Christie’s London doorman discusses James Bond’s car, his love of Francis Bacon, and the memorable day he met Madonna
I spent nine years working at Whitehall, providing security for British government ministers. I joined Christie’s on 30 March 1998 and have never looked back — I’ll be here until I retire, hopefully. I’m 60 this year, so have got roughly seven years ahead of me.
I spend the whole day outside welcoming people. The only time I’m inside is when furniture or art works are being delivered. I always encourage people in the street to come in, look around and enjoy themselves — and of course, have a free coffee!
When you’re on the door, it’s never quiet. In the 18 years I’ve been here, Christie’s has changed a lot. Today we have more sales, and more visitors than ever before. I’m always talking to people.
I try to see exhibitions before they open. I often work on a Saturday morning, when the art handlers are setting up. I don’t like to get in their way, but once they’re finished, I have a quick look round before we open to the public at 12 o’clock.
Colin Kemp welcomes a visitor to Christie’s historic HQ on King Street in London
James Bond’s car was amazing. I didn’t see the auction, because I was on the door welcoming people in. You can always feel the excitement when they arrive. They come with smiles on their faces.
I’m a proper Cockney. I was born in the East End of London — under the sound of the Bow bells, as they say. I’ve since moved out to Grays in Essex — my wife wanted to buy a house. It’s far away, but I travel in by motorbike every day. It can be dangerous, depending on the other drivers. Nowadays, everyone seems to be in a hurry.
I’m not a worrier. I never think about what might happen because I’m always positive about life — never negative. I find my day-to-day job exciting.
I don’t feel the cold. Everyone who comes to the door in winter says I should be wearing my big coat. This year I gave in and put it on just for a week. It’s very rare that I get a cold, but I thought they might be right.
Colin Kemp never forgets a face, and rarely forgets a name
If I could have bought anything at Christie’s it would have been Francis Bacon’s triptychs. I don’t know much about art, but I think they’re absolutely wonderful. There’s just something about them. When I saw them, I knew they’d sell.
I treat everyone the same. We had an intern once who said, ‘Colin, please don’t hold the door for me.’ But I told him I treat everyone who comes through Christie’s doors equally. He never forgot that. Now he occasionally comes in as a client.
I always remember people. A client came in a few years ago, and was shocked when I greeted her by name — the last time she’d been to Christie’s London was almost a decade previously.
Madonna is one of my idols. I loved it when she came in with her friends — it must have been about 10 years ago. I would have loved to have had my photo taken with her, but it’s a line I’ll never cross.