A Classy Commute – The Sotheby’s Old Masters Specialist

25 Mar

Francois de Poortere, Old Masters Specialist for Sotheby’s, has lived – and cycled – in Paris and London, Europe’s capitals of style and architecture. However, the Belgian born Francois prefers his current home New York – for its style, its architecture, and its cycling. It’s here, when he’s cycling to work in the morning, with the rising sun’s rays reflected by the glass walls of Manhattan’s East Side skyscrapers, Francois feels truly at home.

A Cyclist's View on the East River

Francois lives in Williamsburg – a Brooklyn neighbourhood with organic markets, latte artists, and cyclists. On a typical workday, Francois gets up at 7.45 a.m. He likes to take time starting the day, and considers himself lucky his newborn son Carlo is a good sleeper. As Francois puts on cycling gear, his wife Sunny uses the juicer to turn fresh apples and ginger into a drink for herself and her husband. After the juice and a banana, Francois is on his way to work. Unlike commutes from other Brooklyn residents, his does not involve subways or tunnels and is unaffected by any traffic jams; Francois knows he will be in the office precisely 22 minutes after he starts cycling.

Francois leaves his house on Guersney Street, located on the edge of Williamsburg. He heads north and soon crosses Pulaski Bridge. On that bridge, he looks out over Newton Creek; its water marking the border between the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. The creek ends in the East River, where on sunny mornings with cloud swept skies Francois will see ships sailing, reminding the Old Masters Specialist of paintings Jacob van Ruijsdael made of the Dutch seas, more than 400 years ago.

View of Alkmaar from the sea - by Jacob Van Ruijsdael

A few blocks north, after cycling through empty streets and past warehouses, Francois turns left onto Queensboro Bridge, taking him out of Queens and onto Manhattan Island. Queensboro Bridge has a separate cycling lane, and Francois is joined by other cyclists commuting into Manhattan. With Manhattan’s skyscrapers now in view, Francois is energized and puts his legs to work. He climbs and descends quickly, making a game of overtaking as many bicycles as possible – giving himself extra points if he overtakes a bicycle courier. At the foot of the Queensboro Bridge, Francois turns right on 1st Avenue. Despite busy traffic, Francois feels at ease. His commutes in New York – with its broad streets and designated cycling lanes – are easier than his commutes in London or Paris were, where streets were narrow and traffic was less fluid.

Finally, Francois arrives at Sotheby’s headquarters on York Avenue. Currently, the building is filled with an exposition for early outer space artifacts. On his way to the shower, walking through Sotheby’s main hall, Francois passes Sputnik 2  – a space capsule Russia used in 1957 to send the first dog into orbit. The dog, Laika, didn’t survive the trip and died of overheating. Francois, still a bit heated from his game of overtaking cyclists, is happy he gets to cool off in the shower.

Francois de Poortere on Sotheby's Roofterrace


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