In Conversation with Swiss-German Dealer Bennet Vertes

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Andy Warhol, Moon Explorer, 1983 – Courtesy Vertes Modern, Zurich

Salis & Vertes is one of Europe’s most prestigious modern and contemporary art galleries. Founded in 1994, its exhibition spaces in Zurich and Salzburg showcase some of the most iconic, museum-quality works of art spanning the past 150 years. Earlier this year, Bennet Vertes founded Vertes Modern in the heart of Zurich with a fresh program of art to appeal to younger collectors. I met the younger Vertes at the start of Autumn, in Zurich…

Homa Taj – How long have you been with Salis & Vertes …?

Bennet Vertes – I finished my MBA in London at the beginning of this year and then a few months later I entered full time into our family business. Over the past years, I traveled with my father and participated in many fairs, such as Art Cologne and TEFAF. I sold my first painting when I was 16, about 10 years ago. A painting by Marc Chagall, which was my motivator to enter the art world.

HT - When (& why) did you decide to found Vertes Modern? 

BV –I saw the opportunity to create Vertes Modern with a new product spectrum aiming at a younger target audience. I launched a new website, collected more art, enrolled at new fairs and worked on a new marketing concept. I launched the company 3 months ago.

HT - How is Vertes Modern’s program different from Salis & Vertes’?

BV – Vertes Modern focuses on modern, pop art and contemporary art whereas the artistic focus of Salis & Vertes is shown on pieces of Impressionism, Fauvism, German Expressionism and École de Paris.

HT - You are German and you have worked with Salis &Vertes which has presence in Salzburg & a permanent exhibition space in Zurich. How do you reach beyond your established (& pre-dominantly German-speaking) collectors?

BV – I use social networks, such as Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn as well as e mail newsletters to keep international clients updated. Besides, I leverage the existing clientele of Salis & Vertes who has responded very positively to the new launch of Vertes Modern. Also, I grew up in Geneva and London and feel rather European. I have international art and target an international clientele.

HT - How do you decide with which collectors to work? In other words, what qualities do you think make a collector?

BV – First, I start with the collectors I already know and work on a positive customer relationship.  Clients develop from prospects to first time clients, to repeat clients and then to collectors. For me a collector is someone who has a clear articulate strategy of what they like and has collected several pieces of an artists or a specific style

HT - As a curator, I have always been interested in mid-career artists (40-55 yrs old) who have a solid body of work yet are young enough to create for 30+ more years… How would you define your taste in contemporary art (the types of artists with whom you would like to work, etc)?

BV – I am very open minded if it comes to contemporary art. I personally enjoy video installations, as well as Chinese and Japanese art. I constantly watch the market carefully and look for dynamic, young artists who I believe have great potential but have not yet acquired mainstream exposure.

HT - How do you meet contemporary artists?

BV – I get emails from artists who would like to present their art in our showrooms or fairs. Then I meet up with them personally and try to understand their philosophy and ambitions. Most of my friends are somehow involved in art and share with me their ideas and contacts.

HT - You have just participated in your first fair the 17th edition of Kunst 11 Zurich. What was your program for that show? 

BV – The program for Kunst Zurich is post war, modern and contemporary art. I show artists such as Calder, Chamberlain, Feng, Francis, Hirst, Murakami, Rauschenberg, Richter, Vasarely, Warhol, Wesselmann, Xiaogang and others…

HT - What was your experience of Kunst 11 Zurich?

BV – I was very happy to have successfully launched my new concept. It has been great to meet with new clients and to hear their feedback and what they are interested in. The next fair I am doing will be Art Karlsruhe, in March.

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