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Davidoff is a luxury tobacco goods brand headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, and this year it was an associate sponsor at Art Basel Miami Beach. During the fair, Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, President and CEO of Oettinger Davidoff Group, revealed details of its new Davidoff Art Initiative.
The initiative marks a new stage in the evolution of Davidoff’s cultural patronage, from art fair sponsor to catalyst for the production of contemporary art. Most of the Initiative’s activities will focus on supporting the art and artists of the Dominican Republic, where Davidoff cigars are crafted.
The centerpiece of the initiative will be the annual Davidoff Residency, which will bring five international artists to the Dominican Republic and send five artists from the Dominican Republic to major art centers of the world. Andras Szanto will serve as the Initiative’s Chief Consultant, the curator is Rocio Aranda-Alvarado of El Museo del Barrio, and Albertine Kopp, former Project Director at the VOLTA art fair, will be the Davidoff Art Initiative Manager.
We spoke with Hoejsgaard in Miami.
WHITEWALL: Congratulations on your new initiative in Dominican Republic. Why now?
HANS-KRISTIAN HOEJSGAARD: We have come to a stage in which the Davidoff brand is extremely focused on three areas of the world – Europe, Asia, and the United States. We also have always said we can’t just do a sponsorship. You have to build something around that, something that makes sense, something that connects. We are focusing a lot on our corporate social responsibility right now. So in order to bring that mission further, we developed the initiative [around] giving back to the Dominican Republic, the country that we owe so much.
WW: It sounds like perfect timing?
HKH: Yes. We also know from our databases that many of our customers are very interested in art. Many of them are serious collectors. So it’s also a very good way to connect with our core customers in an engaging way.
WW: Berlin and New York have already been confirmed. What is your next location for the residency program?
HKH: Just like we collaborated with The International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York, and with the German Residency housed in the Künstlerhaus in Berlin, we also want to have a residency program in China. And we’re very close. Hopefully we’ll be able to announce a residency in Hong Kong next, which will be very exciting.
WW: Did you go to the fair, and if so, what inspired you?
HKH: My wife and I bought a video sculpture by New York-based, Swiss video artist Katja Loher, who lives in New York and Basel. The sculpture is called Spacebubble and it is comprised of hand-blown glass bubbles and an embedded video screen that runs two synchronized videos.
What we liked was that her work creates a dialogue between themes of nature and technology by interacting traditional forms of sculpture with futuristic performance art and video.
WW: How have you seen luxury change over the past several years?
HKH: The interesting thing is that it hasn’t really changed. What I find fascinating is, despite the severe economic crisis, the luxury world and luxury brands came out of the crisis much quicker than many other industries.
WW: Why do you think that is?
HKH: People still have this craving for luxury to provide pleasure. I think it’s less ostentatious than it was two years ago. The pleasure part of it is becoming more important. Luxury is less important than the actual experience it provides.