Travel Agency to the Art Stars: A Q&A With Nicholas Christopher, the President of Turon Travel

Travel Agency to the Art Stars: A Q&A With Nicholas Christopher, the President of Turon Travel
The Turon Travel staff

NEW YORK — Based in SoHo since the late 1970s, Turon Travel catered to the booming gallery district, and continues to serve artists and gallerists in an increasingly global and international art world. This art travel agency's extreme degree of specialization has only made it more essential with the proliferation of art fairs, biennials, and auction houses all around the globe. Recently, ARTINFO spoke to Turon president Nicholas Christopher about the agency's history, its client list of art world power players, and future developments.

When did Turon Travel open its doors and have you always been on Wooster Street in SoHo?

We opened on May 12, 1979, on the corner of Prince and Wooster Streets. Since then we spent 10 years at 111 Greene and then on to 2 Wooster Street where we have been since 1999.

Did you intentionally set out to service the art world or did it happen organically?

I was just out of Graduate School and my future wife, Penny, had just gotten her BA in the arts. We were always in SoHo gallery hopping, visiting friends, etc.

My other partner, Demetra, who is also my sister in-law, had been working for a Caribbean wholesaler. Jobs were hard to come by in the late '70s and with the help of our parents we decided that SoHo needed a travel agency. The rest is history. So yes, we always intended to work with people in the arts and when we were preparing our first space many of the local residents came in to thank us. 

Who were some of your earliest clients and where were they going?

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Paula Cooper, Ivan Karp, Richard Serra and Clara Weyergraf, Sperone Westwater, Bernar Venet — to name a few.

They traveled throughout Europe, the States, and wherever they fancied throughout the world.

When many of the galleries in SoHo migrated to Chelsea did it change things dramatically for Turon?

No, we had already established ourselves and their physical move did not impact us.

How has the proliferation of art fairs worldwide impacted business?

With all our years in this unique position we have dedicated ourselves to creating a fully accessible travel network for the art community. We are no longer a local business but now have clients from over 100 countries. For the coming calendar year, fall 2012-June 2013, we will be working with 24 arts venues on a global scale. Turon has become the travel services partner for the world’s premier art fairs and events. Our Web site is in the process of another upgrade. In the immediate future all reservations made through the site will be in "total" real time and you will be able to waitlist for upcoming events, to mention just a few of the new coming features.

With all of the many travel sites available to your clients on the web, what keeps them coming back?

Turon Travel is a specialist or niche travel management company with a specific  knowledge base. We understand the needs of our growing client base.  

Who are some of your most famous clients? 

I have already mentioned a few... here are a few more — Leo Castelli, Frank Stella, Vik Muniz, Elizabeth Murray, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer.

Can you tell me the new art world hot spots?

There are several hot spots right now. The Asian market is very hot because of the growth in art sales which is commensurate with the great increases in personal wealth and the desire to collect art as both an investment and a prestige item. Just look at all the press Art Hong Kong and Art Singapore are getting.

New York City is becoming a hotter market. With Frieze entering the arena we may see a "battle of art fair titans" take place, Frieze vs. The Armory Show, which lends itself to some interesting art marketing.

Paris — FIAC is surging as a must see venue in October and the Art Paris art fair in April has a new director who is quickly internationalizing this venue.

Expo Chicago, which is opening this September. There is speculation this move will revitalize the markets in ‘mid-America’.

L.A. — with Art Platform in September and the L.A. Art Show and Art L.A. Contemporary every January, the importance of West Coast art is being reaffirmed.