Exclusive Interview with Alexandra Schafer, Founder VELVENOIR
Artnow: Velvenoir is an art consultancy and concierge. There are many “art consultancies” in Korea, but they rarely call themselves “art concierge.” What exactly do you think is the definition of “art concierge service?”
Alexnadra Schafer: Having us called art consultancy and concierge allows us to not only offer the traditional art consultancy services but also tap into the branding and marketing services for our clients to ensure a 360 degree approach is used for all our clients and their projects. With this new open-minded approach I want clients to think of us as a one-stop shop within the arts due to our global experts and alliances and passion for supporting the art investment within their field and clients.
ArtNow: You studied in Austria, London, and Sydney. What’s interesting is that your major is not art, but you studied hotel management and event management. How did you get started with Velvenoir? Any special moment when you came up with the idea?
Alexandra Schafer: Yes that’s true – my professional background has always been hospitality but my passion was always contemporary art. The special moment for me to move forward with Velvenoir was when I completed my BA in Sydney and travelled from Alice Springs up to Darwin, where I encountered the first time Aboriginal art and get to know the artists and their craft behind those unique artworks. Back then, my motivation was to make art accessible at a global level with me and the team supporting our clients along this journey.
Artnow: There are numerous art consultancies around the world, but they have a limited number of clients overall. Coming up with a business idea and running a business are totally different. How did you decide to dive into the so-called red ocean? How confident were you of your success?
Alexandra Schafer: Knowing the competition is constantly growing and more and more artists, consultants and curators are joining the race, I always believed in collaborations. Because together you can achieve something outstanding you might not be able to achieve by yourself. Hence, I partnered with art consultants who run their own firm in their city and work collaboratively together, share the profit and clients in order to archive a constant cash flow for both parties involved. Additionally, we´ve recently added our in-house branding agency The V-Agency as well as own Blue Chip Brokerage which adds additional benefits for our clients. At the beginning it was just an Idea, but having met all consultants now and been working with them as well as speaking with them weekly / monthly does show me the commitment towards our clients and VELVENOIR. Of course it is very unconventional but I do wanted to work internationally and create a company who has one vision with carefully selected experts being part of the firm and philosophy and are part of the firms success – to make contemporary art accessable globally.
Artnow: Since 2014 when Velvenoir was established, the company has been rapidly growing while working with different projects around the world. What do you think is the driving force of the growth?
Alexandra Schafer: To be honest, firstly all the consultants behind VELVENOIR who are passionate, open-minded and keen on going the extra mile for our clients when acquiring art.
Artnow: Are there any special features that set Velvenoir apart from other competitors? If any, what are they?
Alexandra Schafer; Yes, there are four features / departments which we´ve added to differentiate the firm among others. First by adding our own blue chip brokerage to the company which is managed by Melbourne based art advisor and specialist Catherine Asquith, within this department we facilitate off-market transactions for institutions, HNWI and art collectors. Secondly, the V Agency, our in-house branding and marketing agency, Managed by Art & Branding expert Magdalena Pieper within this department we support our clients with various services starting from bespoke branding, marketing, PR to artists collaborations and private art dinners. Thirdly, our own in-house art inventory, where we curate and vet artists we believe in and share the new artworks monthly with our interior design and aspiring art clients to open up a new channel for them to acquire art with expert guidance. And last but not least, the dedicated art consultancy / advisory department where we collaboratively work on each project together to offer an unparalleled service to our clients and their projects. Those services start from the art concept development to tailored marketing and communication strategies to highlight the art invested in the hotel for example as unique selling point.
Artnow: As far as I know, Velvenoir deals with different tasks in every project. It may result from different situations of and requests by each client. However, your work should go through the same process. For instance, 1) Discuss the concept with a client and/or an interior designer 2) Decide art pieces in a budget 3) Locate them in the right position. Tell us about important aspects you keep in mind in each step.
Alexandra Schafer: It all starts with the first meeting of our clients, getting to know them, understanding their vision and expectations as well as requirements and allocated budget. The allocated budget is plays an essential part within our services. Once we´ve had a detailed discussion with our clients we prepare the first draft which entails the concept direction, idea and artworks. Here again, depending on the requirements we propose three different drafts / concept and then finalize it with the owner and his design team or just the design team depending on the project. Once its all agreed, we acquire the art on our clients behalf, ship them and arrange an art handling company to install the artworks accordingly on-site of the estate. This is just the general art consultancy part – after installation, we will provide our clients with a dedicated press release outlining the art curated within the estate as well as a Velvenoir folder of all the artists bio, vita and certificate of authenticity for the owner to keep on file. For clients who require more help, we get our Branding Manager involved to support with marketing material, logos, websites etc. with a strong emphasis on the art curated and installed in this specific project. With all those tailored services, we cater to our clients and their requirements and anything in-between, because this is what sets us appart.
