LUXURIOUS MAGAZINE ASIA INTERVIEW
Art Paris Art Fair Director- Guillaume Piens
The art of constantly reinventing oneself
Uniting 145 galleries from 20 countries under the majestic glass roof of the Grand Palais, the Art Paris Art Fair, is a piece of art itself. Guillaume Piens, Art Paris director since 2012 and a true art lover, redefined successfully the soul of Art Paris, focusing on discovery and presenting a wide panorama of modern and contemporary art, as well as design, photography and art books.
This year, Singapore and Southeast Asia are invited as guests of honour. Eight Singaporean galleries including Art Plural Gallery, Chan Hampe Galleries, Element Art Space, iPreciation, STPI, Sundaram Tagore Gallery and Yeo Workshop, as well as a number of galleries in the General Sector, will present the diversity of talent from Cambodia, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.
LM: After Russia in 2013 and China in 2014, Art Paris Art Fair celebrates and highlights Singapore and South East Asia as these years guests of honour. What reasons led to this choice?
GP: Southeast Asia is now a vibrant art scene. Creative art communities are popping up everywhere in the region. Meanwhile, Singapore which launches its 50th anniversary celebrations this year in France (www.singapour-lefestival.com) is both a springboard and at the crossroads of what is a booming and increasingly influential art scene emerging in the region. Many Singaporean initiatives such as the establishment of the Gillman Barracks gallery district, the Singapore Biennale, the development of The National Gallery Singapore (to be launched in 2015) have contributed to building international awareness of the visual brilliance of Southeast Asian contemporary art. This is why we decided to invite Singapore and Southeast Asia as guests of honour in 2015 in a project curated by Southeast Asia specialist Iola Lenzi.
LM: According to which criteria did the appointed curator and Southeast Asia specialist Iola Lenzi choose the 8 Singapore based galleries?
GP: The aim was to assemble a number of different profiles of galleries. There are several established galleries like Ipreciation, Sundaraman Tagore, STPI and Chan Hampe which represent well-known Singaporean artists like Lee Wen, Jane Lee, Dawn Ng, Han Sai Por and David Chan. Then there are younger galleries like Yeo Workshop which is showing an installation work by the artists Zul Mahmod (b.1975, Singapore) and Maryanto (b. 1977, Indonesia) or Intersections whose selection of work by Phyu Mon and NCS for Art Paris 2015 will reveal a little-known aspect of contemporary art from Myanmar.
Element Art Space Gallery will show different generations of artists from Indonesia. Eddie Hara and Inge Rijanto belong to a generation from the earlier phase of visual art internationalisation and have been longer exposed to or engaged with art history. Arkiv Vilmansa and Hendra ‘Hehe’ Harsono, on the other hand, as the younger generation of artists, examine more visual ideas based on illustrative images through a highly skillful display of fresh and exciting images.
LM: The piece at the entrance of the Grand Palais, the monumental interactive sound installation of iPreciation’s Singaporean artist Sai Hua Kuan entitled Ling Ting N°2“ (Listening), encourages self discovery. You said once, that you need art to get an echo from the world to your own questions. Which questions do you think does Sai Hua Kuan asks and/or answers with his installation?
GP: Sai Hua Kuan’s piece is reminiscent of a giant sea shell that you hold up to the ear. The viewer engages in a private, immobile dialogue with himself or herself and this means listening with all one’s senses. This work is art is a reminder of the fact that art is not meant to provide answers to questions but to open up new areas of contemplation that take the viewer onto different level of consciousness.
LM: Since you started in 2012, the terms renewal and change are omnipresent at the Art Paris. This year alone the gallery list was renewed by 50%. What are some premiering galleries we should especially look out for?
GP: We are particularly pleased to have galleries from Singapore coming fort the first time. STPI is the only gallery that has exhibited in Paris before this. We are also very pleased to have other new galleries like Sanatorium from Istanbul and Loft Art Gallery from Casablanca. There are also a number of newcomers from Europe like Andres Thaman and Plutschow from Zürich and Horst Ambacher and Tanit from Munich, as well as Flowers from London.
LM: Art Paris has also set its focus on bringing forward emerging young galleries. In 2013 you successfully introduced the "Promises" section. Which conceptual considerations is this segment of the Art Paris based on?
GP: The concept is to help foster new discoveries. The Promises section this year includes 12 galleries that are under five years old and are taking part in the fair for the first time. This is Art Paris Art Fair’s specific effort to help young French and international galleries become better known and reveal new talents. They include notably Archiraar (Brussels), Podbielski (Berlin), Christopher Gerber (Lausanne), Heinzer Reszler (Lausanne), Jo Van Loo (Münich) or TJ Boulting (London).
LM: Also new is the creation of a solo show section with more than 32 personal exhibitions of artists scattered throughout the fair. What solo exhibitions are you especially looking forward to?
GP: In particular I am looking forward to the exhibitions that will allow us to discover or re-discover some of historic figures like Paul Neagu (at Allegra Nomad gallery) who is a sort of Romanian Josef Beuys, and Gérard Fromanger, a French artist from the 1960s working in narrative figuration who is showing new unseen works at Galerie Caroline Smulders. I am also interested in the abstract work of Morocco’s Mohamed Melehi (presented by Loft Art Gallery), who was showing alongside Mondrian and Stella at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art in 1963. I am keen on seeing the exhibition put together by Pierre Alain Chalier gallery of work by Italy’s Renato Mambor, who is an unusual artist from the Roman scene who mixes performance, photography and installation.
LM: What are your visions, your dreams for Art Paris and what are some of the longterm goals you are heading towards?
GP: We have chosen to be a generalist modern and contemporary art fair which works with a thematic approach. We are an European fair that focusses on the emerging scenes of Central Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Our aim is to encourage discovery and help contribute to the recognition in Europe of the art scenes of the East.
LM: From your point of view, what has recently been the most exciting development in the contemporary art scene?
GP: The globalisation of contemporary art has opened up new vistas that now include Africa, Latin America, and of course, Asia.
LM: What is the most rewarding part of being the director of the Art Paris?
GP: Facilitating the discovery of new art scenes and supporting the recognition of galleries and artists.
LM: When did you know that art is your life calling?
GP: Since I was a child. I was born into a family of artists and I always knew that art is as vital to me as the air that I breathe.
Text by Karin Loitsch