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“As the art market has gone global, collections will be looking global”: an Interview with Johan Jervøe

4 months ago

On the occasion of Art Basel Hong Kong and to celebrate the five year long partnership between the Hong Kong edition and UBS, we interviewed Johan Jervøe, Group Chief Marketing Officer at UBS. This year UBS Art Lounge has unveiled a major new acquisition to the UBS Art Collection by leading Chinese artist and champion of abstraction, Ding Yi. Ding Yi’s painting features in an exhibition of works by other seminal artists including Gerhard Richter, Katerina Grosse, Imi Knoebel and Sean Scully.

Mara Sartore: Five years ago you started partnering with Art Basel also in Hong Kong and now you’re exploring a new destination in Asia, could you tell us about the strategy that goes with this decision?

Johan Jervøe: Yes, we just announced a week ago that we are going to sponsor Taipei Dangdai, but we’ve been on it for about a year. It falls along the business strategy we have in Greater China where our business is expanding rapidly since China is the future for many economies: 1,4 billion people that are coming into consumption, luxury, entertainment in large scale. Obviously they have been there forever in smaller pockets and so as a path of driving our growth and servicing our clients and having these unique experiences either in the Biennale or here in Art Basel Hong Kong or in that case Taipei, those are strategic decisions we take in order to drive our conversation with clients; most of our clients that come here have the same passion for contemporary art, we have art on the walls and 30.000 pieces in our art collection.

Magnus Renfrew who is founding partner of Taipei Dangdai was also the original founder of Art Basel Hong Kong and through that relationship he’s a close friend and we’re looking forward to see what we can achieve together.

MS: UBS has a long lasting relationship with Art Basel, 24 years, when it comes to strategic decisions, such as when Art Basel decided to acquire Art HK, are these discussed with UBS? Are those decision taken also thinking about a common market where you are expanding?

JJ: I’m sure that Art Basel its aware that Hong Kong is a major market for us, we are the number one wealth management here we are number one investment bank in the southern hemisphere, the asset management we have here is strong and in the progress where they are doing business with the leading asset managers. When you look at what Art Basel Hong Kong looks like this year, how much that has gone from strength to strength to strength, in my opinion higher than any other fair besides maybe Basel.

MS: So you think Hong Kong it’s gone beyond Miami?

JJ: I think this year it’s sensational what they have on the floor.

MS: Do you mean this from an art perspective? Is it stronger than Miami in terms of market?

JJ: US is the strongest art market, 40% of global sales so of course Miami represents a large proportion of that. The quality of the show floor here in Hong Kong this year is second to none so Miami will have to step up. These things are like competitions where your competitor is not running fast enough.

MS: How much does UBS collect art as an investment?

JJ: We don’t collect for investment but also to collect. We are a growing collection which means you occasionally sell something off because it falls out of the strategy. We sell a few pieces, not many, you don’t get to 30.000 pieces if you sell too much.

MS: It’s interesting to see that you have chosen to present here at the lounge this morning a Chinese artist Ding Yi, while many of the galleries in Pedder building and H Queen’s are showing European and American artists. Is the Western world trying to bring Western artists to China while the Westerns are trying to buy Chinese art?

JJ: Contemporary art in particular has always been a sort of Western European and Northern American thing: that’s where most artists came from and where most collectors where based. What happens is contemporary art in a local market like China is something different, this is why we did the Guggenheim UBS Map programme: local curators curating local art.

MS: Could you tell me a bit more about this collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum?

JJ: Our program is called UBS Guggenheim MAP programme, and is lead by three different curators each one from a different geographical area: South East Asia, Latin America and Middle East curating 120 art pieces from those three regions describing contemporary art with the eyes of a local curator. We’re taking that on tour in Milan in April and then the pieces will go in the permanent collection of the Guggenheim because we know contemporary eyes from a region will find different art from eyes from the Western Hemisphere.

MS: So on one side it’s an acquisition programme managed through these curators and on the other side it’s a way of bringing this regional art around the world?

JJ: Yes we thought that with the appetite we have for art we would be well positioned to do that as a company.

Johan Jervøe is Group Chief Marketing Officer at UBS since 2013. Jervøe, a Danish national, joined UBS from Intel where he was global vice president of the Sales and Marketing Group and director of Partner Marketing. Jervøe joined Intel in 2009 following a thirteen-year career with McDonald’s in the US and Europe.  He also served as chief marketing officer of McDonald’s Germany.  In 1996, Jervøe was a brand manager at Kraft Jacobs Suchard and a consultant at Roland Berger in Vienna, Austria.

Mara Sartore

  • Johan Jervoe, Courtesy of UBS Johan Jervoe, Courtesy of UBS
  • UBS Art Loung, Art Basel Hong Kong 2018, Courtesy of UBS UBS Art Loung, Art Basel Hong Kong 2018, Courtesy of UBS
  • Ding Yi. Photo by : Ike Li / Ike Images. Courtesy of UBS Ding Yi. Photo by : Ike Li / Ike Images. Courtesy of UBS
  • International Media Brunch during UBS Art Basel 2018. Photo by : Ike Li / Ike Images. Courtesy of UBS International Media Brunch during UBS Art Basel 2018. Photo by : Ike Li / Ike Images. Courtesy of UBS

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