As dealers set up outposts in Paris, Mathieu Templon explains why his French gallery is going against the grain and heading to New York
As international gallery giants and market leaders like Art Basel migrate to Paris, attracted by the newly energized art scene, a historic Parisian gallery reverses the flow of traffic. For the first time since its opening in 1966, the Galerie Templon is expands across the Atlantic and will open an outpost in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood on September 7, featuring an Omar Ba exhibit.
It might seem like a strange moment for an essential Parisian gallery like Templon to test its wings outside Europe, after half a century of closeness to its roots (in addition to two spaces in the French capital, the gallery has opened a space in Brussels in 2013). After all, the list of mega-galleries vying for a share of the cake in Paris following Brexit continues to grow: recently Hauser and Wirth entered the fray, while Paris + by, Art Basel will inaugurate its first French edition in October, adding to a dynamic flow of contemporary art initiatives and private institutions.
But for gallery director Mathieu Templon, the 36-year-old son of founder Daniel, who will run the new Chelsea location from the former Kasmin Gallery space in 293 Tenth Avenuethe move makes perfect sense.
Although rooted in Paris for decades, Galerie Templon has resisted a sometimes insular nationalist tendency among its French peers – a tendency which, through the prism of art history, is now seen as an important reason why Paris lost its status in the 1960s as the world capital of contemporary art. . Instead, the French gallery is known for introducing French audiences to great American painters such as Ellsworth Kelly, Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol as early as the 1970s, and it regularly participated in dozens of major art fairs. international at a time when few French galleries exhibited in the format, while promoting local artists.
In an interview with Artnet News Pro, Templon discussed the gallery’s strong ties to New York, and the delicate issue of exporting French artists, who still suffer from a relative lack of representation abroad – including by the same international merchants who now punctuate the territory in the Gallic capital (examples highlighted by the French professor of economics Nathalie Moureau in a recent study include Gagosian, which now has three spaces in Paris, but represents only one living Franco-Italian artist, Tatiana Trouvou.)
Nevertheless, with the opening of their New York season in September dedicated to Senegalese Omar Ba, Chilean Ivan Navarro, Japanese Chiharu Shiota and Americans Michael Ray Charles and Jim Dine, visitors to Chelsea’s Templon space will not will only have to wait to see French artists work, because the gallery favors the promotion of a global dialogue, highlighting its American artists who are not represented in New York at the moment and getting closer to a precious cohort of United States-based collectors.
Why open a space in New York now, given Galerie Templon’s history as the quintessential Parisian gallery?
The gallery has existed for more than 55 years and this rich history could shape the perception that we are a Parisian gallery par excellence. We have two wonderful spaces in Paris, one in Brussels, and New York seemed like the next logical place to develop.
We have always had strong ties with the United States. I worked for a few years in New York for the Sean Kelly Gallery before taking over our space in Brussels. My father, Daniel, has had deep ties to New York since the 70s, representing artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd or Keith Haring to name a few. Since then, we have always worked closely with American artists, collectors, curators and have partnered with many American galleries. But as the United States became one of our most important markets, we wanted to be able to do more to defend our artists there.
What caused this change?
The development of international art fairs since the early 2000s has undeniably played a big role in building stronger relationships with American collectors. We were among the first French galleries to participate in the Expo Chicago art fair and then the Armory Show in New York, and today Art Basel in Miami Beach is one of our most successful fairs.
Is the expansion to New York a way to promote something specifically French abroad?
In fact, we have been global players from the beginning, promoting an international list of artists all over the world, through museum exhibitions or international art fairs (up to 15 per year!). We represent for example Chiharu Shiota, a Japanese artist living in Berlin, or Omar Ba a Senegalese painter who works between Dakar, Switzerland and Belgium. Although we are attached to the French scene, we believe in global dialogue and interconnections between generations, regardless of nationality. Our mission has never been to “promote the French scene”, but rather to promote our own vision of who are the great artists of tomorrow.
Today, we work with more than 40 international artists and only a minority of them (10, including Abdelkader Benchamma and Prune Nourry) are actually French or based in France. Some of our international artists, including Americans Jim Dine, Ivan Navarro or Michael Ray Charles do not have representation in New York. It is therefore natural to open a physical space in New York.
Do you feel that French artists are under-represented abroad and by international galleries recently set up in France? If so, do you know why and what can you do?
Yes, it is clear that the international galleries that have settled in Paris in recent years have shown little interest in the local art scene or in French artists. But they can’t be blamed. It’s not part of their story, it’s not their interest or their expertise and that’s perfectly fine. Many French galleries, large and small, are already doing a fantastic job of showing and promoting French artists. What we need is support from our institutions and museums, both in terms of exhibition and acquisition. The challenge is to export our museum exhibitions of French artists.
Why do you think this is? What is not happening and what should be?
French curators must find the arguments, both artistic and financial, to convince their foreign counterparts. Our experience is that French institutions have always been a little shy when it comes to explicitly supporting our national scene. This comes partly from a lack of financial resources, partly from a lack of political leadership and an insular form of thinking. However, in the last two years we have seen a change in the generation of museum directors. Hopefully this will lead to more ambitious international initiatives.
French artists of the 19th and 20th centuries are very well represented in museums outside France, but they are strangely absent from the collection rooms of the 21st century. This is striking in the current display of MoMA’s collections, for example. French artists are largely invisible.
How do you see the evolution of the Parisian art market in recent years? Are we witnessing a new phase of France’s opening up to the rest of the art world?
Paris has always been a very artistically active city. But today, Paris has finally regained the place it deserved as the European capital of the art world. It now has a cultural offer like never before, both in terms of museums and in terms of private foundations and galleries. No wonder so many galleries are opening spaces here.
The market is also very dynamic with many collectors and a truly art-hungry public. And with the arrival of Paris +, by Art Basel, it will attract an even more international audience to the city. We are delighted that the rest of the world is finally becoming aware of the assets of Paris.
Does this increased internationalization risk diluting part of what defines the French artistic scene?
France has always been very open and welcoming to foreign influences. Think of the number of artists who have chosen France as their main base. Paris is an incredibly cosmopolitan, tolerant and open-minded city. This has always been his strength.
What do you think galleries coming from abroad to Paris might not understand about the local art market?
The local art market is very diverse and can seem opaque to newcomers. Paris attracts many international collectors who come for business, auctions or to visit museums, but it also has a very deep and wide range of local collectors with very different profiles. Newcomers will have to adapt to the reality of it.
Can you detail the profiles of French collectors?
French collectors may include well-known billionaires like François Pinault or Bernard Arnault, but there are also many successful entrepreneurs, high-level executives, lawyers, doctors. [who are more discreet]… The number of private foundations or private artists’ residences in the provinces is striking, particularly in the south of France.
How do you assess the contribution of Templon in France?
Galerie Templon has had the honor of presenting many international artists to the French public – Basquiat had his first exhibition in France with the gallery, the Chapman brothers too, as well as many others. Not all of them have been commercial successes, but we have certainly contributed to shaping the Parisian contemporary art scene and we intend to continue to do so.
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