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Whitewall spoke to Georges Bergès about his unusual gallery derived from the model of patronage, and how he met his new protégée, Emma McGuire, most unconventionally through the Duke of Devonshire. Both gentlemen will be presenting “In Motion” on May 3, with new works by the young female British artist.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell me a bit about how Georges Bergès Gallery operates differently from other galleries?
GEORGES BERGÈS: Initially, I was an art dealer. I never really wanted to open a gallery in the traditional sense because it was an antiquated model. After talking to people I worked with in the art world, I said, “You know what, I’ll open a gallery, but based on Leo Castelli’s model.” This is one of the reasons I picked SoHo as a location.
What makes me different is that I’m really invested in my artists, very much like a gallery would be in the ’70s and ’80s. I have few artists, and I work with them intimately to develop their work in time, and bring them to what I believe is the next level. Many galleries treat artists as if they are inventory. I always tell my collectors I don’t sell inventory, I sell my artists, and I think that’s really what separates my gallery.
WW: How do you pick your artists?
GB: It happens very organically with me. I travel the world, go to art fairs, visit my collectors in China, Dubai, or Mexico City. I always go to the art districts of these cities and pick artists that I personally like. I’m really developing a relationship with the artists and their process, so it’s important that the artist is someone that I can develop a close connection with. It’s a very holistic approach that I take.
WW: Your next exhibition will be with the young British artist Emma McGuire. Can you tell me a little about the context in which you encountered her and her work?
GB: About a year ago, I had the Duke of Devonshire’s representative come to me and ask if I would consider working with them on McGuire. And when the Duke asks for something, I’m going to obviously pause and look. [Laughs.] I went and looked, and I loved her work.
The pieces I initially saw were her lithographs of cage fighters, which were amazing. They were beautiful—like Greek statues—figures from antiquity in tough black-and-white lithographs of men wrestling. She walked me through her process—not just lithographs, but sculptures and other works. We developed a very good relationship and ended up spending a week at Chatsworth House, which is the Duke’s Estates.
There is a certain romance to the art world. I think when you lose sight of that, then it just becomes another business. If you’re going to be doing that, you might as well just sell cars or go into commodity trading. I’m sure you’d make much more money.