And the role of the gallery is to promote and ultimately sell the works of the artists on that roster?
Exactly. We do that through exhibitions: two in Amsterdam last year, one in Lisbon this year, another coming up in Brussels at the end of the month, then Sao Paolo at the end of the year and Madrid next year. These are all international epicentres of art, with the best art schools and the best studios. We take our artists there, and everyone learns and grows together.
So the gallery is a kind of matchmaker between artists and collectors?
The collector, the gallery and the artist work in a mutually beneficial way. The artist makes the work; the gallery helps them through exhibitions, paying for their studios and there’s an element of emotional support too; then we sell the works to collectors, who might be buying them for various reasons. The artists aren’t marketeers or business people – they need to focus on their work – so that’s where we come in.
Do you keep a roster of collectors like you keep a roster of artists?
Yes. We’ve got a roster of artists which we're growing all over the world. The ethos is: artistic talent first, then the rest will fall into place. We also have a database of collectors, and we try to be accessible to all. Anyone who wants to learn can come and see us – we don’t have waiting lists and we don’t turn people away.
Are you saying the art world isn’t as fusty or closed-off as some might think?
Yes. A good gallery will help you access the market. Whether you’re looking at art as an investment, a lifestyle choice or both, it can help you through the buying process, showing you how to navigate things with the right amount of respect, endeavour and expertise.
Do you collect art yourself, Ed?
I do. It can be a really enjoyable process: you get a feeling you must own something and then you satisfy that feeling. It can also be quite addictive – you’re always thinking about the next piece. On the other hand, if you miss out on a piece for whatever reason – too slow, outbid, bad timing, whatever – you can feel a regret that it takes a while to move on from. I collect for pleasure but, because I invest in quality – in artists who have achieved something in their field – the pleasure goes hand in hand with the investment potential.
How does being a collector sit with also working for a gallery?
I did a lot of collecting early on, because it’s trickier now. You can’t nab all the pieces before you sell to your collectors!
Any favourites among the pieces you own?
I was fortunate enough to (literally) pick up a poster from a gallery exhibition in Berlin, which was a collaboration between a couple of very famous artists: Félix González-Torres and Christopher Wool, whose seminal artworks sell for millions of pounds. At the time, visitors could take one poster from a pile on the floor, until the exhibition was over. This was all part of the artwork and its concept. I once won a piece by another well-known artist, Brian Calvin, at a global auction-predicting competition. It’s a piece of a person smiling, which I guess is what I was doing when I heard I’d won it.
Thanks a lot for your time, Ed. Last one – what do you think the art market will look like in five years’ time?
Tech’s going to play more of a part, of course. Even before Covid, auction houses had invested heavily in online tech, so people around the world can take part in sales. If you’re in London, the Sao Paolo market isn’t going to seem so far away. I also think VR headsets for experiencing art are coming soon – they should be so much more immersive than looking at photographs of artworks. Social media’s going to become a bigger way of promoting and selling works. At the very top of the market, we might easily see the first billion-dollar artwork – the record is currently $450 million for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi – even though the debate about its authenticity continues. Art is a unique cultural commodity with a universal quality that makes it attractive to the wealthiest parties around the world, who are going to continue investing in it – because whether or not that Leonardo is his, it probably makes sense to buy it because of the visitors it can pull. If a rising tide lifts all ships, you might see prices climbing for the right ultra-contemporary artists too.