artnet Asks: Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim, Gallery Director
The gallery's most recent acquisitions include works by RETNA and Peter Beard.
Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim, the director of Chelsea gallery Hoerle-Guggenheim, has acquired an impressive array of important modern and contemporary artists for a gallery as young as his—it opened its doors on West 23rd Street for the very first time early last fall. The gallery’s most recent acquisitions include seminal works by artists RETNA and Peter Beard. Also of note in the collection are the rich color-laden canvases of Natvar Bhavsar as well as a few choice works by Andy Warhol, John Lennon, and Salvador Dalí.
Boasting a stable of distinctive talent including Raphael Mazzucco, Jason Dussault, Marco Glaviano, and Ronnie Wood, the gallery has Pop-culture leanings. Hoerle-Guggenheim’s own aesthetic gracefully runs through the curatorial choices, with three dynamic exhibitions in the works: RETNA’s Articulate & Harmonic Symphonies of the Soul, Jason Dussault’s Deconstructive/Constructive, and a show of works by Nelson Saiers in late March.
Hoerle-Guggenheim stopped by our office to chat with us about the gallery’s emerging artists, its musical inclinations, and the director’s admiration of Gustav Klimt.
The exhibition “Articulate & Harmonic Symphonies of the Soul” opens in a few weeks. What is it about RETNA’S work that inspired you?
With every successful artist, you look at his or her work and immediately recognize it. When you see a Hirst, you know it’s a Hirst; when you look at a Picasso, you know it’s a Picasso. I think RETNA has that quality as well. There is a uniqueness and mystery behind his work. I also appreciate his work ethic; he works for hours on end and still manages to go back to where he came from, that is, the murals and the street walls. I find the dynamic between high art and so-called street art appealing. It’s time-sensitive…or time-relevant. Simply said, RETNA’s work holds its own ground.
Between Peter Beard’s Mick Jagger portraits, the John Lennon works, and the Geronimo-Jumping Bull Rolling Stones piece, music seems to permeate the roster. Were these deliberate choices?
Yes, it all happened deliberately. My business partner worked with Ronnie Wood for many years. He was partners in a gallery called Scream in Mayfair, London for seven years and, from there, he built a natural music-bent collection. He bought Bob Dylan music manuscripts, one sold at Sotheby’s and broke the world record for the highest price paid for a music manuscript in June of last year. We’ve focused a lot on pop culture, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and all of that. Peter Beard has had a longstanding relationship with the Rolling Stones and it all happened in and around Montauk. When Peter was hanging out with Andy Warhol in Montauk, the Stones came out. Peter actually shot the Stones’ tour at Madison Square garden and beyond. So yes, art and music do inform each other.
What has your biggest challenge been thus far in running the gallery?
The biggest challenge has really been building the brand from the bottom up and doing everything at the right time. I think it’s all about good preparation. We are a young new gallery, but we’ve managed to build trust with collectors over time.
Many people say “the value of art is what someone will pay for it.” Do you find this to be true or is there more to art than its market value?
There’s a lot more that goes into that but of course it is true that, at the end of the day, the sale prices are important. But it is something that can be orchestrated and superficially created. I do believe that the greatest artists, with career longevity and who also command high prices, have an added quality. They’re the artists who blend together a certain culture and mystery around their works, something so strong that it will be there forever, beyond auction results.
Sometimes, collectors will pay very low prices for works because they are emotionally connected to the piece, beyond market value. People become collectors for different reasons, they were either inspired or impacted by a certain artist growing up or just naturally feel drawn to works. They might be the only person on earth to feel that way and so they are able to acquire a piece quite inexpensively. But the fact that a work is inexpensive is not a reflection of its true value.
Who inspires you or has been a resounding influence in your life?
My mother. She pulled me into museums at a young age when I didn’t necessarily want to go. I learned to appreciate the experience over time. A three or four year old can find better things to do with his time than walk around the Louvre. In hindsight, it all makes sense and I learned to appreciate art from a unique perspective.
At a time when many galleries are moving out of Chelsea, you decided to open up a gallery there. Why Chelsea?
We decided to do it in Chelsea because it was the heart of the art district and art scene in New York. There are other amazing art hubs in the Lower East Side and Upper East Side that are also tremendous. But we like to be on the edge. I think, with the collection we have, we were expected to open on the Lower East Side, but we embraced the current paradox we’re in: to be in a more traditional environment with edgy artwork.
Who are some emerging artists on your radar right now and why?
Quite a few. Jason Dussault, who has a bit of a colorful background and works with interesting mediums: mosaic and tiles. Dussault also works with superhero representations, something that everyone can relate to growing up. It’s young, it’s fresh, it’s cool and there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. And, he’s also just a nice man.
Another interesting artist is Nelson Saiers, who has a strong financial background. He did his PhD at the age of 23 at NYU. Some considered him the smartest guy on Wall Street. He’s just so interesting when you meet him. His work is unlike anything that I’ve seen. He comes up with these different concepts, where he’s putting many pieces of information into one work, something that takes true skill. The delivery might not be the true skill but the concept behind it certainly is.
There are some more established artists that I anticipate raising the buy on even further. Natvar Bhavsar, already in many important collections. He’s someone that I would consider under-valued. But I think there is room for growth. If you look at his technique—again, it’s not something I’ve seen before.
If you could buy any piece of modern or contemporary art, what would you buy?
Gustav Klimt and mainly his Water Serpents. I also like Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I; at one point it was the most expensive piece ever sold. It’s hanging in the Neue Gallery on the Upper East Side and is part of the Lauder estate. Klimt, I find fascinating. I love how in touch he is with colors. He’s a true artist. He really did it for the craft because he was obsessed, not because he was in it for the money.
An afternoon at the Met or the MoMA?
The Met. I find the rooms more beautiful. I actually was at the MoMA just yesterday to look at the Matisse exhibition for a second time, and it was so busy. It took me a half hour to drop my coat off. [Laughs] There’s room for improvement to make it more efficient but obviously the MoMA has amazing exhibitions.
Tell us something that no one knows about you.
[Laughs] I write. I write stories, short-stories. I’m looking to publish a book eventually, a nice coffee table book where artists that I know, or may not know yet, create illustrations for my stories.
RETNA’s upcoming exhibition at the Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery will be on view February 12–March 12, 2015.
For more interviews in our artnet Asks series, see artnet Asks: Contemporary Embroiderer Angelo Filomeno and artnet Asks: Art Dealer and Robert Motherwell Champion Bernard Jacobson
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