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Old Master dealer Derek Johns.

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1. How did you get your start?

As a third generation art dealer I was rather press-ganged into it – I wanted to be a botanist but my father thought that it was more important to be a gardener on the weekends rather than during the week.

But I’m pleased and it’s done me well.

I started at Sotheby’s as a porter in 1964. I like religion, allegories, mythology and all things Greek, so I was put in the Old Master department and worked my way up.

2. How has the art trade changed?

Phenomenally, particularly in my field. Once upon a time there were lots and lots of private collectors around Europe. I used to sell Spanish pictures to Spain and Italian pictures back to Italy. But then the economy collapsed and since then the market has shrunk. In those countries it’s only really internal sales rather than an international trade.

At the same time, a lot of the private collectors I worked with were reaching the end of their collecting lives and their children weren’t really interested in continuing with Old Masters.

Also over a year ago now I lost my building in Duke Street and had to move out along with Johnny van Haeften. I’d been there 35 years so it was a terrible loss, especially moving off the street level. Now I’m in Georgian House on Bury Street. It houses quite a few dealers, but it’s sort of anonymous like a block of flats and you can’t put your name up on the building. But I’ll go on dealing here, if in a smaller capacity.

3. Why isn’t there as much interest from the younger generation in Old Masters?

They seem to be more interested in contemporary art. This could be from lack of education around the area or because people like simpler things now. And it’s easier to recognise a Francis Bacon than a 16th century Renaissance portrait.

4. What is your major market now?

Most of our major sales are to museums.

5. One exhibition you would love to stage?

I’d have loved to put on the exhibition of the Charles I collection but I’ve been pipped at the post by the Royal Academy.

I’m sure they’ve done it on a much bigger scale than I could ever do, but it’s a wonderful subject. I’m planning to go on an early-morning visit.

derekjohns.co.uk