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Didier Guillon is the President of Fondation Valmont and beauty company Valmont Group. An entrepreneur, curator, philanthropist, collector, and artist, he has founded the art center in 2015. The foundation embodies the artistic core of the global leader in anti-aging products and treatments, founded in 1985 in Switzerland, through a dynamic program of exhibitions, held at Palazzo Bonvicini in Venice.
A significant player firmly anchored in the cultural life of Venice, Fondation Valmont counts over 200 works in its permanent collection, while regularly inviting artists to participate in ambitious reflections initiated by Guillon. A charming man full of energy and passionate about learning, for Guillon, art is part of his DNA as he carries it into all areas of his life—both professional and personal.
This year, the Fondation Valmont presents a group exhibition, opening on April 23, to coincide with the Venice Biennale, "Peter Pan: la nécessité du reve."
WHITEWALL: You were raised in a family of collectors. How was your relationship with art and your family?
DIDIER GUILLON: Art is in my DNA: my great grandfather was an art dealer coming from Vienna at the beginning of the 20th Century which was a booming period for art dealers. Also, my grandfather was a sculptor, and my father a painter. My father opened my eyes to contemporary art, he always took me to museums, and I can still recall the first exhibition I saw, which was one in Paris of Francis Bacon that absolutely shocked me. From then onwards I have walked my life hand in hand with art.
WW: Your personal collection includes works of mid-20th-century American Minimalist artists, such as Sol LeWitt, Frank Stella, and Donald Judd. Is the concept of minimalism also present in your work life and your foundation?
DG: Yes, Minimalism is my source of inspiration. All of the “Maisons Valmont,” the packaging of our products, the pieces we acquire for the Fondation Valmont, and even the exhibitions we curate speak about simplicity, utility, and elegance.
WW: In which ways is art related to the Valmont Group?
DG: Luxury goes hand-in-hand with art in all the Valmont Group. To make an everyday product extraordinary for a limited edition or to sublimate a new launch through a work of art, every creation is a dialogue between art and cosmetics—with engaging visuals, exceptional limited editions, and more.
WW: In 2015 you opened Fondation Valmont and in 2018 you acquired Palazzo Bonvicini, a marvelous 16th Century Palazzo in Venice, which became the foundation’s main headquarters. Was it tough to find the right place for the foundation? Why did you choose Venice?
DG: I was sure it was going to be in Venice. Venice is a universal destination for art, the art you see in the Venice Biennale is the prelude to what you will see in Art Basel…Venice is not a commercial destination, it’s a creative destination, a conceptual place for artists, where they can show their work. It’s a unique place and we aim for uniqueness.
WW: It seems not an easy task to have Contemporary Art exhibitions to coexist in harmony with a Renaissance building. How do you work this out?
DG: It is not an easy task…many artists do not feel comfortable out of the white cube. But in the end the outcome works always nicely and sometimes we are even exhibiting conceptual art pieces in Rococo rooms.
WW: As of January 2022, you appointed your son Maxence to take over Fondation Valmont. How does his vision contribute to the foundation?
DG: He is a younger generation that has opened my eye to new trends. Together we created D&M Art Fund to finance the acquisition of art pieces by young emerging artists. For example, he advised me to work with an artist who works on the notion of sustainability, and now he's challenging me with NFTs…I must keep myself informed and in the loop of the new winds.
WW: During the Venice Biennale, the exhibition “Peter Pan. La nécessité du rêve” will be launched at the foundation. Could you tell us a little about the exhibition?
DG: You will be surprised by a video exhibition” All four invited artists: Silvano Rubino, Isao, Stephanie Blake, and I will come together with a concept linked to the philosophy behind Peter Pan. Of course, each of us will create a very different video, but all of them will have this same line underneath. My video, for example, has been created by my young daughter Valentine, and she did something amazing. In fact, it will be also exhibited at the Hydra Museum during the Summer period.
WW: In addition to the Palazzo Bonvicini in Venice, Fondation Valmont is also opening several high-end residencies in the world “Les Résidences Valmont” (in Verbier, Hydra, Venice and soon in Barcelona). Your four residencies are in privileged and beautiful locations. What requirements must the guests meet?
DG: The residencies are open to artists, journalists, influencers, people who are interested by art and emotions. Each residency is different and all of them are creative spaces. For example, Hydra is the place where we created the concept of our next exhibition.