Combining Art And Finance

I interviewed art fund co-founder and former banker Serge Tiroche and wrote his profile as part of series showcasing successful alumni from the American University of Paris. It was also adapted for a fundraising brochure. The original article can be found on AUP’s website.

Serge Tiroche ’92 was born in Israel in 1966 into a family of art dealers: his father was a gallery owner in NY, Tel-Aviv and Paris. He grew up in Jaffa and, after his military service, moved to Paris to complete a BA in International Business Administration with a minor in Modern Arts at AUP. Tiroche’s studies marked the beginning of his adventure blending his knowledge of finance with his passion for art. Tiroche made his debut in the art world in 1986 when he interned at Parisian auction house Loudmer.

After graduating in 1992, Tiroche co-founded the Tiroche Auction House in Israel and became more involved with his family’s international art trading activity. Tiroche subsequently worked in banking for a decade before pursuing his passion and founding Art Vantage with his partner, Russ DeLeon. Art Vantage holds the artworks of the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, a collection made up entirely of works by artists from developing countries from Serbia to Singapore.

Tiroche notes, “My relationship with art started when I was very young but I mostly considered it a hobby until quite recently. I became obsessed with collecting contemporary art so I decided to make it my full-time job, combining my investment know-how and my passion for art.”

The Fire of 1841, Liu xiaodong
The Fire of 1841 by Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong

Through the collection, Tiroche wishes to level the playing field for non-Western artists on the art market as well as provide an attractive investment prospect. The collection also lends its works to independent curators, museum directors and galleries as a part of its global lending program.

I became obsessed with collecting contemporary art so I decided to make it my full-time job, combining my investment know-how and my passion for art.

Tiroche explains, “There has been a seismic shift in the art market: ten years ago, less than 2-3% of the art sold went to collectors in emerging markets. Today that number is more 20% to 25% depending on the auction, and it’s growing! Part of the growth we’re seeing in markets and volumes is thanks to the entrance of collectors from new markets.”

In order to further champion young artists, Tiroche just launched a residency program in his home town of Jaffa. Singaporean artist Ruben Pang completed the first residency this July.

Tiroche believes the connection established with artists in person is invaluable to the process of collecting art, “I think sadly there aren’t many collectors that go to the lengths that I do. Most rely on their point of contact, usually the gallerist who represents the artist. They rarely visit the artist in his studio.” Tiroche himself travels extensively to meet artists and view their work around the globe.

In terms of trends in emerging markets, Tiroche’s money is on Africa: “I’m a big believer in African contemporary art. I think African art has always been a huge influence on Western art and has traditionally been underappreciated. If you look back at the last ten years, China was the first market that Western collectors explored, then India, Latin America and now Southeast Asia. Africa is a logical next step.”

Earth Developing More Roots, El Anatsui
Earth Developing More Roots by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui

He continues, “In 2013, Angola was awarded the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for the best pavilion, a first for an African country, and just this May one of the artists who received the Golden Lion Award was Ghanaian El Anatsui. There’s also a new art fair focused on African contemporary art that started in London three years ago called 154 which is having its first edition in New York this year. All in all there’s more and more evidence that people are looking to Africa and I believe that’s a sustainable trend. Personally, we’ve been growing our African collection consistently over the last two years.”

Tiroche remembers AUP fondly, “My time in Paris was truly critical in shaping my future, both personally and professionally. The ability to construct my own minor at AUP gave me a broad theoretical basis in Art History, History of Photography, Architecture, French Cinema and even a hands on course in Photography. I also made lots of friends, some of whom I am still in contact with. Plus the croissants and Haussmaniann avenues … I loved every minute.”

*All photos courtesy of Serge Tiroche.

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