Thomas Ammann  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Thomas Ammann
In 1989 he bought Bacon's "Study for Portrait of Van Gogh II" for $5.83 million, a price that was briefly the record for the artist. In 1991 he paid $2.09 million for Warhol's "210 Coca-Cola Bottles."

Thomas E. Ammann (1950-1993) was a leading Swiss art dealer in Impressionist and Twentieth century art and major collector of Post-war and Contemporary Art.

Born 1950 in Ermatingen, Switzerland, as the youngest of four children, Ammann became an art collector while still a teen-ager. Aged 18 he went to work at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Zürich. It was during this time of apprenticeship that Ammann first met Andy Warhol who would become a close friend. In 1977 Ammann went into business for himself. His unique combination of knowledge, eye for quality, charm, humor and absolute discretion catapulted him to the top of the art world by his mid 30's. His gallery, Thomas Ammann Fine Art was visited by major collectors throughout Europe and the Americas. Its patrons included Giovanni Agnelli, Gustavo Cisneros, David Geffen, Ronald Lauder, Stavros Niarchos, Ronald Perelman, Stephan Schmidheiny and Heinrich Thyssen amongst many others.

From his villa by Otto Rudolf Salvisberg on the hill of Zürich, his chalet in Gstaad or his apartment at the Pierre in New York, Thomas Ammann dealt mainly in major paintings and sculpture of twentieth century masters such as Francis Bacon, Balthus, Max Beckmann, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Barnett Newman, Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko.

Since Ammann's discretion and secrecy in business were legendary, only a few prime examples of artworks which found way into the worlds great museums through his hands are known, such as Max Ernst's "The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses" [1] in the collection of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne or Vincent van Gogh's "Portrait of Joseph Roulin" which Ammann sold together with Beyeler to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ammann proved to be a major player in the international art auctions in London and New York as a bidder and buyer on record breaking artworks. The press noted "his presence in the worlds salesrooms created a mood of optimism, whatever the market conditions, and his enthusiastic bids for paintings by Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol were driven by genuine passion as much as potential profit". Thomas Ammann started organizing exhibitionsat his gallery from 1988.

Besides becoming the leading dealer of his generation by the end of the 1980s and playing in the league of dealers such as William Acquavella and Ernst Beyeler [2]. Thomas Ammann was an equally keen supporter and friend of contemporary artists, whose works he exclusively purchased for his own collection. A small selection of his vast holdings were exhibited at the Kunsthalle Basel in 1985 with the title "From Twombly to Clemente - Selected works from a private collection", curated by the well known art critic and former museum director Jean-Christophe Ammann [3]. The art world agreed on Thomas Ammann's collection of masters of the second half of the twentieth century to be amongst the finest in existence, with unparalleled workgroups of artists such as Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, Eric Fischl, Francesco Clemente and Neil Jenney. Living up to his maxim " You shall not collect what you want to sell" Ammann strictly divided his dealing in early twentieth century art from his collecting postwar and contemporary works. After Ammann's untimely death in 1993, part of his private collection was embedded in Swiss Industrialist Stephan Schmidheiny's corporate collection "Daros" [4] which itself actively buys and sells works nowadays.

Thomas Ammann Fine Art today is directed by Ammann's second oldest sister Doris Ammann who joined the gallery in the late seventies and worked many years as the financial director. Today she can be seen at the international auctions bidding for top lots by artists such as Modigliani or Schiele [5]. Another family member, Ammann's only nephew Tobias Mueller Ammann acts as director of Zürich's Gallery Bruno Bischofberger [6] since 1995.

It was in 1977 that Thomas Ammann envisioned a Catalogue Raisonne of all of Andy Warhol's paintings, sculptures and drawings, and with the artists consent, started the vast undertaking of assembling the material needed for such a project to finally create a comprehensive, scholarly and authoritative publication. The initial volumes were eventually published in 2002 and 2004 by Phaidon Press [7] in a joint effort of Thomas Ammann Fine Art and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc., New York.




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