Prapavadee Sophonpanich, founder of Ideas 1606, the luxury real estate development company behind Veyla Residences in Cha-am and Khao Tao is no stranger to the world of management. She was also managing director of Palang Sophon, the family’s oil and gas exploration and production company for around 14 years and held executive positions at management consulting firms McKinsey & Company and Brain & Company.
However, a life in business wasn’t what Prapavadee dreamt about as a little girl—she wanted to be an air hostess. Later, aspirations of one day becoming a diplomat led to a bachelor’s degree in international relations at Tufts University. “I then pursued a master’s degree at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs in New York,” she says. One would think that an obvious career path would be at the United Nations or a foreign ministry, but life is full of vagaries.
Which brings us to today and the latest twist in Prapavadee’s professional life as she sets out on a new career path with prestigious auction house Christie’s. Having been appointed general manager of the auctioneer’s Thai office in January this year, she has her plate full but also finds much joy in the new challenges and experiences. “It’s been a steep learning curve. I still have much to learn about the auction business but it has also been a lot of fun so far,” she smiles. “I have always been interested in art and in my youth I took courses on contemporary art valuation and art research, so I’m glad that I finally get to put that knowledge to good use.”
A lover of art, it comes as no surprise that over and above studying sales cycles and market trends, her favourite part of the job is finding quality art pieces for auctions and private sales. “I really enjoy attending sales and exhibitions,” she says. “And I love being able to learn more about how collectors and specialists in the field do their work.”
Thailand has some of the biggest watch collectors in Asia and while it is important to maintain what is already strong, Prapavadee is also keen on strengthening other categories of the local art market. “We have seen a significant increase in the number of emerging fine art collectors here,” she says. “That is something I would very much like to build on. We have established collectors who traditionally put a lot of emphasis on Thai art, so we want to focus more on Western and Southeast Asian art. That’s my main goal for the coming years and I’m excited to work on untapped markets in the fine art segment.”
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She speaks enthusiastically about her work and expresses much gratitude for her team and advisors, all of whom provide a great support system. But there’s more to life than work, as Prapavadee, married to Chone Soponpanich and the mother of two girls, knows well. “I’ve been married for 18 years,” she smiles. Juggling work and family isn’t always smooth sailing but luckily, working at Christie’s comes with time flexibility she is grateful for. “I get to take my girls to their tennis lessons and watch them play before heading to the office,” she says. A yearly summer family vacation is a must, often to New York where she was born. Regular trips to the Big Apple encourage her to think that her children will eventually form a connection with the city with which she herself has such strong affinity.
Work and mothering duties aside, when this ambitious lady has time for herself she enjoys reading and indulging in her passion for tennis. “I also go to the gym regularly,” she adds with a laugh, “It keeps me sane.”
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