5 Questions with Jean-Marie Gallais
Curator, Jean-Marie Gallais works as director of Paris’ Galerie Max Hetzler. Gallais has been based in Paris for the last ten years, and is about to open a solo exhibition of work from British artist, Glenn Brown. This will be the first exhibition of Brown’s drawings, that have been described by the gallery as having ‘the precision of a mechanical reproduction technique.’
When, and how did you begin life as curator?
I came to Paris 10 years ago to study and I met two great “mentors”: Bernard Blistène, with whom I started to work as a curatorial assistant at the Centre Pompidou (Blistène became recently the Director of the institution; at that time he was in charge of the cultural development, inviting young artists for experimental programs); and Eric Troncy, a fantastic curator who encouraged me to write about art. After a few years spent at the Centre Pompidou, I decided to do my own projects as a freelance curator and writer. In 2013, I was hired by Max Hetzler and Samia Saouma to edit a book for the 40 years of their gallery, and at the same time they decided to open a space in Paris and offered me the chance to become the director of this venue.
How do you begin curating a show? Is there anything in particular that sets things in motion each time?
It is always different, but very often it starts basically, with a conversation. I like the idea of collective thinking. For instance, last year, a friend of mine was talking about his interest in the way that computers handle images, dividing everything into grids and matrixes, and during a conversation we found the analogy with contemporary art practices striking: an exhibition was born, we named it Halftone. Right now, I’m working differently since I’m preparing an exhibition of the work of a fascinating seminal key figure, who passed away 10 years ago: Raymond Hains. He was considered “the best French young artist” even when he was 75 years old, since his art was so inventive, “fresh” and different! I try to deeply understand his universe, his way of thinking and making art through artworks, archives, books, meetings with people who knew him, etc.
What can we expect to find in the upcoming Glenn Brown exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler?
It will be a great surprise, especially for those who already know Glenn Brown’s work, because he’s famous mostly for his paintings and we’re presenting for the first time his drawings, alongside two new sculptures. The drawings are based on appropriation of old masters reproductions, like his paintings, and they present similar alterations (distortions, collusion of styles and motives, abolition of the clear distinction between figuration and abstraction), translated in the linear world. Brown drew most of his dense and tormented compositions on both sides of a transparent sheet, which adds a very special materiality to the drawings. Virtuosity and morbidity, not to mention contemporary Mannerism could be keywords to have in mind when looking at them.
How would you describe the current art scene in Paris — and, how do you feel Paris impacts the global art world?
Obviously, it becomes more and more difficult to talk about a specific art scene, since the art world is very mobile and connected, and so are the artists, the curators, the collectors, etc. Some Parisian artists dream about moving to LA while some of their peers based in Berlin would love to settle in Marseilles (only three hours away from Paris by train!), and some of the most renowned French artists are living part of the year in NYC, notwithstanding they all meet regularly. In this global context, Paris offers two advantages: its central position in Europe and its serious, powerful and numerous institutions. The impact of Paris on the global art world is indeed mainly based on the high level of public and some private collections, and of the exhibitions. Regarding artists, paradoxically I’d say that Paris is a great place for both emerging artists and accomplished artists – for mid-careers, other cities seem to be more attractive. I was recently a jury member for a Prize for young artists, which are still in formation in French art schools. I must say that I was very impressed by the quality of the student’s works and by their international ambition. A new generation is coming!
Which young Parisian artists are you excited about at the moment?
If we talk about French artists, not necessarily working in Paris and already well known, I’d say that I was really impressed by the last exhibitions I’ve seen of Camille Henrot and Cyprien Gaillard, but I guess this is not what you expect! If you want to know which names you should give full attention to, because their work is really good, I would say with no hesitation Ida Tursic and Wilfried Mille, a great painter couple. I am currently organizing their first solo show in Berlin (Galerie Max Hetzler Bleibtreustr., until October 2). I am also looking at emerging artists like Giulia Andreani, Jérémy Demester, Antoine Espinasseau or Estrid Lutz & Emile Mold.
Glenn Brown runs at Galerie Max Hetzler Paris from 5 September until 10 October 2015
Raymond Hains runs at Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin from 10 October until 14 November 2015 and Galerie Max Hetzler Paris from 22 October until 21 November.