Globetrotter: The director of South African art at Bonhams has been lucky so far ...

Giles Peppiatt, director of South African art at Bonhams, values collections worth up to £150m across the world. He had a hair-raising experience in Nigeria.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

How often do you travel?

I'm away every other week viewing collections of South African art. When the country was under the apartheid regime many people escaped, taking their expensive art with them. So the paintings are widely dispersed - I can be in Israel one week and Australia the next.

What do you do when you get there?

I gather paintings for the two auctions a year Bonhams holds in South African art. I also value collections, which can be worth up to £150m.

Best and worst city?

Vancouver is a beautiful place, with lots of lakes and mountains (see right). Johannesburg is one of the least attractive cities and can also be incredibly dangerous. About 60% of people I talk to over there have been held up at gunpoint; although I've visited about 40 times and have never had any trouble yet (touch wood).

Most essential travel item?

I always take two pairs of glasses. I'm long-sighted and it would be a disaster if I couldn't see the pictures properly.

What do you do in-flight?

If it's a night flight I'll sleep. On a day flight I'll work or read the FT. If it's a long flight I'll watch a film.

Favourite hotel?

The Vineyard hotel in Cape Town. It's slightly old fashioned with lovely gardens and the staff are very friendly and attentive. The hotel's also got wonderful views overlooking Table Mountain.

Ever had a dangerous trip?

I viewed an art collection in Ashkelon, Israel, about a year ago. On leaving the city, the office manager accompanying me expressed relief that it had gone well. I assumed she meant the meeting, but I found out later she was relieved we had escaped the town unscathed as Katuysha rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip, had been raining down on Ashkelon only two days previously.

Worst ever travel experience?

I was conducting some appraisals in Lagos, Nigeria and decided to do the last one myself as it was close to the airport. I stepped inside a scruffy-looking office block and was introduced to five burly Nigerians at the precise moment a power cut hit. I was convinced I would never get out alive. In fact they turned out to be charming, with a significant art collection acquired when the Nigerian economy benefited from the oil price hike of the 1970s.

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