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Tiroche: Art Collection Map in Israel and the World

Interview with Serge Tiroche

· 藝術 Art

By Laura Shen

This article was first published on a.m.post, Hong Kong, March 2018 issue

The Israeli Tiroche family has made a big statement in Art Stage Singapore 2018. Presented by Omer Tiroche Gallery, London, the late American artist Alexander Calder features a unique exhibition of gouaches on paper. These works comes from Micky Tiroche’s private collection. Omer Tiroche, the owner of the gallery, is the son of Micky Tiroche, who found the largest Israel auction institute Tiroche Auction House, his brother Serge Tiroche brought a remarkable collection of East and Southeast Asian contemporary art to Art Stage Singapore, from his Tiroche Deleon Collection found in 2011. Tiroche brothers’ art mission paid tribute to their father Jean Tiroche, a recognized gallery owner and art dealer in New York, Tel Aviv and Paris. The Israel-based Tiroche family expands their art map around the world, Serge Tiroche, in particular, is dedicated to incubating new artists from third and developing world, as well as promoting art collection to the promising field of investment, facilitating fund management and bridging art passion with investment.

Serge Tiroche founded Tiroche Deleon Collection in 2011 with Russ DeLeon. the Collection undertakes an extensive investigation of new markets for contemporary art across the developing world, with a significant collection of masterpieces by primarily established, but also emerging contemporary artists, via a unique Residency program which helps artists to gain visibility and recognition. It also shares the collection with wider public through a prominent lending program, lending works to galleries, museums, biennales and art fairs. While the highlight of Tiroche Deleon Collection is how it facilitates investment in art, it is the first art fund modeled on a private collection. In March 2012, Tiroche and Deleon contributed the 230 works acquired thus far to Art Vantage PCC Limited, a Gibraltar experienced invest fund, hence allowing external investors to join the project. The Gibraltar fund structure ensures high standards of corporate governance, regulator oversight, and investor protection. Via VD Ventures Limited, it advises the collection under a non-compete agreement on all pertinent matters including research, investment strategy, disposals, marketing, operations and finance. Global accounting firms Grant Thornton and KPMG serve as fund administrators and auditors, respectively, and one of Gibraltar’s leading law firms, Isolas, provides legal services. These consulting services are all based in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, the sovereign of which is a contention in Anglo-Spanish relation. It is an international financial centre harboring numerous British and international banks, due to its VAT-free tax system.

Serge Tiroche was born in 1966 in Israel. Influenced by his father’s art route, Serge’s hands-on involvement in the art world began while working as an intern at Parisian auction house Loudmer in 1986. In 1992, he co-founded Tiroche Auction House in Israel and has since been closely involved with the family's international art trading activity. Born in a family with good art tradition though, Serge started to work in banking instead of art at the beginning. He completed with distinction a Bachelor degree in Business Administration and Modern Arts from the American University of Paris in 1992, and an MBA from INSEAD in 1997. After graduating, he joined Citigroup’s Private Bank where he had a multi-faceted 10 year career as a private banker, managing investments for some of Israel's and Turkey’s wealthiest families. As business head, he was a board member of Citigroup Israel and was a member of Citigroup’s European Wealth Management Leadership Committee. Prior to the financial crisis in 2008, he left his Managing Director position at Citi, in order to dedicate himself to his long-time passion for art. He immediately founded START, Israel's innovative artist incubator project, and Serge Tiroche Consultants, a financial advisory services firm with particular focus on art investments. He invested and advised the boards of numerous companies supporting that objective, including: Mutual Art Holdings, Artist Pension Trust, Mutual Art Services and Split-Art. He currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Tel-Aviv Museum.

Serge’s rich experience in private banking and venture capital has benefited his later art career. He found out that art is a suitable investment for individuals, family offices, private banks, hedge funds, private equity firms, pension funds, insurance companies, banks and family foundations. Art is an independent asset class. Historically, art has demonstrated very low correlation to other asset classes such as stocks, bonds, cash, hedge funds, real estate and private equity.He aims to provide such investors with an opportunity to improve their overall investment portfolios via exposure to art. Our special correspondent Laura Shen has talked with Serge Tiroche to hear his unique views.

