Profile: Andy Valmorbida, Art Dealer

Name: Andy Valmorbida

Occupation: Art dealer

Aussie Hometown: Melbourne

U.S. Digs:

Nowhere — in a different city every three days, living in hotels and out of a suitcase. It’s been fun for a while, but now it’s taking a toll on me.

I like to go to New York to get my work out of the way, then I get out of there and spend most my time working remotely from L.A. It’s also very fun hanging out in Newport, CA, and Malibu.

Visa type: O

Current Project:

Dealing with construction on my new offices in Berkeley Square, London, and setting up an administration office in Zurich. It’s going to be fun when they’re finished. I’m just finishing up an exhibition I did with the Russian Government in Moscow. The show we put on was the second most-visited art show in Russia’s history — it was a massive success.

I’m also currently working on finalising [leading ’80s graffiti artist] Richard Hambleton’s show with Giorgio Armani. We took over a 15,000 square foot space in central London, and have converted it into London’s largest inner city pop-up-gallery. We’re expecting 3-4,000 people opening night, and the show will run for a month. I’m also working on a documentary and book for Richard Hambleton.

I just signed Jose Parla, and am formalising the agreement this week with a partner to tour his show around the world. It’s going to be an amazing project. We launch early next year in Milan, followed by Cannes film festival, London and then New York. And I’m working on an art show in New York for February for Retna with [surf/skate fashion label] RVCA.

What’s your story on getting to the U.S.?

I thought I would never leave Australia. My Mum got remarried in 1998 and moved to the States. When she was there, I visited a few times, but was always happy to get back to Australia — although, each time I visited the States, I started to find so many interesting and different things to do. Whilst growing up and living in Australia, I thought the world stopped there, but travelling and experiencing the mass scale of people in America, I saw there was a big world out there and I was ready to explore it, so in 2000, I left.

Why did you want to work in the U.S.?

Many reasons. I knew by working in the U.S. it would be a massive adventure: so many different cities and so much to learn and see. Working in Australia, we are exposed to a population of around 20 million people. In the States, you have the opportunity to sell to 300 million people and the same goes for Europe (400-500 million). So rather than being trapped down in Australia and trying to make it there, working out of the States and Europe you’re exposed to around 800 million people on a commercial level.

It kind of makes things more exciting, and when things start to work, it really gets going fast — I also wanted to work in the states because I had to — I had no money.

What are your creative inspirations?

Many of my creative inspirations and the direction I take my business in come from PM Tenore, who founded and runs the company RVCA and the RVCA Artist Network Program. His vision within the street art movement has been so right — he has really inspired me by supporting and collaborating with so many amazing artists, such as Retna and Barry McGee. Pat is a major visionary and keeps it real and plays his own game — and has an ADHD problem worse than mine, I think. It’s hard to find people out there these days who are real and play a fair game, and Pat is one of them, and that is why he is such a success today.

I grew up on the upper east side of New York, and was influenced by being surrounded by major galleries and museums such as Gagosian, Wildenstein, Acquavella, Nahmad, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim, Frick, etc., and over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see amazing exhibitions by Cy Twombly, Monet, Richard Prince, Picasso, Kandinsky, Gauguin — growing around all of it was a great eye opener.

I created a vision and business model in the art world focused on mixing the old with the new, the masters with modern and contemporary. I went against the traditional model, and no one back in the day took me seriously; I stuck to my guns and never changed and it’s proven to be the next generation on how art is sold and presented today. It’s allowed me to team up and work with people like PM Tenore, Mr. Armani and my boy, Vlad Restoin [Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld].  Back in 2006, I took into consideration what everyone else was doing, and I just had my own vision and went my own way. My brother, PC Valmorbida, has taught me a lot also. We don’t work together, but we help each other out a lot. He owns the art gallery Prism in Los Angeles with his partner Jared Najjar.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Work wise, in five years I want to have at least two flagship buildings that will be the Valmorbida Institute. It won’t be a gallery, but will have massive open spaces that will display Valmorbida artists, and enable them to come in and create murals and installations, have educational art programs running constantly and house a library and screening rooms. It will be a hub where production teams can run and control all the pop-up gallery shows we will be doing around the world — we are aiming at holding a show a month. The vision of the space is for the public to come in and experience an art program, sort of like when you walk into a Mac store, but with art.

When you’re not working what can you be found doing?

Hanging with mates, surfing, running, gym, golf.

Do you have a quote to live by?

What goes around comes around

Do you have a mentor or hero?

My grandfathers: they both migrated to Australia with nothing and couldn’t even speak English. One started out as a tobacco farmer and the other in a fruit shop. I saw what they built and created, and it gave me something to really work towards.

What do you miss most about home?

The golf courses and friends.

What are three things any traveller must do when visiting Australia?

Surf, play golf and meet a guy called Big Bob and get him to take you on a night out.

Andy’s Sauce – A few fellow Swagmen

Baz Luhrmann: filmmaker.

PC Valmorbida: curator.

Marc Newson: designer.

Naomi Watts: actress.

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