In its core business, David Nahmad not afraid to take risks. He has invested millions of dollars on the currency market and in commodities and makes hundreds of thousands of bets on the championships backgammon in Monte Carlo (in 1996 he became world champion). But when it comes to art, he turns into a conservative investor. "I like to buy quality", - says Nahmad. He shuns such modern masters as Jeff Koons and Richard Prince, whose works are considered luxury items, which are sold at inflated prices. He prefers the classics, especially with works created in most fruitful period of their work: for example, Monet from 1873 (a turning point for impressionism) and Miro since 1924 (key date for surrealism).
"Monet and Picasso - this is like Microsoft and Coca-Cola. Yield is less than that of contemporary artists, but it is more stable ", - says Nahmad.
Another component of his strategy: buy and hold. Most art dealers reserve the paintings is small, the strength of several dozen. Nahmady, descendants of a wealthy banker from Syria, just keep a cache of paintings. Its treasures are stored in a room area of 1400 sq.. m in the duty-free zone near the Geneva airport. What's inside? "It's a secret" - meets David Nahmad. But three knowledgeable people say that it is kept from 4500 to 5000 pieces of art worth $ 3.4 billion including 300 works by Picasso worth about $ 900 million is not the largest collection of his works outside the museum, but only because the largest - from Picasso's family.
"The key figure in this business - the owner - explains one New York art dealer. - Mediators do not earn so much. Nahmady themselves set prices and decide for themselves when to sell.
"We sell only in order to buy more", - says 30-year-old son David Helly, who manages the gallery in the upscale Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York. His cousin, who in the Jewish tradition, too, is named in honor of his grandfather Helly Hillel, manages a gallery in London. Because the possession of objects of art in itself - a very expensive thing, stick to the strategy chosen by the art-market domestic help other business - trading currencies. The size of its currency portfolio Nahmady not disclosed, but sources close to the family appreciates it in the $ 1 billion
Collection Nahmadov so extensive that they encountered anyone who has to do with Impressionism and modern art. Some were not very good memories. Nahmadov reproach that they like to change the terms of transactions in the last moment and are in no hurry to pay. The dealer, who had a few deals with the family, recalls the case when the London nephew changed the price of David's paintings after the parties have struck a bargain. "They do not keep their word" - he said. "Awful hard to get money from them", - says another famous art dealer who, like many, does not want to publicly criticize the family, fearing the consequences.
David believes all claims not serious: "We always respect the terms of the transaction. His nephew Helly categorically denies that ever changed the previously agreed price.
Nahmady far more expansive and unrestrained, as adopted at the art market. "They yell at each other directly in the gallery" - says an old acquaintance of the family. At auctions, they come with their wives and children. Not only that children sometimes interfere with the auctioneer, the adults themselves loudly arguing with each other directly during the bidding.
Effect Nahmadov on the world of art gives them an opportunity to negotiate special terms for themselves. For example, a standard term fees for the purchase at auction for 30 days. But sometimes Nahmady pay within the prescribed period, only 10%. And transmit pictures to the next auction, promising to pay the rest after the sale. Sometimes it is the duty Nahmadov only to one auction house exceeded $ 20 million
"Every new employee accounts to ask what kind of people, why do not they pay? But the trump card is always on their hands "- recalls a former employee of the auction house. Son of David Helly argues that the time has passed special arrangements. "We have accumulated a lot of cash. We have sold more than bought "- he said.
Unlike most dealers Nahmady buy and sell mainly through auction houses, shifting on their shoulders authentication works. They use auctions and in order to support the prices of paintings, owned. For example, last fall at Sotheby's and Christie's in London Nahmady spent $ 3 million, having bought five paintings by the Italian artist Lucio Fontana, famous for his monochrome canvases from the slots. But they traded for another four of his paintings to raise prices. "This is called protection of the collection. We in Switzerland, kept 100 works fountains, so that if you pay for an auction lot of money for one of his paintings, one hundred others, in theory, should also rise in price ", - explains Helly.
Auction houses Nahmady more necessary than Nahmadam auction houses. During the recession in the market in the early 1970's and 1990's Nahmady bought art in bulk. At the auction Sotheby's, devoted to Kandinsky in 1971 Nahmady purchased Tiepolo. "They play the same role as the largest broker on the stock market. To function properly, markets need a force ", - says art dealer from New York, Jeffrey Deitch.
Many were annoyed that Nahmady refer to art as oil futures. Paris art dealer Daniel-Henri Kanveyler dedicated his life to popularize and promote the early Cubist Picasso. Nahmady who bought more than 200 works by Picasso in the gallery Kanveylera act as resellers, but not as patrons. "Some dealers before selling them to exhibit paintings in galleries, where the walls are covered with red velvet, - says a respected New York-based dealer. - Nahmady selling paintings from a warehouse in Geneva.
