An Interview with Piero Tomassoni, the co-founder of Artvisor.com in Mayfair, London
As well as being the co-founder of the online art advisory Artvisor, the multifaceted Piero Tomassoni is also a lawyer by day. Based in London, the Italian native also works closely with international galleries, collectors, magazines and institutions on his work as an independent art critic and curator. After briefly working in the Photography and Education department at SFMoMA in San Francisco, Piero went on to complete his Economic and Philosophy BA at Nottingham University with a dissertation on the aesthetics of Conceptual Art. Alongside his degree, he ran a commercial art gallery in Italy curating a series of exhibitions including the solo shows of Michelangelo Pistoletto, Sol LeWitt, Mario Giacomelli and Hans Hartung.
Despite then moving to London to pursue law school, Piero continued to curate independently with a recent highlight being an exhibition of the leading post-war Italian artist Afro Basaldella at Connaught Brown gallery, which was met with critical acclaim. He also writes for English and Italian art magazines and participates in conferences and lecture programs at such institutions as HEC Business School in Paris and the Sotheby’s Institute in London. The definition of a modern Renaissance man, Piero continues to balance these projects in the art world with working as a lawyer at the commercial law firm Fletcher Day in Mayfair.
Piero's innovative project Artvisor first launched in May and has evolved into a respected online international marketplace for contemporary art with a personal art advisory service. Based between London and Lugano, the Artvisor team works closely with a network of international galleries and art advisors to gain access to the most interesting and promising contemporary artists, providing tailored expert guidance for those beginning or expanding a contemporary art collection. For me, I can't help but admire Piero's tenacity in combining his skillset on a range of creative projects as he fully embraces the opportunities that technological advancements have presented our generation with. Watch this space, it's only the beginning.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to start Artvisor?
It was a gradual process. Over the course of a few years my co-founder and I thought of various approaches to art online, which eventually morphed into Artvisor.
Do you have a favourite photograph or painting, which inspires you?
I would not point to a work in particular, but inspiration often comes from speaking to the artists directly. Truly great artists always have an interesting and original point of view.
Can you tell us more about what Artvisor does for collectors?
For collectors and aspiring collectors, it provides a safe and personal environment to find and buy the best contemporary art. We select each partner gallery very carefully and within each gallery we only pick artists with strong CVs. Artvisor is most useful for sophisticated newcomers to the art world, but it also makes discovering and accessing great art easier for connoisseurs and seasoned collectors.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
I would have liked to witness the birth and development of Conceptual Art at the end of the 1960's. Artists were often working in groups and there was an exciting cultural climate with a real tension towards change.
How do you engage/keep up with London’s emerging artistic talent?
Not very easily. London has managed to progressively push away from its centre emerging artistic talents, largely due to its housing bubble. One used to have to go to Shoreditch or Hoxton to see what was going on, then it was Dalston, now it’s Peckham or Homerton or other far-flung destinations. This has happened rather quickly and applies to both galleries and artists, making places like Berlin, Paris, Brussels and even Rome more attractive to new talents.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
A terrible necessity.
Which artists do you have in your personal collection?
I tend to own works by artists that interest me from a historical or cultural perspective as well as those I know personally - the two things often overlap but not always. The collection is almost entirely contemporary with works spanning from a 1943 war photo with hand annotations by Robert Capa to a 2014 large sculpture by Olivia Erlanger. In between there are very diverse artists including Kosuth, Twombly, LeWitt, Beuys, Oscar Santillan, David Rickard and Jonathan Monk.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Probably not one for an art magazine…
Which art fairs do you visit and what do you take away from them?
I used to try to go to only three or four art fairs a year (Basel, Fiac, Frieze London/Masters) as fairs aren't my favourite venue to look at art. However, due to Artvisor, this year we have already collectively attended 6 fairs including MiArt, Art Brussels, Art16 and Liste. These were all very interesting and we met many great galleries that we didn't know and which joined Artvisor or are about to do so.
Has your Italian heritage impacted your aesthetic?
I am sure it has, both in terms of Old Masters (although I am very fond of the Germans too) and contemporary art.
Has social media helped Artvisor develop commercially? Who do you follow?
Being a closed, invite-only platform, social media is less vital to us than to many other online businesses. We have recently launched our Facebook page, which has a good level of engagement. Our Twitter and Instagram are still a work in progress. We intend to develop this side more fully over the next three months as we learn more about our users’ preferences and behaviour.
What do you wish every child were taught?
To develop a culture of intelligence and difference as opposed to falling into homologation.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned Artvisor as a business?
We constantly think about our business model and about ways to improve it. We have only recently launched so it is hard to make a judgment yet, but so far people seem to like our model and to agree with our key assumptions.
What is your daily routine when working on Artvisor?
As I am a lawyer and I work full time in a law firm, I tend to concentrate on Artvisor mostly in the evenings and at the weekend. During the week I hold quick meetings and calls during lunch breaks – the law firm is in Mayfair, which is far more convenient than the City. Artvisor’s co-founder is based in Switzerland, two employees work in our Brook Street office, and the IT developers are in Italy and Berlin, but we work together seamlessly through various channels. I mostly deal with the art, administration and communication side, whilst my partner does the marketing, investors relations and the financials. We do of course overlap at times and the rest of our team also does a great job with business development and keeping everything running smoothly.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
Probably a trip to San Francisco when I was 18 for a three-months’ internship at the SFMOMA. I had been to the States before but that life and work experience was pivotal to my decision to study and work abroad (having been born and brought up in Italy).
Which is your favourite art gallery and why?
I like gallerists that do it for the love of art, while of course being business-minded and commercially aware. Someone who only does it for the money and who is not culturally engaged is unlikely to leave a real mark and would unlikely be interesting to work with.
Are we all going to be buying art online in the near future?
The pleasure of seeing an artwork in the flesh will never die and therefore it is unlikely that the art market will move entirely online as, for example, the financial market has. However, there are strong indicators that people are buying more and more art online, of ever increasing value. The forecasts say that by 2020 the online art market will be worth about 10 billion dollars. This is encouraging for Artvisor, considering that the current figure is about 3.5 billion – hopefully the projection is not too optimistic.
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur following in your footsteps?
Know your field really well and try to build a strong, motivated team with a diverse skillset.
Do you find that London’s culture influences your taste in art?
I would not say so – London, or at least the side of it I see, has become a place of major galleries and mogul auction houses. It is possibly the best place to work in the secondary market of established post-war and contemporary masters (which I also do), but to be inspired and see new things I go to Paris or New York.
Do you love what you do?
Of course – doing different things in different fields makes you enjoy each of them more and you never get bored.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com