Franz Ihm and Nina Gscheider are no strangers to art and the digital sphere: Nina Gscheider is the founder of Segurio, a company offering simple and fast online insurance protection for collectors and lovers of beautiful things. Franz Ihm’s company Tectus Risk Management offers insurance for works of art, musical instruments and high-value private property. His innovative products are of interest for private collectors as well as for galleries and institutions. In addition to insuring art, the couple, who live in the second district of Vienna, are avid collectors themselves. viennacontemporary met them virtually to talk about their collection and the changes Covid-19 has brought to the art world.
viennacontemporary: How did you spend the last couple of months in quarantine?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: At home, like everyone else. Our insurance businesses enable us to work digitally and we were therefore fully operative during the lock-down. At first, it was difficult for us to stay at home because we usually travel a lot. The cancellation of Art Basel in Hong Kong made it clear to us that we would have to stop travelling for a while. At first, we were shocked, but then we discovered the potential of the current situation. And by now we are convinced that the restrictions caused by Covid-19 can bring some interesting and overdue changes to the art world.
viennacontemporary: What kind of changes?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: In our opinion, it is positive that older structures are being reconsidered. How can a gallery, an institution, or an art fair present itself differently online? How do you initiate an exchange in the digital sphere? These questions are very important in the present situation, and the initiatives we can witness at the moment promise exciting innovations for the future! The emergence of new platforms and modes of presentation allow new players to claim the spotlight and to seriously compete with the usual big players in the field. The cards are being reshuffled and that is very exciting.
viennacontemporary: Has the way you engage with the art world changed significantly due to Covid-19?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: Definitely. There is not a day that passes without us talking to artists on WhatsApp, receiving digital portfolios from galleries or joining a digital art event. For example, Hauser & Wirth’s initiatives are great and there is something new to discover almost every day. Immediately after this interview, we will join an online artist talk and, after that, an online exhibition tour. Generally, we think that digital initiatives are great. Unfortunately, however, we also notice that traditional offline concepts are often simply transferred to the digital sphere without properly adapting to the new conditions. Digital initiatives always have to bring some kind of innovation to make sens in the first place and to remain exciting. There are great possibilities out there with live talks, music and an interactive all-round program.
viennacontemporary: Have you also bought art online?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: Yes, we bought the picture on the wall behind us after seeing it on Instagram. It was its sense of humor that immediately convinced us. We had agreed with the gallery to visit them at Arco, but then everything got increasingly turbulent due to the virus so that we did not travel there. We have to say that, a year ago, we would have never considered buying art online. But now, mainly caused by the current situation, we have become real fans. It’s very easy to contact gallery owners or artists on Instagram and to start exchanging ideas. It almost feels like an unlimited international art fair.
viennacontemporary: Let’s talk briefly about your collection. How would you describe your art collection in one sentence? Is there a common thread to what you collect?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: We are particularly interested in work that is not pleasing at first glance. We own an installation by KAYA – Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers –, which consists of suits, fishing hooks, baby socks, etc. Initially, it has a disturbing effect – we always notice it in the faces of our guests. Another thing that is important to us is materiality. For example, we have a great installation by Nina Beier, which you do not really understand at first glance. Or this lightbox by Timur Si-Qin – it is this artificial landscape that looks familiar and disturbing at the same time, you need to adjust to it so you can fully enjoy the artificial, eerie landscape, the way it shines and its digital appeal.
viennacontemporary: How do you select the works of art you buy?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: This usually happens very quickly. It is a gut decision. The personal exchange with gallery owners or artists plays an important role, of course. We talk to them a lot and always catch up with our friends when they are in Vienna.
viennacontemporary: This personal exchange might be a bit more complicated in times of Coronavirus.
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: The exchange with artists is definitely still possible. Just this morning, we skyped with an artist who showed us her new work. In this regard, you could also say that the crisis leads to an improvement, because instead of engaging in small talk at an exhibition opening, you really have to schedule a call and actually have to take time for each other. The current crisis forces us to become more mindful about the way we consume art and art events. In our opinion, this is a good thing that we hope will stay with us beyond the times of restrictions. What we do miss, of course, are the nice get-togethers at exhibition openings or a nice dinner with a large group after an event.
viennacontemporary: The current crisis is especially hard on artists and smaller galleries – do you feel that, as collectors, it is your responsibility to help? If so, what can one do?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: One should always support artists and smaller galleries. Of course, this does not mean that everyone who wants to buy art will be able to afford it. But you can help in other ways: this morning, for example, I ordered travel catalogs by a photographer from Scotland I hadn’t known before. That’s also a small support. Tell friends and acquaintances about interesting online events. Organize a picknick in the park for everyone. Things like that.
viennacontemporary: Do you think Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on the art world?
Nina Gscheider & Franz Ihm: The current situation certainly has an influence on artists and the kind of work they produce. Maybe they don’t always have access to the materials they usually work with and have to come up with new ideas. Larger studios with assistants may have had to send employees in short-time work and to switch to small-scale art … In general, we do hope that due to increasing digitalization, art will be made accessible to more people.