Art curator and gallerist Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim in front of Marc Gumpinger piece

Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim

— You have a background in finance. How does it help you working as an art curator?

Having a background in Finance helps me more so on the business side of running an art gallery. I understand numbers and that is generally important in any business. My curational sensibilities I have really built from the ground up. My mother brought me to a museum from the age of 3, and art was very much part of our education. I was always fascinated by masters and told stories on large canvases. I was always amazed by the amount of work that was put into it. Today, I look for artist with a similar approach, where it is not just conceptual but very much work based. I like the effort that goes into the work, and I am looking for a story that is being told, even if its conceptual. I have a deep admiration for artists. 


— Why did you decide to open your own gallery? Were you afraid it won’t succeed?

I had the option to be an independent dealer and built my network over time, or own a gallery. I went for the second option since I liked the idea and the opportunity the real estate would give. It is more straightforward to build a brand. Though its gotten less important to own actual spaces, I still believe it is important to give artists the opportunity to exhibit their work. They need the platform, and I was able to give it to them with the space. We have grown fast. It never crossed my mind to not succeed. In fact I really never think about it. If it happens that a show does less good than another I move on immediately trying to learn from it. You can't be afraid to go into something, you can only learn when things do not work out the way hoped or anticipated.


HG Contemporary’s mission is to awaken the art collector in all of us and to make collecting more open, modern, digital and a never-ending journey». How can you describe a modern, thoughtful collector?

There is a new group of collectors that emerged. Art has become a respected commodity and a form of investment. Years ago it was largely considered as overpriced, and not understood, now it broke through as a must-have in your home or work space. They are more resources that have emerged to either get to art or to do research on value. The modern collector is more diligent and has the option to inquire with various galleries. No matter what you need to be transparent with your collector, trust can be won and lost equally fast. 


— Is collecting more about money or about art?

It depends. Both can apply. The general rule is that you need to love what you buy. It needs to speak to you, to avoid the risk of regret. But then you also need to love it period, because that is what art is supposed to be. It's an emotional connection with its audience, it is meant to be loved by groups. Even if it's a purchase made to show your friends you have money or good taste, that is still a good purchase since it's done with a reason. I would avoid to simply look at returns, but it is indeed a great benefit. I have had many collectors that have told me that they did better with their art investments compared to other investments, and that is fantastic. Art is very powerful on many levels. 


— Do you yourself invest in art, have your own collection?

Yes, I started collecting at a young age, and I continue to collect. I collect the artists I represent, and I collect from the secondary market with either the intent to keep the works or resale over time. Collecting is a great passion of mine.


— In your opinion, what are the main problems of the art world?

I would like to start off by saying that no industry is free of "problems". There is opportunity everywhere, which I consider an immediate result of a "problem". I sincerely believe that the art industry as a whole is full of opportunity. There is opportunity to improve systems, improve the marketing of artists and / or sell works. The biggest "problem" I would say is that value is hard to be defined. Some emerging artists have $100k items, while some artists that have been around longer and have the museum exposure let's say, can only ask $20k. It leads to frustration amongst artists, and collectors alike, since they sometimes overpay, or learn of an artist that has sold directly to another collector from the studio at a lower price. I guess determining the right value can be tricky. There is systems that are being developed to give collectors more tools. The opportunity is also with the galleries that represent the right artists where there is observed growth for the artists they do represent, and the backing of the artists' careers. 


— Who are your favorite artists? Dead or alive.

Gustav Klimt, Alberto Giacometti, Peter Paul Rubens, and Marc Gumpinger.


— What are you guided by when choosing an artist to exhibit at HG contemporary?

I look for uniqueness. I love visual appeal, something striking, but then I look for something unique that is behind the work, whether it is a unique concept, or unique medium. Then I also look for an interesting story about the artists. It is important to be able to tell a story, it builds an emotional connection, we love good stories. 


— Do you build your choice upon your own taste and feelings or upon what people might be interested in?

Everything is around my own taste. It is the only way to build consistency, and have integrity. You can't be too commercially guided, since the public sees right through that. Ideally one matches the other, but even in the rare events it doesn't you keep the respect you have built by having a straightforward and loyal curation. 


— What do you feel when you discover a new artist and his exhibition succeeds?

Its a sense of pride and accomplishment, but I never rest too long. You are as good as your last "party", and you want to build on artists that are successful and open new doors with them and through them. 


— What are the peculiarities of the US market in comparison with European one?

The US is more saturated with artists. Artists in the US are also more social, building many relationships with collectors directly. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just a fact. Europe feels more sincere sometimes, but I believe that it is slowly making its way to the US, collectors want to feel more secure with their investments. 


— Do you feel that you belong to your time? If not, what century/year would you choose to live in?

I love the 17 and 1800s. The music, language used, poetry, but then there was very much a class system, and we were less developed as a society. Opportunity was only given to a few. It is difficult to say, but I do get the sense that I would have fitted in well in a time of honor and values. 


— How do you think what name of a contemporary artist will be still remembered in 100/200 years?

The way they made the audience feel, and the things they were able to change. Art is a field of synergy. Artists get politically involved these days, or become philanthropists. They have more stories to tell. If they succeed and are being remembered for the many years to come, it's because they had the most impact in their lifetime. Whereas before you started having relevance oftentimes after your death. Now you have to stand for something in order to become relevant as an artist. 


— How do you see the future of HG Contemporary? Do you believe it to be as much popular as for example MoMA one day?

I see growth, I see more locations, I see involvement in various fields through the artists I represent. I want to become a hub of amazing art that is known to be an off spring of successful artists. MoMA is a wonderful museum, and the bar is set very high. But in terms of recognition value, I would love to be up there with MoMA, not necessarily compete with the museum, but be complimentary. 


— What is your greatest ambition in life?

My greatest ambition in life is to be of significance in the art world. To have built a legacy people recognize and respect, and to be a great figure in society that inspires people with my story.