The Art Newspaper’s Martin Bailey has an eye-opening interview with London’s Helly Nahmad in advance of the Zurich museum show of 100 out of the family collection’s 300 best works. The Nahmads own “a couple of hundred or so oil paintings” by Picasso among the 3000 works mostly stored in a Geneva freeport. Among other interesting revelations, Nahmad explains how various family members buy for the same collection and what distinguishes work that goes in the collection from gallery stock for his or his cousin’s art dealing:
So essentially you cover the European market and your cousin the American one?
Yes, it’s exactly like that. I have virtually no American clients. I don’t like travelling very much without my family. Europeans and Americans have different ways of doing business. People tend to be comfortable doing business with people from their own culture. My cousin and I each have our own style.
How was the collection begun?
It was about the time that I set up the London gallery in 1998, after graduating from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Before that, you could buy and sell a picture within a week. But then there was the demise of the Japanese market. The internet also meant that auction prices had become very transparent, so it was better to hold onto paintings for a while. So we started trying to buy ever greater quality. The collection just happened.
Is it difficult to be both a dealer and collector? When the family acquires a work, do you know whether it will go for sale or to the collection?
When I buy works, they are for my gallery. When my father and his two brothers buy, there are certain pictures they buy [for the galleries] because they are good value. But there are other paintings that we regard as “last chance” opportunities—these they keep in the collection. They see a clear distinction between the two categories.
Dynasty Prepares to Share Its Family Secrets (The Art Newspaper)