For a magazine article on art collecting I wrote last fall, I contacted Dennis Ammann of 5 Pieces Gallery in Bern, Switzerland. I had featured a news release from 5 Pieces Gallery on this blog, and recalled that his gallery sold original, contemporary art. (See “Curated Online Gallery Reports Growing Online Sales“)
Dennis is one of those great sources a journalist loves to find! He gave me far more information than I could possibly fit into my assigned article. And, he didn’t seem to mind if some of the questions I asked seemed pretty basic. Before I share some of his comments here, let me provide a bit of background info about the gallery.
About 5 Pieces Gallery
5piecesgallery.com is an online art gallery that offers original contemporary artworks and small editions from young, established artists and leading art galleries from around the world. Collectors can choose from paintings, drawings, mixed-media works, prints, and photographs priced from $50 to $20,000. The site offers more than 1,000 original artworks and 400 small print editions from more than 134 artists in more than 38 countries.
Most artists on 5 Pieces Gallery are under 40, but have already had exhibitions at well-known museums and galleries such as the MoMA, PS1, ICP, MOCA, CO2, and the Saatchi Gallery. Some artists in 5 Pieces Gallery have been featured in the ABSOLUT Blank series, an art project that collaborated with artists such as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Damien Hirst in their early days.
Most of the artwork can be purchased securely online with a PayPal account or credit card and safely delivered to more than 40 countries.
Dennis founded the gallery in January, 2011 because he felt an online gallery could unite artists and collectors around the globe. He noticed that many art buyers were emerging from Asia, Russia, and the Middle East at a time when some renowned contemporary artists were from regions that the art market has overlooked for decades.
Ammann wants the gallery to be a place where art collectors can find the “next big thing,” but also be affordable enough to encourage a new generation of collectors.
In this interview, Dennis Ammann explains how the Internet is changing the art market, creating a new breed of collector, and empowering artists and collectors alike.
How has the Internet changed the art market?
DA: The Internet has been a facilitator in creating an art scene that acts and appeals globally. It has opened doors for thousands of potential art enthusiasts and promoted more transparency in pricing. For the first time in history, a mass audience can engage in collecting.
People who previously have never felt comfortable walking into an art gallery and asking about art, now have no problem doing so because they can do it online.
The Internet definitely creates a new kind of art collector. It all feels less elitist now and people are buying what they like, not what they are told to like.
I think the Internet has also been an amazing tool and catalyst in the development and communication of contemporary art. The speed of creative exchange and conversation is very radical. Because I think art should be about debate and discussion, I find this to be a very good thing.
Plus, the Internet has given emerging artists a shot at building an audience and consumers a chance to buy quality art at a reasonable price. Name Banksy, an artist who spotted the democratic and commercial potential of the Internet, has priced his canvases for $600 online but ended up selling them for more than $1.8 million USD at auctions.
How is your gallery responding to changes in the art market?
DA: For galleries, it is becoming increasingly necessary to be accessible online. The Internet has broken down borders, allowing easy communication with people all around the world. The Internet gives gallery owners access to a wider group of artists and clients. Some days we have thousands of visitors, which is much more than we could expect in a static space.
In a world in which the people either do not have the money to go to commercial galleries in New York or London, and or the time to search for artists to collect, it is our aim to take the guesswork out of collecting, and offer easy access to the backrooms of the galleries of this world.
Due to the Internet, the contemporary art scene is on steroids. Everything is happening faster, especially when it comes to prices. The prices for some artists’ works are rising at unprecedented rates. As a result, works by younger artists are being considered by more established art collectors.
On the other hand, the art we are showing has enormous crossover potential with young collectors. Many of today’s collectors of contemporary art are looking for artists and works that speak to their generation. So, the affordable prices allow us to cultivate a younger collector base as well.
Without the Internet, it would have not been possible to establish our gallery so quickly as an international meeting place for artists and collectors. We already have happy clients in more than 50 countries around the world.
On your website, you mention that 5 Pieces Gallery is empowering artists and collectors. How are you empowering collectors?
DA: By showing nearly all the prices on the website, we approach the process of purchasing art in a way that makes it as easy and transparent as possible for everyone. Our goal is to offer fair prices while still respecting the value of the quality in the artwork. We can offer outstanding prices on high quality art because we make great efforts to reduce our fixed costs.
How are you empowering artists?
DA: Our relationship with the artists is very unique. Being an artist is a very hard job- there is no security in an artist’s life, especially in that of a young one. So, we try to promote our artists to the best of our ability. We want to see artists grow, give them faith, and provide them with an opportunity to expand. We feel strongly about giving back as much as possible and lending support to younger artists. For this reason, we send our artists much more than the usual 50-50 split in the case of a sale.
