"Making art and being an artist is a philosophical task than merely producing objects."
The team (from left) : Hugues Albes-Nicoux, Séverine de Volkovitch,artist of the gallery Fahamu Pecou and Delphine Guillaud.
According to one theory, the financial crisis is having a cleansing effect on the art market. Only artists creating high-quality works are experiencing success. Sales of smaller works up to € 5,000 have also been increasing dramatically, which is a positive development for up-and-coming artists to witness. As a reaction to this buying behavior, many young galleries are including new discoveries and smaller works in their program in order to offer art that people can afford in tougher financial times.
The worst seems to have passed and the crisis appears to be easing up. Now, in the sign that the financial meltdown may finally be behind us, several significant new gallery spaces have begun to open their doors, often in unexpected places in the art capitals. And with the freedom that comes from reinventing the system, they are pursuing unconventional curatorial programs and creating new spirit in the art scene. In this lean time, artists and gallery owners are working more closely together and supporting each other more readily, painting exhibitions rooms together and getting friends to help them out, etc.
In this interview, we have Delphine Guillaud of Backslash Gallery (set up in Nov 2010 in Paris) to talk with us her new adventure in the gallery business together with her associates Séverine de Volkovitch and Hugues Albes-Nicoux.
ST – Selina Ting for InitiArt Magazine
DG – Delphine Guillaud for Backslash Gallery
ST: You just celebrated the first anniversary of your gallery, Backslash, in November this year. What motivated you and your partners to set up a gallery in 2010?
DG : We wanted to set up a gallery of our own because we wanted to do our own program. When you worked for someone, you can’t make the choices and decisions. So, we wanted to create our own business and to defend the artists that we love to work with. I started the gallery in partnership with Séverine de Volkovitch and Hugues Albes-Nicoux. Hugues is from the marketing and communication industry. Séverine and I met when we were both working for the galerie Daniel Templon. Before, we worked for different galleries and art museums.
Installation view of the Backslash Gallery
ST: The name of the gallery “Backslash” is taken from the computer world. Do you want to signify the ultra-modern spirit of the gallery by such a choice?
DG : The backslash is the root of everything in the digital age. It’s the origin of stories in computer world. We like the symbolic meaning of building stories with the artists that we are working with.
ST: In terms of programming and artists, which direction are you going and what kind of art and artists that you want to defend?
DG: We don’t want to specialize ourselves on a specific kind of art or a specific region. For the moment, we have 7 artists in the gallery. It seems to be not so numerous but it’s already a lot of work for a new gallery. We have artists working with different media, painting, photography, drawing, installation, sound art, etc. The common denominator is that they are all young artists, aged between 26 and 49. So, let’s say the program is multidisciplinary, young and dynamic. We have artists who are doing very conceptual work, such as Luc Schuhmacher and Charlotte Charbonnel. But we also have painters and photographers as well. So, our program is very eclectic.
We are three in partnership. When we started collaborating with a new artist, we have to agree between three of us. It can be kind of complicated because we can have different taste.
ST: We are at the middle of the crisis and it is particularly difficult for galleries working with young artists. Do you feel it? How do you manage it?
DG: We know it’s the crisis and we feel it. But there is the still middle-class who has the purchasing power. They make good money but not a lot and they want to invest in art and look for affordable art. We are showing young artists who are not very expensive. We are targeting at this group of young collectors who want to invest in young artists. We always have such kind of collectors in history, like the Steins who bought young Picasso when his work was not expensive. The only point is that we need to sell more to cover the cost.
Second Floor of the Gallery exhibition space
ST: When you started in 2010, you believed it to be a good moment to start a gallery?
DG: We know a lot of important people in the art market. When we started thinking about a gallery, we asked these people, we know that it’s the crisis and the art market is in trouble even though there were big collectors who are spending money and buying big artists. People with whom we talked to told us that it’s a good moment because we have the money which is private and if we could endure the crisis, we will be fine afterwards.
ST: After the first year of practice, is the financial burden getting tenser or more relaxed? Do you see the end of the crisis? In two year? Three years?
DG: I think that art and the general economy are two different economies. I don’t think that the art market is link to the bigger economy. Today, we know that it’s risky to buy an apartment or other properties. It’s very difficult for the luxury fashion industry as well. But art keeps its power as the dream object that makes people happy and dream for more. It still is the safe investment for money.
ST: Are you also concerned with the problem of speculation in the art?
DG: Yes, we have to be careful with this. In our gallery, we don’t have speculators in our collectors. But after all, such things happened all the time in history. It has always been like this and there would always be speculators. And they have the rights to do so. When you open a gallery, you need to sell and it allows artists to live and produce as well. Of course, the most important thing is to get our artists to enter good collections.
Third Floor of the Gallery exhibition space
ST: Right now what is the biggest difficulty for you?
DG: To make collectors come to the gallery. It’s a long-term effort to bring them here. Even we are well-situated in Paris, it’s still difficult. And it’s the same problem for big galleries, all the time. There are almost 200 galleries in the Marais district of Paris. So there are lots of openings, events, fairs, etc. and collectors are very busy! Everyone is busy!
ST: The Haut-Marais area around Place de la République is moving and transforming.
DG: Yes, this area is expanding and I know big galleries in the Marais want to find a space here. A Belgian collector also wants to open a big space here to show his collection. It’s moving a lot in a good way.
ST: What are the differences between the Haut-Marais and the Belleville area?
DG: We thought about Belleville area as well when we started. But, regarding the program of the big galleries in the Belleville area, we think that it’s not the same kind of artists that we want to show. They are showing very conceptual artists and we would like a lot what they are doing. But to us, our program doesn’t fit in the same area.
ST: You have an absolutely gorgeous space. What kind of building was it before?
DG: It was storage space for clothes and showroom. This area is moving from merchandising and textile to artistic and creative industries. Because it’s becoming too expensive for them to rent a space here just for storage or showroom. There are lots of small spaces available in our street. We are lucky to find this big one of 250 square meters in all three levels. So we can have the reserve, presentation room, office, etc, all inside the gallery.
ST: You participated in Slick this year. Is it your first fair?
DG: Yes, and it was very nice. We have important sales, interesting press coverage for us too. I like the fair itself, the venue is nice, and the fair is well-prepared and well-scheduled. It’s lighter than the FiAC and more comfortable to visit. Attending art fairs is always a good way to be known and get contact with the collectors.
ST: How do you project the future for the gallery?
DG: We need some time to develop. We have good relationship with collectors and they are very supportive. Even though we are working under high financial pressure, we are very optimistic about our future.
ST: Thank you very much!
29, rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth, Paris 75003, France.
Mathilde Lavenne, Rero, Luc Schuhmacher, Simon Nicaise, Astrid Kruse Jensen, Frédéric Léglise, Fahamu Pecou and Charlotte Charbonnel (from 2012).