Today we are meeting Benoit Sapiro, founder and director of the Galerie Le Minotaure of Paris, in the heart of Saint Germain de Pres.
Located in historic library of the same name, the Galerie Le Minotaure is one of the few to own their own editions for catalogs and publications. In the midst of one of the most profound Parisian market crisis, we are submitting to Benoit Sapiro some questions about its location.
Alice Ensabella. Your gallery has always represented a group of artists linked to precise movements and origins. Can you explain what is your policy in terms of choice of artists?
Benoit Sapiro. I specialized in avant-garde artists of the first half of the twentieth century, active in Paris and Berlin, two of the focal points of contemporary art before the focus would shift to America. I focus particularly on artists from Eastern Europe who have left their country to work in these two cities and sometimes, later on, in the USA. We are talking about a time and a group of artists actually very precise.
A.E. Do you think that the role of cognitive and promotive channel of precise artistic movements that had historically the art gallery, especially one specialised like yours, is still the same today?
B.S. In a period like this one, the role is even more important. The interest in art is turning in a research of brands. We are interested on exhibitions or events only if there are big names involved. Museums are firsts to go in this way: if over the same year we doing the tour of the great capitals would find the same package of few exhibitions dedicated to the great masters of art. My gallery and some other similar than mine have a main role because interested in rediscovery and preservation of a part of that heritage is being lost. For each Matisse or Picasso there are 100 or 200 other artists, many high-level, that allowed them to have a milieu in which to compare and from which emerge and who have written the history of art with them. Institutions do not deal with these “outsiders” because they do not sell tickets.
A.E. How museums behave towards this kind of galleries?
B.S. Often they come to me. If I draw their attention by exposing one or more artists that interest them, then they will organize themselves an exhibition or buy some works.
A.E. In a time when museums and auction houses are in competition with galleries, what is your position regards these two institutions of the art market? Are auction houses and museums real competitors?
B.S. Museums no. Not only are not competitors, but they should be more active and collaborate more with the galleries. They cooperate only when they are interested in an artist represented by a gallery that has the exclusive.
The auction houses are the antithesis of what is my job as an art dealer. Treat works like meat at the slaughterhouse to speculate and to influence prices on the market. All for a group of people who buy them as if they were at the casino’. For the last few years present themselves as private galleries because they can organize exhibitions and in this sense can be considered competitors. However I do not consider them as such: they sell products, I sell artworks. When a customer buys a work I care to emphasize the historical, artistic and not speculation that they might make you.
A.E. The last annual report of ArtPrice highlights a fall position of Paris as part of the European art market. The first reason of this decline would be the crisis of the Parisian galleries. Do you agree? You warn this crisis?
B.S. Sure, we’re witnessing a real decline in Paris, but it is a phenomenon that began in the sixties and not yesterday .. The crisis is felt in the galleries, but also in the maisons de vente. England is favored by tax reasons and therefore is above us. It seems absurd that the cradle of contemporary art, where until a few decades ago was concentrated half of the world market, is now down to the point of becoming insignificant compared to the new market giants. Today, however, these data have a relative importance since even a small gallery like mine can have clients all over the world thanks to new technologies and facilitates contacts.
A.E. What kind of clients do you have? It is a group of loyal buyers or it changes often?
B.S. Is costantly changing, we have different customers depending on the time of year and the events in Paris. Until a few years ago we had many Russians; today represent only 5% of our book. We must always be dynamic and able to get back on topic.
A.E. Is your gallery participating to fairs? Which ones? Fairs have to considered investments or a sale opportunity and a place to find new customers?
B.S. I participate at the Biennale des Antiquaries of Paris, at the show in New York, during fall season and to the FIAC. For the FIAC, over the last three years I entrusted my stand to designers who realized a project that combines modern works belonging to the gallery with contemporary works. It is interesting because it allows me to compare myself with another audience, which is not too far from what is the spirit of the gallery.
Unfortunately, participation in fairs became essenziale. There are fewer and fewer people who know galleries and have desire and time to look for them … During exhibitions everything is there, available. The international guests are our way to renew our contacts, we would find them in other fairs.
A.E. Many galleries have recently resorted to online selling systems. Your gallery has got one, too? What do you thinkabout these new systems?
B.S. No we do not have it. We obviously have a website, but I’m a bit “old style” and I think that a work of art should be purchased only after having been seen. This operation is promoted by auction houses…They will make it, one day galleries will disappear, but for now they are struggling. Still the 80% of people want to see alive works before purchase.
A.E. To conclude, how do you see the future of galleries? Do you think there will be a return to the origins or slowly, thanks to the online sales systems and artadvisors gallerists are destined to disappear?
B.S. I think that people who resort to third parties for their purchases are only interested in decorating their house. It’s about names and prices, not artworks
As for the future of the galleries, I think in the long term are intended to disappear. In the short term I think there will be a more and more marked distinction. There will be a contemporary art gallery that will promote young emerging artists to move them into the world of speculation and very tought ones that will display the great names of modern art (with upper midsts even of those than museums). The smaller galleries, as mine, will be more and more specialized in order to survive. This is not a guarantee, but be an expert of a small field helps. When a collector will be interested in one of the artists of my team, will be obliged to come to me since I will represent the main reference in the field.
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