Artnow: Continuously communicating with a large variety of people is part of your job. Every moment in doing business must be not easy. What is the most distressed moment or the most difficult moment? Give us an example.
Alexandra Schafer: It’s the different time zones, when you need a quick answer and the person is not available due to the time difference this is one of the challenges we face. For example the Los Angeles Project, Alex Ray our West Coast art advisor and I have been collaborating in, was quite a challenge because when I finished my day the US West Coast woke up and we had to discuss all the details starting from the art, logistics to sponsoring to PR and the opening night – of the upcoming projects. In the end it all went well and our clients enjoyed the art we curated for them.
Artnow: You have successfully completed different projects including Steininger’s showroom in Vienna, Austria and many more. What is the most memorable project among them? Tell us more about the project.
Alexandra Schafer: Looking at last year, we completed some outstanding projects not only a collaborative ART x INTERIOR event in Vienna but also one in Los Angeles, where Alex Ray our West Coast-based art advisor and myself curated an art collection for a luxury modern house in Venice, LA. The concept we came up with was to showcase the importance of art within any interiors. Additionally, we supported the entire concept with its own by invitation-only app to discover the art we´ve installed and read more about the artist as well as acquire the art online through the app. Have a look for yourself www.ixa.velvenoir.com
Artnow: You are now working with many different projects at the same time. Which project last year – you had the most expectation of?
Alexandra Schafer: To be honest, I always try not to have too high expectations but I guess it comes with the job when you want to complete a perfect project for your client – for me it is essential to work for my client and source art globally. For example, when we had our collaboration at the Steininger Showroom last year, we had art shipped from HK to Vienna. Two mesmerizing body of works from the Hope and Pain series who have been exhibited in 2008 at the Guogong Museum in Bejing from well-established artist Chen Ping. His among other art pieces from neon installations to marble scultpures and fine art photography works of art, we incorporated those within the design concept of the showroom. The key message we wanted to communicate within this collaboration was on how art impacts a space and makes a difference when entering. It was interesting to see the response from clients in Vienna and how they perceived the entire concept.
Artnow: An art piece is overshadowed by a space or sometimes a space is overwhelmed by the force of art. I guess what Velvenoir does is to find the optimal point between them. What is the top priority when you match a space with art?
Alexandra Schafer: Yes that is true, well it all depends on the client what he/she likes or loves, if they have started collecting already or is this the first time they acquire art. The second part to consider is the interior in which they live in, both components play a very vital role for us when sourcing and proposing art. Reason for that is art is very powerful and placed incorrectly or not acquiring the art the client wants are crucial aspects that makes or breaks your job basically.
Artnow: Let’s say that your customer requests an art consulting in a budget that is lower than the average. What elements of art will you adopt to turn the space into the most stunning result? Color, size, or genres like paintings, sculptures, etc.?
Alexandra Schafer: Since we do work with many career artists from emerging to established, we check-in with them and see which option based on the budget works best. I guess here is the good relationship with the artist and gallerist key to still be able to propose art on a budget. Having said that, it still has to be realistic. In general however, art should be for everyone with any given budget and through our art concierge and global alliances we aim to cater for anyone who wants to buy art.
Artnow; What is the best place that harmoniously incorporates art? It could be a hotel or a museum.
Alexandra Schafer: For me a hotel – because it invites the viewer in different designed / themed spaces to experience art at a different level.
Artnow: What do you think is the condition that a space and art is perfectly harmonized?
For me – Art adds character to the space and at the same time is part of my life’s journey so whatever I collect myself fits at the apartment I live in.
Artnow: Do you have any projects you want to work with in the future?
Alexandra Schafer: Yes there are many from private co-working spaces to themed boutique hotels, I am eager to work on those with our global team, to highlight and outline the art as a unique proposition worth exploring and educate guests on the importance of investing in art and artists as it does build a cultural community within the estate and invites guests to interact and connect on a deeper level.
Artnow: You said in an interview that your role model is Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin Group. Could you tell me why?
Alexandra Schafer: Yes that´s correct – what he had built is inspiring for me and motivates me to keep going forward with VELVENOIR as with every new company the start is always a though journey and you have to overcome the stones along the way and his innovative and open approach truly inspired me.
Artnow: What is the next step that Velvenoir wants to make in the future?
Alexandra Schafer: Expanding our team, with new consultants joining us on the journey, growing our in-house inventory, blue chip department as well as the V-Agency and Art Concierge where we partner with interior designers and other clients as well as hosting private dinners for HNWI. And not to forget – to turn luxury residential and boutique hotels into art experience everyone will talk, discuss and share via social media. VELVENOIR should be known for the quality, personal service and open-mined and innovative approach. Everything we do, we do with passion and know-how to cater for our clients and their art desires. Because for us ART makes a DIFFERENCE.