Down to an Art – an Interview with Vernon Dubner

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June 3, 2015

The first words that come to mind when we think about our friend Vernon Dubner, the gallerist of Dubner Moderne, are dapper, passionate and kind. Dapper because he positively effuses sophistication, (what more could you expect from a man with a tailor in Milan); passionate and kind because his enthusiasm for art is matched only by his enthusiasm for a good conversation, a talent he masters by making you feel like the most important person in the room.

Raised in New York City in a family of art collectors and enthusiasts, it’s perhaps no surprise that he thrives in his field, but we’ll admit that when we first learned that this young, approachable, craft-beer-drinking guy was the art dealer and connoisseur behind the Dubner Moderne gallery, we were surprised. While he is one of the most elegant people we’ve met in Lausanne, art dealing seemed like the business of dusty elites with yachts in Monaco, not hip 20-somethings who seem to be on a first name basis with the best barmen in the city.

But this is Vernon’s strength. For us he has served as a bridge to a world that is both fascinating and intimidating. He is an astute conversationalist whose passion is contagious, but whose openness makes him easily approachable, even for the uninitiated. So when we wanted to starting getting serious about a years-long dream to fill a blank wall in our apartment with something more than a framed poster, we knew where we ought to take our questions.

Our discussions with Vernon have been so informative and reassuring that we wanted to share a taste with you! We caught up with him last week with a few specific questions…


First things first – a little bit about you: You have a background in hospitality and a degree from EHL – what inspired you to open an art gallery?

For me hospitality is all about hosting, sharing and stimulating. As I had grown up surrounded by artists and art, it just made sense to have a space where I could exhibit exciting pieces of art in hopes of sharing ideas and starting a dialogue with visitors and the local community. There’s nothing better than that moment when someone comes in and discovers a work that fascinates them.

And why in Lausanne?!

It’s a dynamic, young city that has really been evolving the past couple of years and there always seems to be something happening. Whether it’s the numerous concerts and festivals, the great museum programs, the Théatre de Vidy or the Festival Lausanne Lumières, Lausanne is really active culturally especially given its size. For me as a gallerist it’s great to be part of this larger cultural scene.

What advice would you have for someone fearful about deciding whether or not to take the plunge and buy a piece they’ve been eyeing?

If they’ve been eyeing it, then they must like it, so why the fear?

On top of this, art is one of the few pleasures that doesn’t get consumed as you use it. It can appreciate as you appreciate it.

Making your first art purchase can be so intimidating! What’s your advice to a first-time buyer?

Have fun. Don’t sweat it. If you love what you’re acquiring then that’s the most important and don’t be afraid to ask any questions that you may have.

Are there any resources, on the internet or otherwise, that you recommend for prospective buyers?

The best resource is to make a relationship and to talk. The internet has its uses but it’s a remote world devoid of the tangibles that make art and life great.

Several of the works that pass through your gallery end up on the walls of your own home. How do you decide which pieces you can’t live without?

There are particular pieces that I can’t stop thinking about after I first see them. I really love every piece that I have and as I build my collection it has become a totally subjective and subconscious reflection of me. Therefore, the next piece always makes sense in a sort of innate way.

In your opinion, what makes a work of art timeless?

Relevance. Certain pieces evoke conversation, emotions and ideas. Sometimes they’re just beautiful. In 10, 50, 100 years a work of art will continue to do this even if the context has changed. Anything else is just decoration and subject to styles.

Are there any exhibits in Europe that you’re excited to see in the coming year?

I unfortunately haven’t had the chance this year to make it to the Venice Biennale so I hope to soon.

Otherwise I’m looking forward to seeing the New Whitney in New York on my way to exhibit at Art Hamptons. In winter 2016 the Kunst Museum in Bern will be having a large exhibition on contemporary Chinese art from the collection Uli Sigg that I’m really looking forward to.

Tell us about your next exhibit! What do we have to look forward to?

On June 4th to June 20th I have a great group summer exhibition, including some young emerging artists that I’m really looking forward to. The show is quite short because the gallery will be closed from June 24 – July 13 when we’re exhibiting at Art Hamptons, but check out our website and Facebook for summer hours and new exhibitions.

For fun: What was the first piece of art that really took your breath away?

At the same time that I was getting serious about starting the gallery I went to an Edvard Munch exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler and I remember being totally amazed by the entire exhibition.


And the timing couldn’t be better. This week marks the opening of a new summer exhibit at the Dubner Moderne! Stop by starting this Thursday, June 4th.

Gallery view of Russell Tyler, YORBGG Grid (Detail), 2014

Dubner Moderne
Rue du Grand-Chêne 6
4th Floor
1003 Lausanne, Suisse
tel. +41 (0)79 242 78 01
Tuesday – Friday 11h-19h
Saturday 11h-17h
or by appointment


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