ON COLLECTING #1
CEO, P.M.Tseriotis Ltd
Founder, Pylon Art & Culture, Limassol
– Tell us a few things about you, your background and how you developed an interest in collecting?
I was born and raised in Nicosia but have lived all my adult life away from it. Went to university in the UK, worked in Athens for a few years and then married Daphne and settled in Limassol where we have been living for the past 24 years with our two children.
I would not describe my academic and professional background as artistic! My studies were in engineering and finance and by trade I am an entrepreneur with business interests in a variety of sectors including mobility products and services, digital / cyber technology and fast-moving consumer goods. Apart from contemporary art my other hobby is road cycling. I love to ride on backroads and mountain passes, it clears my head and puts things in perspective.
My parents were involved in the 70’s-80’s Nicosia art scene which, at the time, was quite vibrant and we grew up with art at home. On our travels we visited museums and galleries and something lit up and fired my interest in art.
In 1997, while I was working in Athens, I bought my very first work of art, a small painting by Tasos Mantzavinos which I cherish to this day not only for being “Artwork 0” but because it genuinely still speaks to me, and I can see a lot of threads of my future collecting distilled into this tiny canvas.
– What are the threads that connect the works in your collection? Has this evolved throughout the years?
The collection was assembled without an overarching thematic or material framework but with my eyes and heart. I bought what I liked and could buy. Looking back at it now, the collection has a very strong focus on drawing, complemented by painting and a little sculpture. The works in the collection are by majority figurative while in terms of subject matter, they carry themes of history and mythology, influences from surrealism, the depiction of human desires and vices, and socio-political commentary. A lot of the works are very small scale (<A4) and then it goes to a very large scale. There is not much in between. Strangely enough, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of these attributes are to be found in that first little painting I bought.
– How do you stay engaged with artistic developments? For example, do you visit artist studios and exhibitions? Do you travel to stay informed?
My main sources of information are Instagram and e-mailing lists. I follow galleries, institutions, and artists but also certain art world figures, like Jerry Saltz, in order to stay in touch with the international art scene. Also, whenever I am travelling for business or holidays, I set time aside to visit galleries and museums while sometimes I arrange whole trips around art and culture. I once did a 3-day whistlestop tour through Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Madrid to see the majority of Hieronymus Bosch paintings in Europe! Also, I am not particularly fond of art fairs, I find the sensory overload daunting and cannot appreciate what I see at these mega events.
In Cyprus and Athens where I am more local, I visit galleries, museums but also try to meet artists whose work I am interested in, visit their studios and interact with them.
– What do you enjoy in your interaction with artists? What would you expect to see more of?
Interacting with artists is very stimulating because it gives me an insight into their worlds, what concerns them, what they are passionate about. This helps me understand their work better but also gives me a different perspective from which to view the world. I especially enjoy when artists share their thoughts on work in progress or unrealized projects and ask me to give them my feedback and comments. It makes me feel part of the work when it comes out and makes me happy to have contributed in a very small way.
– How do you find the buying public in Cyprus in relation to abroad? Are there any infrastructures that can support new collecting in Cyprus?
The ecosystem of art around the world has various components including Artists, Curators, Academics, Critics, Public and Private Institutions, Artist-Run Initiatives and Spaces, Collectors, Buyers and Commercial Galleries. In Cyprus, I think we have most of the previously mentioned in good quantity (I would even say we punch way above our weight in terms of artists, both quantitatively and qualitatively!) but we are lacking commercial galleries and because of that, I think, there are very few buyers. One can argue that this is a chicken and egg situation, and it probably is, but whatever the case, it is something which is holding back the Cypriot art ecosystem. My view is that there is latent demand for works of art but it needs time and effort to bring it out. Initiatives like yours, starting with editions and more affordable works, making art accessible in places where people are already in their comfort zone will definitely help but I still believe that we need another 5-10 active gallerists, specializing in contemporary art to fill the gap. Beyond opening a gallery myself, which I will not do, I cannot help the situation – but maybe by saying it some people might share my view and be inspired to do so.
– How would you advise somebody who wanted to start their own collection? What does one need to have in mind?
If you like art and want to live with it, set aside a budget and within that buy what pleases your eyes, moves your heart and feeds your soul. Don’t think about values and if you do, have an appreciation of that in future, for me it spoils the pleasure of collecting.
– You recently initiated Pylon Art & Culture. Can you tell us about its mission and engagement with the locale?
Pylon has a mission to help make contemporary art more accessible and relevant to a wider audience. We realize this is a huge task and one that definitely cannot be done on our own. We aspire to put a small brick in the wall and to collaborate with others in the ecosystem for the greater goal. We are exploring innovative ways of achieving this aim including but not limited to taking art out to where people already live and interact (including the virtual space), engaging communities and funding through innovative mechanisms which themselves further the goal of making art accessible e.g. creating and selling editions. I recently did a residency at Delfina Foundation in London to explore these ideas and from there I have settled on a few ideas like making the interventions of Pylon more performative, event-based to create more urgency to visit/see, getting communities involved actively, going to the younger age groups where chances of attracting interest are higher and integrating art in spaces and activities where people are at ease like eating and drinking.
Alexandros Diogenous was born in 1971 in Nicosia, Cyprus. His studies include an M.A. Engineering & Management at Cambridge University and an M.Sc. Finance from London Business School.
From 1997 until 1999, Diogenous worked at Alpha Finance, Greece as a financial analyst consulting clients on IPO’s, mergers and acquisitions.
In 1999, he returned to Cyprus to join his family business, the P.M. Tseriotis group of companies. From 2002 to 2017, he was Chief Executive Officer of Unicars Ltd. Since 2017, he is the Chairman and CEO of P.M. Tseriotis Ltd, the group holding company.
During his career Diogenous has been chairman of the Motor Vehicle Importers Association and served as a director of various listed companies, charitable institutions and of the Cyprus University of Technology.
Outside his work passions are contemporary art and cycling.