It means a lot to our audience that the artists benefit directly from any purchase. Because our clients more directly support the artist, they become patrons. Through our social-media channels, such as a special Twitter list and YouTube channel, clients can take a look into the vibrant lives of our artists at any time. Our artists are so accessible that you can become a part of their lives and feel that you play a role in their success.
What else makes your gallery unique?
DA: First of all, we are very global in our outlook. It is important to us to support young contemporary artists from all corners of the world to show different perspectives on life and society, and provide diversity in content, comment, and style.
The gallery has a strong desire to challenge the viewers, social norms, and our own values and beliefs. So, it is not only about technique, beauty, or understanding of light and figure. It is more about how well the art mirrors our society. Artists from a variety of countries and culture join our group and give life a greater meaning in this context, and together create a visual opera of our time: pure passion, edge, and undeniable beauty. This all comes together on our site, yet we still distinguish the creative process of each artist. It is a really enriching experience to visit our website and group shows.
Most of our artists are professionally trained and have an MFA at a prestigious university or art school. Some of them have been exhibited at the MoMA, PS1, ICP, MOCA, and some of the most important museums in Europe even though they are still very young. The combination of museum-quality artists and their high-quality originals and editions distinguishes us from other online art galleries.
Are most of your clients experienced collectors, or new collectors?
DA: Our clients range from some of the strongest collectors in the world who are building very powerful collections for museums and foundations, to some of the poorest. All in all, I would say that it’s about a 50-50 split between more experienced collectors and new collectors.
What steps to do take to educate novice collectors?
DA: At 5 Pieces Gallery, our mission is to help every client discover, learn about, and collect the most exciting works of art available. It is important to us to show the client from the beginning how honestly we work and how much we have to offer. Thus, we are supportive rather than prescriptive in our approach.
Because most of our clients do not have time to waste, it is important for us to provide them with all the information they need as quickly and professionally as possible.
Also, to showcase the very best artistic talent the world has to offer, we work with art curators and experts around the world who have a lifetime of experience. Together, we put a lot of effort and time into the search for new talent. We hand select every artwork with the utmost care to ensure that every collector can find the best contemporary art available at affordable prices. Novice collectors can be confident that they are getting a good deal when they buy from us.
What criteria do you look for in when choosing which artists to feature?
DA: First and foremost, the artist and the work itself must appeal to us personally. We look for artists who are unique in their approach.
I believe that if young artists are consistent with their work and ideas, and if greatness, passion, and endurance are there, then the work will take its proper place no matter what type of art it is.
Important artworks are most often an individual’s uncompromising vision. They’re often found to be different and radical or are misunderstood at the time, only to be recognized later as having something valuable to offer.
So overall we are looking for artists who have a solid vision and original style. You’ll find emerging and established names on our roster, but all of our artists have a thread and synergy that run through their work. It’s the energy and life in the work we look for.
I think good art stands on its own merits. We ignore and avoid the hype. We judge the work with our eyes and hearts, and not our ears. Popularity should not be confused with importance. Fortunately, there are a lot of people out there who like the same stuff we like, so we do well.
Do clients have any hesitation about buying an original work from an online gallery?
DA: We haven’t yet had a client who was hesitant about buy original art online. We are a trusted source in the business and have built a good reputation. Anything ordered from us arrives quickly and safely.
Customer care is a crucial factor in our business. Once we receive an order, the artwork is packed by our sales team or the artist directly and then is sent to the client usually within three days along with a certificate of authenticity signed and numbered by the artist.
We are very experienced in packing art with the utmost care and provide numerous, credible professional services. Our customer care team is here to answer any specific questions a client might have. We also offer a money-back guarantee, if the work should arrive damaged or unsatisfactory in any way.
Other than “buy art that you love,” what single piece of advice do you typically give to someone who may be purchasing original art for the first time?
DA: Although many of our collectors enjoy purchasing art as an investment, we advocate buying art primarily for the enjoyment you get from the work. After that, the investment potential becomes incidental and merely a potential bonus to your overall enjoyment of the work.
If increasing the value of your investment is a consideration, then I would recommend purchasing original paintings.
However from my point of view, collecting is a very personal experience, and what is most important is that you find artists whose work speaks to you in a unique way. I like helping people to build up strong, personal, cohesive collections they and their families enjoy every day.
We hope our collectors purchase art at 5 Pieces Gallery as a personal investment- because it moves them on an aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual level.
What does the future hold for the online art market?
DA: The Internet has definitely made access to contemporary art more democratic. We are developing a kind of universal culture of art, which of course is a fantastic way to unite and promote the best in human nature. But I’m curious to see how the Internet will ultimately affect individuality and the development of art in general.
Website: 5 Pieces Gallery
Facebook: 5 Pieces Gallery
YouTube: 5 PiecesGallery
Curated Online Gallery Reports Growing Online Sales