Laura Shen × Serge Tiroche

Laura Shen (YS): Your family has the tradition for art collection, auction and art deal, besides yourself, your father, brother and the offspring of your generation are also involved in art deeply. Could you tell us the story behind your family and art.

Serge Tiroche (ST): Yes, most of my family are involved in art until this day. The love of art started with my father Jean Tiroche who grew up in the flea market in Paris dealing and later collecting everything from antique furniture, silverware, carpets, ivory, cigarette boxes, jewelry and of course fine art. He moved to Israel in 1949 and was one of the first to establish galleries there, one for fine art and one for antiques and collectibles. In the early 70s he moved to NY and opened a gallery specializing in Impressionism and post-Impressionism and then a second gallery in Palm Beach. He later moved to Paris in the 80s to focus on wholesale dealing of Impressionist and Modern masters and was for years a fixture in auctions.

My older brother Micky joined my father in Paris and also got involved in fine art dealing, which he still does very successfully to this day. His son Omer operates a gallery in London for the last few years, Omer Tiroche Gallery. We also have a sister Orna, who together with her husband Dov run Israel’s largest auction house « Tiroche » since 1992. Some of their children are also involved in that business.

I, on the other hand, studied business but was fortunate to do so in Paris and tag along with my father and brother as a young student learning the ins and outs of art dealing in Paris in the late 80s. After my studies I returned to Israel and helped establish Tiroche Auction House. A few years later I was again in Paris to complete an MBA at INSEAD and then moved to Switzerland to work for Citibank Private Bank, where I had a 10-year career managing the wealth of some of the largest families in Israel and Turkey. During this whole period I got deeply involved in the Contemporary art market and started collecting seriously. In 2007 I decided to leave the banking world in order to focus on combining my two passions for art collecting and investments, and made it my mission to open the doors to art collecting and investment to a broader community of wealthy families. My first project was an art incubator project I founded in Israel - START, which is still active and currently holds the most significant collection of Contemporarv Israeli art from the last decade. I also invested and served as Chairman of the Artist Pension Trust in 2009-10. In 2011 I co-founded 《 Art Vantage 》 the first art fund to be modeled on the best of private collecting practices, which owns the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, highlights of which we exhibited at Art Stage Singapore.

YS: Your collections are very widespread, covering nearly every continent of the world, including the niche art market regions of South Asia, Far East, Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. What motivates you to cover the niche art market for the whole world?

ST: When Russ DeLeon and I established the Tiroche DeLeon Collection we had a starting budget of $10 million USD. It was 2011, a few years after we experienced the first boom in contemporary art coming from China and India. The boom had slowed down by then, but my curiosity for art from developing markets was aroused. I found it refreshing and rich in cultural and political content that came on the heels of a decade of rapid growth and social change driven by globalization. So I felt that we had a unique opportunity and limited time to explore these cultures in depth, and that by focusing on art from the new economies we would be able to differentiate our collection and make a significant contribution as a platform that bridges East and West and serves as a time capsule and cultural conservator.

LS: The location for your institution is very interesting, Gibraltar, which holds the Tiroche Deleon’s registered office, administrator, legal counsel and auditor. What’s special for Gibraltar in your art map?

ST: Gibraltar is not specifically relevant to the art market. It is however a very practical and efficient jurisdiction to run an art fund. It is English speaking, in a convenient time zone, is regulated to protect investor interests and has a favorable tax regime. It is also forward thinking as is evident by their recent decision to create Europe’s first regulated blockchain / crypto exchange.

LS: Please share with us your view about art scene in Israel. Since collections of your own and your family are based in Israel, how has Israel influenced the world art market?

ST: Unfortunately the Israeli art market has remained small and mostly local. Unlike Israel’s global influence in agriculture, technology, medical and research fields, it’s art market is insignificant on a global scale. Israel produces some very good artists but the only successful ones are those who leave the country to develop their careers internationally, mostly from NY, London or Berlin.

LS: How do you view the prospect of Southeast Asian art in the future?

ST: There is a lot of talent in Southeast Asia and in several countries there is a combination of serious art collecting, patronage, nationalistic pride and infrastructure investment in education and public institutions. Combined with an art trade - galleries, auction houses and art fairs - we have the building blocks that enable the sustainable growth of an art ecosystem. I am particularly impressed by the robust markets in Indonesia and the Philippines and also believe India’s contemporary art market will recover strongly in the next few years.

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