Nick Hissom and Kameron Ramirez founded Aktion Art at the start of the COVID Pandemic. With a lifelong background and passion for art, they began showing emerging artists, now rapidly growing art stars, Kevin HEES, ThankYouX, and others alongside world-class consigned works by museum quality masters like; Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Henri Matisse, to name a few. Aktion Art has now brought their contemporary roster of talent into a partnership and shared space agreement with Wynn Fine Art, the family collection directed and curated by Hissom of his stepfather world-renowned collector Steve Wynn. Aktion Art and Wynn Fine Art guard some of the most sought after emerging and established names in the industry.
Tell us a little more about yourselves. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
NH: I’ve been surrounded by the art world since a young age growing up in London and then Switzerland. Coming to America gave me a new perspective on the thrills of the contemporary market—the business of art—so, I decided to participate more fully. It’s amazing seeing both sides, collecting and dealing.
KR: I have always had a keen sense for design and production, being on the dealer/gallery side of the art business allows me to both be creative while still managing a space as well as artists.
Where are you both from and what is the arts community like there? How has your upbringing shaped what you do in the arts today?
NH: I grew up all over Europe, and then moved to America for school. Art in Europe is fantastic, and since the Renaissance has been an epicenter of culture and beauty. Now being in America, it is interesting to see American artists over the course of history reflecting their own values and culture through their art.
KR: I grew up in Palm Springs, CA which has an exuberant amount of many forms of art. Whether it be physical paintings, sculpture, installations or dance recitals, Palm Springs has a very buzzing art scene all flanked by some of the greatest modern and contemporary homes in the US.
What was your first job? What is a lesson from that experience that you’ve carried with you?
NH: My first job was in the music industry when I signed to Sony Music. Being a working artist within the major label record system taught me so much about marketing, the value of having a top tier team, funding, a built-in consumer base, industry influencers, and all of these crucial things we now apply to breaking our contemporary artists today.
KR: My first job was working in film production at a NYC based film company called Red Button Films. I was in charge of day to day management of a team of twenty, which gave me great skill in organization, time management, and also helped me with learning how to deal with many different personalities.
Together, you founded Aktion Art, a full-service art gallery. Tell us more about Aktion Art and what the day-to-day looks like for you.
NH/KR: Aktion Art services collectors from an emerging contemporary price point, to blue chip, to the rarest and most valuable museum-quality works in the world. We have an impressive amount of bandwidth and access, and use it to cater to the individual needs of each collector whether they are experienced or just starting out. A typical day involves conversations with our artists and strategy, internal affairs, management of the collection and shows at the gallery, and evenings spent with our collectors.
Tell us more about the artists you work with and why you chose to work with them!
NH/KR: We always follow the art. If we like the art first and it intrigues us, then we ask about the artist, and begin to learn more. The deeper we get and the higher the interest the larger the chances are we may work with the artist. We strive to be with our artists and keep them happy and thriving for the duration of their careers, and so far it’s been great! We pay each of them individual attention, it’s a family with constant dialogue.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job?
NH: I think our early adventures running canvases through COVID-stricken Paris during the height of lockdown and the pandemic are definitely up there! We started Aktion Art from scratch, carrying paintings on the subway, finding discount materials in tiny stores, and building our first artist Kevin HEES from scratch. We sold our first piece of art for $400.00, how we’ve grown from there!
KR: Surprisingly working in art you find yourself in weird situations often so it is hard for me to think of something specific. I’d say some unique situations I’ve been in are moving paintings ourselves via U-haul, Dj’ing, flower arranging, we had a chef cancel once and I ended up cooking dinner for 10 clients. Whatever it takes to get the job done!
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
NH: Trust your eye and your heart. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Only when you love and value something will that energy extend to others and get them excited. People can tell when something is just about investment, or if it doesn’t inspire. It’s safest to make sure you like the art first, THEN worry about the other details and make sure they all cohesively make sense before purchasing.
KR: My advice would be similar to Nick’s as we’ve both gone through similar learning curves since starting the company. My number one is to collect with your eye and heart because art is powerful and you don’t want to live with something you don’t absolutely love.
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
NH: I very much enjoyed “Picasso: Painting the Blue Period” at The Phillips Collection in Washington. It took over 10 years to curate and the exhibition brought together Pablo Picasso’s works from collections around the world. Their director Dorothy Kosinski was so kind as to walk me through the space and I absolutely loved the storytelling of the melancholy paintings, how they opened beautifully and suddenly into his red/pink period as his depression lifted, and he entered a new phase of inspiration and passion and place. It was a packed show and truly breathtaking.
KR: Nick and I were recently in Miami for Art Basel and stopped at the Rubell Museum for a party with Bank of America. While Rubell may not hold the largest or most prestigious collection I really enjoyed how they displayed the works and the cohesiveness that the space provides from exhibit space to exhibit space.
What are you most excited for this year at Aktion Art or in the art world as a whole?
NH: Going in 2023 we’ll see! It’s the first year that we don’t feel as much like a startup and we have really built an established team of top tier talent in the arts, publicity, entertainment and events marketing, and a very solid collector base. Getting to know certain collectors on a deeper level, traveling together and becoming more familiar and knowledgeable on advisory trends has been incredible. We knew so little when we started compared to where we are now—so it’s very exciting to be going into 2023 with a strong foundation from which we can continue to reach new heights!
KR: Nick and I for all intents and purposes started Aktion Art at the beginning of the pandemic. I am most looking forward to being able to operate as a normal business and begin conversations with fairs, not only locally but internationally. Having another year under our belts allows us to meet so many more great people and to exhibit new works from our roster of great artists.
How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
NH/KR: I don’t think it ever will be—and that’s the beauty of it. Art has to maintain a sense of mystery, speculation, scarcity, and lack of transparency in order to maintain its value. We all want stories of heroes and magic, that’s why we turn to art whether it be in books or films or paintings, so pulling the curtain back to reveal everything makes art just another commodity in my opinion. It’s important of course to stay aware from an investment perspective of what things trade for, but if you’re counting pennies you’re probably not buying for the right reasons.
If you could own work by 5 different artists/craftspeople, who would be in your collection?
NH: I love Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Pablo Picasso. I also love Willem de Kooning, Lucio Fontana. However, to answer your question—5 different types of any medium of artists if I could collect them—I would respond Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Christopher Paolini, Christopher Columbus (the director), and Lady Gaga. And, I already collect experiences of them all through their music, books, and films!
KR: I’d like to own a really great Lichtenstein with a speech bubble, Jasper Johns, I love the Plensa head sculptures but made out of letters rather than the solid ones, I think the Yves Klein coffee tables are really great, lastly I would love to have a very gritty Basquiat – something similar to a salvaged piece of cardboard or fence.