New York Gallerist Thorsten Albertz Splurges on ‘Beautiful Experiences’ and Thinks Instagram Is Overrated


Thorsten Albertz believes that quality defies trends. This outlook, he believes, is the key to long-term success in the gallery world.  

The New York-based dealer co-founded Albertz Benda in 2015 with Swiss-born dealer Marc Benda in New York, building the gallery’s reputation with a curated mix of contemporary and modern artists. In 2021, Albertz Benda expanded, adding a second location in West Hollywood. 

But none of this happened overnight. Opening a gallery came as the culmination of years of Albertz’s work in the art world, including an institutional position at the Goethe Institute Japan in Tokyo, and positions with Arario Gallery and Arndt & Partner in Berlin. But while long-lead planning underpins much of Albertz’s professional life, he still leaves room for surprise and delight.  

“Sarah Lee: Two Skies,” the gallery’s current New York exhibition, is one of those very delights; the Korea-born, New York-based artist’s paintings of mysterious, nocturnal forests are a visual reprieve from a digital world inundated by crises, and which Albertz describes as evoking “contradictory emotions.” 

In his personal time, meanwhile, Albertz embraces an easygoing and spontaneous attitude, and believes in splurging on unforgettable vacations and heavy doses of quality time with friends.  

Recently we caught up with Albertz to find out what he values most in art and life—and why.  

Courtesy of Thorsten Albertz.

Courtesy of Thorsten Albertz.

What is the last thing that you splurged on/why?
My vacation! I love to splurge on holidays. I’m not a big fan of accumulating “stuff,” but I know that life is too short to not splurge on beautiful experiences and unforgettable memories.

What is something that you’re saving up for?
A rather large industrial loft. While having said that I don’t like to accumulate “things,” I have nonetheless built my own collection of art and design over the years. I guess that comes with the territory! I have never had the space to display some of my favorite pieces like my Campana Brothers and Brie Ruais sculpture.

Courtesy of Thorsten Albertz.

Courtesy of Thorsten Albertz.

What would you buy if you found $100?
I’d advance buy a spare Airpod because I constantly lose one.

What makes you feel like a million bucks?
Spending as much time as possible with my friends.

What do you think is your greatest asset?
In my professional life: very forward-thinking, long-lead planning, and detailed organization. In my private life: go with the flow, spontaneity, and simply “being a mess” sometimes.

What do you most value in a work of art?
The ability for a work to surprise me, and to continue discovering new elements even after looking at it and being exposed to it for months and sometimes even years.

Installation view "Sarah Lee: Two Skies" at Albertz Benda, 2023.

Installation view of “Sarah Lee: Two Skies” at Albertz Benda, 2023.

Who is an emerging artist worthy of everyone’s attention?
Of course, I am biased here: Korean American painter Sarah Lee, whom we are presenting right now in our New York gallery. By painting dreamlike landscapes without any figures, she evokes contradictory emotions, from security to eeriness, solitude to wholeness.

Who is an overlooked artist who hasn’t yet gotten their due?
This list is endless and a constant topic throughout our gallery programming. Most recently, I have turned my attention toward Ken Kiff, who was a British artist and Royal Academician. Kiff created groundbreaking figurative paintings with psychological weight and an incredible eye for color, a long time before it was “hip, cool, and fashionable” to do so. He taught Tracey Emin, who still often refers to him in interviews and through her work itself.

What, in your estimation, is the most overrated thing in the art world?
Instagram and the hold it has over everyone constantly checking who’s following who in the art world.

Ken Kiff, Man on Island With Gentle Cloud (1990). Courtesy of Thorsten Albertz.

Ken Kiff, (1990). Courtesy of Thorsten Albertz.

What is your most treasured possession?
My first ever leather jacket, which was given to me as a gift from a person who means the world to me.

What’s been your best investment?
The investment I made in trusting another person enough to form a business partnership and subsequently investing in myself to form this partnership that created our business.

What is something small that means the world to you?
A ridiculous little toy my mother brought back from her last trip before she passed.

What’s not worth the hype?

What do you believe is a worthy cause?
Helping to build my artists’ careers.

What do you aspire to?
To be a reliable and dependable gallerist for my artists, collectors, and collaborators, while simultaneously never forgetting that the world is so much larger than what we often think it is.


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