Q&A with Isaac Aviram: Meet Isaac Aviram, Owner of A&E Fine Art
Dulin Wiley, Jennifer, Art Business News
Q. You took an interest in art as a young adult in Tel Aviv. What was the artistic culture like at that time in Israel?
At the end of the 1970s, Israel was a relatively young and naive country, and materialism was relatively unimportant. Most artists painted for their own pleasure, and many made landscapes of Israel with some European influence. The younger ones, many of whom studied in Europe, created less traditional paintings and art that was more abstract and a bit avant-garde. Some of them painted naive art. A few galleries, mostly in major cities, held exhibitions for contemporary artists, and some showed older, traditional artists. There wasn't enough of a stage for beginning artists. Some of the galleries were selling mostly to tourists.
Describe the family business you worked in and how it led to the opening of your first gallery in Tel Aviv.
While I was studying, I worked for my cousin who sold art for many years and organized exhibitions and sales events. After my studies were over, he sent me to the United States to organize local exhibitions for Israeli artists. These local exhibitions took place in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York and Philadelphia. After I developed some experience, I decided to go out on my own and opened my first gallery at the age of 29. The gallery I opened was located on Gordon Street in Tel Aviv, an area full of galleries that had been there for a long time and were very well-known. Artistically, it was a bit audacious for a young man to come and open his own place on such a street.
A life-changing event in 1999 prompted your move to the United States, Tell us about that experience.
In 1999, I was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident. I had three children, and I knew it was time to make a change in my life. I decided that once I had a few exclusive artists, I would move with my family to the United States. This was not easy for my family or for me. It was a new country with a new language, and my children were in school already. Opening my own company with all of the paperwork that was involved was difficult, and it was hard leaving family and friends behind. It was a tough decision to make and carry out, but in the end, it was the right one, and I feel very rewarded in many aspects--in family and in business.
How did the U.S. art market differ from the international market you had previously worked in?
The art market in the States was different from the marketing I was familiar with in Europe, where I had gotten my experience. The American art world is more open to accepting artists from around the world. Americans are open to purchasing art from both local and national/international artists. I think this comes from the fact that many Americans are immigrants themselves and have different tastes in art. The United States is also a tourist destination, and art is exposed to the many travelers who visit. In addition, the economic situation in America has usually been good, so the art market thrived. Also, most art in the United States is less abstract than in Europe.
What practices did you put into place to make your fine-art wholesale business, A&E Fine Art, a success in the United States?
First, I think the vast experience I had developed in the United States back when I was 20 years old helped immensely. Second, my experience of owning retail galleries in Israel for many years helped me understand the needs of gallery owners. I also knew many artists, including some Russian artists who had immigrated to Israel. Above all, knowing the importance of service and loyalty was key to my success. A satisfied customer usually returns, and all good business owners know that the customer is always right. Even when the customer was wrong, there were times when I was willing to lose out as long as he or she left happy. In the long run, my willingness to listen to customers, vendors and employees, and to fix what needed fixing, helped immensely. …