Alexander Gilkes: The Best (and Worst) Gifts I Ever Got

Paddle8 founder Alexander Gilkes shot in their offices in New York City.

Paddle8 founder Alexander Gilkes shot in their offices in New York City. Chris Sorensen for Observer

Sure, we could have compiled a list of must-have arty gift suggestions for this Christmas 2016. But we thought a lesson in others’ successful (and not so successful) gift giving might prove more useful for all you last minute shoppers out there. In lieu of a gift guide, we asked our art world friends to share their most memorable gifts of Christmas past. Here, the co-founder of online auction house Paddle8 Alexander Gilkes reveals to Observer the best and worst gifts he’s ever received.


My first bicycle: I remember being led to a shed by my father for the unveiling of a beautiful bicycle, equipped with stabilizers, on Christmas Day. I must have been four or five and realized that this was my first ride into independence. We were inseparable for the months and year to follow.

Atari Lynx: This was my first computer console. I was very lucky as every other child in my class had the black and white Game Boy, while I had the color, handheld console. I spent every waking hour playing X games on the device.

My first computer: I believe that it was a Sinclair Spectrum computer, with a cassette tape player for the software. It was once again a generous gift from my parents. It was one of the first home computers on the market and had me gripped. I loved hearing the dial-up and believing that I was connecting with the outer world.

Zegna coat: This was a generous gift from Misha Nonoo for our first Chrismukkah together about 13 years ago. We went to an outlet village where we found a stunning cashmere coat at the Zegna store, which Misha kindly gifted. It was a major wardrobe upgrade and my first cashmere outer garment.

My grandfather clock: My father discovered that our family had made long-case clocks in Warwickshire in the early 18th century. He managed to track down a fine example through an English antiquarian and horologist and gifted it to me for my 30th birthday. It remains a cherished treasure at home and makes a wonderful chime on the hour.


Welded iron heron: I was given a life-size iron sculpture of a heron by a godparent. It was so poorly made, that it looked more like a pterodactyl and was so unbalanced that it would continue to topple over and create huge divots in my bedroom floor with its sharp beak.

Enormous psychedelic painting of multicolored squiggles: I was given an eight-foot painting on a luminous yellow background as a parting gift when leaving Paris in 2008. I did not dare take it with me to NYC and understood that the cost of shipping would have far outweighed the cost of the work. It remains hidden under a large bed in France.

Bad clothing: I have always been really picky about my clothes and have received everything from dungarees to scary jumpers (one with fiber optics) and socks with pom-poms.

Potato-powered clock: I was given a digital clock which you connect to potatoes. I think it was thankfully a stocking-filler and ended up in the re-gifting drawer Alexander Gilkes: The Best (and Worst) Gifts I Ever Got