we are seeing everyday, even the online-only businesses eventually see the value of brick and mortar. Tastes and collecting habits seem to have changed more in the last ten to 15 years than in the previous 30, so that is definitely a difference.
Doyle built its name on being a single solution in New York City; what does that mean, and has it changed over the years?
Our goal is to provide the broadest level of service in order to meet all of our clients’ needs. Today, that translates into multi-faceted solutions, including consignment and outright purchase across almost 80 different sales with tiered categories of property and levels of value. There are efficiencies in handling an entire estate or collection that translate into benefits for the client.
You talk about Doyle being “high touch.” What’s that?
High touch refers to our contact with the customer. The value of our business is goodwill based on our reputation and expertise. We are accessible to our clients at every level. Our goal is to establish relationships with our clients, not just transactions.
Where is Doyle looking to expand?
Everywhere! We are constantly looking at ways to do more – expand our categories, grow our sales, have a wider reach geographically. We are both thoughtful about how we accomplish this and not afraid of trying new things.
Tell me about Hayloft Auctions. What kind of material are you selling with it, and what kinds of buyers are you getting?
Our goal with Hayloft Auctions is to provide a fun, easy and affordable entry point into the auction market and at the same time solving the need to dispose of lower-end property. We have been careful not to grow it too quickly and to try to keep it local, because I think we’ve all learned from some of our competitors that a $25 chair sounds like a great deal until you have to pay $250 to ship it across the country.
Many of our readers will remember your father, William Doyle. Can you share a memory of him from your childhood growing up around antiques?
So much of my childhood was spent tagging along with him on calls, at auctions and just in our gallery. It is hard to think of a memory of him that is not tied to antiques and our business. The energy and excitement of a really good auction is something I will always associate with him. From the time I can remember, my father introduced me as the one who was going to run the business. Leaving me with a goal and the confidence he believed in me was an incredible gift.
What are your collecting interests?
When I got married, I joked to my husband that I came fully furnished. So much of what I have was inherited, including entire collections of things. We see so many beautiful objects in our business that there is constant temptation, and as a result, I have focused on collecting ab/ex artists who worked in New York City, but not editions or works on paper. It helps me stay disciplined, most of the time. Until I blow it and buy something that just makes me happy.
Any young collectors among your four children?
I’m not sure whether it is generational or if it is because they have always had each other and don’t really need “stuff,” but my four daughters (triplets who are 13 and a 12 year old) don’t seem to have inherited the collector gene. However, they certainly all have the commerce gene, and at least one of them has my dad’s eye. Art, as opposed to antiques, is much more a part of their life and education than it even was for me.
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