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According to Phillips insiders in my DMs, Highley is an “all around nice guy”. I can believe it, but I often find myself watching him on the auction block while imagining him in a more compromising position than just holding a gavel. But what makes Henry Highley tick? And why is he so hot? writes New York-based daddy influencer and writer The Art Daddy for Fetch London.

Auctioneer Henry Highley in the Phillips saleroom in London. Image courtesy of Phillips.

When it comes to auctioneers in the art world, there are a few that have become household names: Jussi Pylkkänen formerly of Christie's, Simon de Pury formerly of Phillips, and Helena Newman of Sotheby's are all standouts for their talent and flair on the podium and have come to establish themselves in this space for many reasons. The three major auction houses––Phillips, Christie's, and Sotheby's–– are known the world over for their sale of luxury items and record breaking items often making headlines inside and outside of the art world.

While the artwork is a big draw for many, for me, it really is about the auctioneer. They call the shots, set the tone, and really run the show for the art, bidders, and everyone else in the room. In an age where auction watching has reached new popularity, the auctioneer that is miles above everyone else in my book is Henry Highley. Highley, who is based out of Phillips in London, is as handsome and debonair as they come. Younger than some of his other counterparts, Highley's looks are definitely something that set him apart as well as his poise on the podium, and his charisma which is apparent any time you see him. And dare I say, an aspiring art influencer. Here he is preceding over Phillip's 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale at an evening sale where you can see the man in action. 

Highley introduing bottle top tapestry by El Anatsui

What is it about a handsome British man on the auction block that is selling million dollar works of art that gets my heart racing? And what is it specifically about Henry Highley that sets the sould ablaze? I think the devil is in the details here, and while most auctioneers of Highley's status tend to be well coiffed, are in exquisitely tailored suits, or designer dresses, there is an ease and a confidence that comes with him that it has taken other auctioneers years to cultivate. Highley commands some of the best that the British Empire has to offer. The UK gave the world James Bond; they also gave us Henry Highley (more on this comparison later). 

In an unofficial poll done recently via my Instagram which posed the question, “What is the hottest thing about Henry Highley?” people answered with an overwhelming 50% to prince charming good looks/panty dropper status, 20% the perfect hair, 20% the accent, and 10% for his commanding auction presence. In a 2019 interview with Artnet, Highly noted that he was a 2008 graduate of Newcastle University where he was an art history major. After graduating, Highley began working for Phillips where he has remained ever since. He has risen the ranks at the luxury auction house and is currently the head of private sales in Europe and the Principal Auctioneer where he often presides over contemporary and modern art auctions. Well, it's not hard to see why the head auctioneer is daddy. He is suave and has all on the moves on the podium and I am guessing in other facets in life as well. I am also very curious about the compulsion to want to be an art auctioneer, and how a role like this has just become such a natural fit for our British heartthrob. 

Last month Phillips released a video with several of their auctioneers featured on it including Highley. In the short video, Henry Highley, Jonny Crockett, Danielle So, and others are all asked various questions about their job including “what is the best part of being an auctioneer?”, “what is the most challenging part of your job?” and “describe your auctioneer style.” The last one is where things got interesting. 

Henry's answer is cocky and eclectic, and is just what we would expect from our favorite heartthrob auctioneer.  The Phillips auctioneer of 10 years noted he thought he was very much like “James Bond” but was maybe closer to “Harry Potter.” Highley, who is incredibly handsome and has earned a reputation for it, is also smooth on the auction block and rarely seems to waver there and with his knowing smile, reassuring British accent, and gavel in hand. 

From his Instagram, I have determined that he is a fan of the outdoors, has trained for triathlons, and sees a lot of art. Henry is like a slow burn on the auction block and in real life as well. Most of his posts are art related, which isn't shocking given his profession. And, frankly, what can’t this man do?

There will be an occasional selfie in a story and a repost. I was screaming last month when he reposted himself getting cozy with the British art historian Katy Hessell (who has made waves with her podcast and book, The Story of Art Without Men) and another woman. His thirst traps though, while far and few inbetween, leave me, and his 4,000 followers wanting more. He wants us to want him, but we already do. But isn’t that always the case?

Highley's active and glamorous lifestyle does in some ways seem to resemble the widely popular 2023 dark film Saltburn. While Highley's life does not necessarily mirror the movie's plot, the garden parties, country estates, yachts, exclusive events, and expensive clothes seem to track: Highley is living an aspirational lifestyle. Not quite British royalty, but maybe closer to art auctioneer royalty, Highly has all the earmarks of an art star in the making. And, given his proximity to power and wealth, he also seems to be potentially attainable. Perhaps this is what is the hottest thing about Highley: the fantasy he projects that we as auction watchers, and consumers of his social media life are able to cast onto him. And who better to lust after than Henry Highley? He is obnoxiously handsome, extremely knowledgeable about contemporary art, has a big job, is a well known name in his industry, and is not even 40 yet. To me, the best is yet to come for Highley and I cannot wait to watch him - and, hopefully, post more thirst traps in the process. 


The Art Daddy is a Brooklyn, New York-based daddy influencer and writer. AD runs the art world Instagram juggernaut account @theartdaddy_ and a weekly substack with the same name dedicated to all daddy and art things. 


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