Passion for the art of seven infected 76-year-old brother, David, Giuseppe. In 1948 Nahmady moved from Syria to Beirut, and in 1960 - moved to Milan. David remembers that his brother, who was called Joe, a half century ago lived in a big way, rolling to a Ferrari and a Rolls-Royce of their glamorous girlfriends like Rita Hayworth. Joe's Apartment in Rome, Milan, Portofino and London decorated bought them paintings, including the work of Magritte, Leger, Dali. His 32-year-old nephew of London Helly calls Joe eccentric and purchaser: "If Uncle Joe was needed suitcase, he bought not one but twenty."
Joe could live in a big way, playing the financial markets, but in 1963 he was unlucky, and he was left without money. Then he let younger brothers Ezra and David to sell a few paintings from his collection (the second conversation, David told the story differently: that the reason the sale was of great interest to dealers some pictures from the collection of Joe). Either way the art market in Milan was on the rise and the brothers did not know the all-clear from buyers.
David and Ezra childhood spoke excellent French, that they used to travel to Paris, where the market was not as warmed up and where I could buy works by Picasso, Chagall, and Miro, to sell a margin of 50-100%in Milan. David says that initially sold the painting in installments. Under the IOUs buyers, he took a bank loan that is spent on the acquisition of new paintings. "It's like selling cars", - he said.
Sociable, speaks seven languages, David quickly became a circle of people such as Kanveyler and Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the billionaire art collector, bought works by Picasso, Kandinsky and the Italian futurist Giacomo Balla. Ezra and a half years older than David, he often traveled with his brother, but, being a closed, all the time kept on the sidelines.
In the 1970's the brothers have expanded the geography of their trips by selling paintings through auction houses and galleries in Europe, New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. With a phenomenal memory, they've earned on the difference in prices between markets. The situation with prices on the art was far less transparent than it is today, so that buyers in New York were not aware of recent deals in London or Paris.
"Joe - absolute genius, - says New yokrsky dealer David Nash, who at one time headed the department of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's. - He can call at three in the morning, and he remembers how much he paid for a painting in a certain year, in what currency, and what was then the exchange rate.
In the 1980's the brothers did not fail to take advantage of the speculative fever in Japan. So customers like Fuji Television Gallery in Tokyo, they were selling paintings in bulk. Nahmady made in Japan so much money that, when in 1989 the crisis erupted, they continued to buy paintings fallen in price, significantly adding to their collection.
Over time, Joe Nahmad became more closed. He remained a bachelor and lived in Marbella, Paris and Monte Carlo, by shifting part of the work on the brothers and intermediaries. David contends that Joe health problems and he went out of business, but sources close to the family, said that the final word is still my older brother. About him tell many stories, mostly about the fact that he does not like to pay. Art dealer from London, Ivor Marriage recalls over breakfast in Paris Les Deux Magots Joe ate 14 croissants. When the waiter asked Joe how much he ate, he replied "two or three." Joe never leaves a tip, said his London nephew Helly.
The only detailed article about Nahmadah was published in 1994 in the journal ArtNews. It stated that Joe had problems with the law. In 1957 he was arrested in Italy and sentenced to pay a fine, after he found the stolen money in the amount of $ 70 000. And in 1961, the Italian tax office has accused him that he had paid tax on transactions in the stock market volume of $ 92 million
Joe Forbes gave a short interview in connection with the publication in ArtNews. According to him, stolen money, he unwisely accepted as payment transactions. And he was not arrested and interrogated simply by removing all charges thereafter. Investigations in Italy on suspicion of tax evasion were not there, says Joe.
Recently, the family had no trouble with the law, except a claim of sexual harassment, filed in 2005, an employee of Helly Nahmada galleries in Manhattan. Nahmady settle the case before the court. The parties agreed not to comment on this topic.
Over the last decade, while the eldest sons of Ezra and David grew up and learned the basics of family business, the authority Nahmadov grew significantly. Son David manages designed by the architect Peter Marino Gallery in Manhattan, his cousin manages the gallery area of 560 sq.. m in the fashionable area of London Meyfer.
The family was friendly enough, but without friction can not do. "My son likes the publicity, I do not", - says David. He also did not like it when the London-based nephew bought 50 paintings by contemporary British artist Damien Hirst. According to David, the astronomical prices for paintings Hirst - a purely speculative thing. But Helly ignored the opinions of his uncle and decently earned. For five years he received as a result of the transaction with the work of Hirst's 500%-ing profits. Nephew of David, a graduate of the prestigious London School of St. Paul's, feels in the modern art market is like a fish in water.
Son of David - is another matter. In 1997, he quit art history courses Christie's. His manners provocatively, he clubber and a friend of such stars as David Blaine and Johnny Depp. "I am a businessman. I sell a lot of paintings to many collectors, and the last few years, we beat all sales records, "- he says.
Art dealer from Manhattan, Jack Tilton participated in transactions with New York Helly and now leads talks with him about Nahmadami collected by Monet. "Transactions on them virtually none. Too few sellers ", - said Tilton.
Nahmadam well known law of supply and demand. "Art is too small compared with the number of people wishing to buy them" - sums up the philosophy of the family, David Nahmad.
Even if, because of the global economic crisis, the art market will suffer losses, a collection of the family will grow in value - in this he was sure. If prices fall, he will buy. "Many people buy gold and put it in a safe, - he said. - I prefer gold art.