After asking us about our education and formation, we returned the question.
You could say I had many different lives. After finishing my training in management and accounting, I discovered the Chinese game of Go. Seven years later I found myself working in the regional public service within the town hall of Cenon, France. I also have to mention that I met someone when I was twenty years old; a woman who had studied art history, she was the one to introduce me to painting. I discovered that I was touched by this form of art while facing paintings of Jérôme Bosch and Cézanne. When I was fourty, I dreamt of owning a gallery, and I eventually did realize that dream. It has been eight years since I started this adventure, and the gallery Jérôme B. opened its doors in June of 2016.
You are lucky to be located in a street that allows for quite a good visibility…
Indeed, it is a great opportunity to have the gallery in the center of Bordeaux. But out of a hundred people who pass by, only one enters. Art galleries are impressive! There is some movement during the openings of new exhibitions, but very few people visit the gallery after those events. People look from outside but they do not enter easily. Some do not dare to visit contemporary art galleries because of the elitist image that they still convey in the collective consciousness.
What would you like to say to these people? Do you think that this elitist image of galleries is still justified?
I am not a good salesman: I leave people have a look on their own! Discover the space, and if you have any questions, I am there to answer. We can put paintings into words, but that is not all of what painting is. It is an intimate experience, a confrontation, an encounter with the artist’s universe. We have to let people make the art of painting their own. And let’s not forget that everybody has the right to enter galleries without buying anything!
However this image is justified because of the prices practiced there. Millions of people know that galleries are not for them because even the cheapest artwork would already be too expensive.
According to you, why is it the price of artworks that prevents people from entering? It is an exhibition space, not only a retail outlet.
There is an education problem. If one is surrounded by culture since birth -through one’s parents- then one will be nourished by all things artistic during one’s whole life. When one will be facing an artwork, one will have a recurring feeling of well-being. Going to the museum costs 10€ but brings immense joy! This is why artistic education is a focal point, even though it is possible to discover art by oneself. But of course it takes a lot more time and one needs to meet the right people.
For example, the rue Bouffard is a street of musicians. Very few are interested by painting because music is already such a demanding field. For now, human beings cannot explore all fields at once…
You talk a lot about sensitivity, how do you choose the artists you exhibit?
With my gut feeling. The idea for my gallery was to present artists with talent and a personal artistic universe. It is the choice I make, therefore totally subjective, but it reflects my own sensitivity.
I mainly exhibit paintings and sculptures, very little photography because I do not feel able to say whether a work is good or not. And today photography is mad, you see it everywhere. I only exhibited the works of one photographer -that I may re-exhibit in 2019 because it is a twofold project- but it is extremely rare.
When it come to sculptures, I find it hard to find sculptors who touch me in their works and renew what we already know of sculpting. Thus I mostly present paintings, and in particular figurative paintings. I think we have seen too much abstract painting. However with figuration there is always something to be said.
Do you commit to exhibiting more local, French artists or are your choices also international?
First of all, I am financially restricted when it comes to international artists. And on top of that I like to go meet the artists I wanna exhibit in their workshops. The furthest I have been is Brussels, Belgium, when I exhibited the work of Franca Ravet, which I will present again in 2019. I also followed the creative process of students at the Fine Arts School of Bordeaux, but I do not track them nor do I go for the “genius hunt”.
How do you manage your time between the search for new artists, the scheduling of your next exhibitions and your actual presence at the gallery?
My main issue is that I work alone. I try to keep up the opening times, thus I am stuck at the gallery from Tuesdays to Saturdays. It’s not easy to create contacts and connections, even with other galleries of Bordeaux. My exhibition programme for 2019 is already set, I met the artists, but I also need to find time to go explore and prospect while working on my own. It is a small structure, not the kind of huge machine galleries that are found everywhere.
According to you, what are the missions of a gallerist in Bordeaux today?
To present artists that we might have never seen before, who are talented and with something to say and convey. In February of 2019 I will proudly exhibit the work of Magdalena Lamri, a young and talented artist born in 1985. My job as a gallerist is to show and humbly defend these young artists. If we consider that everything has not yet been done in painting, and this is my position, then there are a lot of artists to exhibit. Painting is not dead, contrary to what Marcel Duchamp said. When we started saying that discourse and context is more important than relationship and talent, art became anything and everything. Not always, of course, because some concepts are really strong and beautiful, but there have been some artistic abuse. We should not forget that art has a value, a goal, art makes you dream and travel, it opens you up to the world. All artistic fields help people grow, make us more human: accepting differences, accepting the outsider’s view of yourself, against racism and against all fascist ideas. Art helps us fight against all the populist ideas emerging today that are based on the fear of the “other”.
I am not an artist myself, but one simply has to think and convince oneself that a gallery makes sense. Let’s not forget that a gallerist has a social role to play! We are very sought after, artists understood that a gallery is not merely a retail outlet, that galleries are also a window towards the outside world. Gallerists accompany and support above all contemporary creation.
Interviewed by Julie Hoedts and Lili Weyl
at the Gallery Jérôme B.