Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Exhibition and public talk, We are 'How' we read.

I'm having an exhibition this thursday and I'm giving a talk. So it's wobbly knees time.
I'll be fine :)

It's hosted by the American Library in Paris. Near the Champs de Mars and la tour Eiffel.
There is one theme to the exhibition and another to the talk.

The exhibition is about books and reading. I'm communicate what happens when written words pass into us, helping us develop empathy & hopefully integrate themselves into our knowledge while at the same time, engaging emotions. How we read, creates or diminishes us. Our internal world is that which distinguishes one human being from another and that is what I hope to get across with the paintings.

The talk is entirely different. After a brief explanation of the exhibition, I will speak about what is involved in opening an art gallery in Paris.


The American Library. 10, rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris
Thursday, 5th of April,

19h30 (aka) 7.30pm.

You are invited to the vernissage of "You are how you read". An exhibition of paintings on the theme of reading. A dying art form. The exhibition will appropriately be held in the American Library in Paris and the vernissage is this coming Thursday, 5th of April, at 7.30pm.

There is a wine reception, followed by a talk on how to open an art gallery in Paris.

The exhibition runs till the 13th of May 2012.
After the vernissage, visits are restricted to members of the library and people with day passes. If you need one, please get in contact and it can be arranged.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Paris Galeries. Interview with Robert Peirce.

Interview with Art Dealer and gallerist Robert Peirce.

I visited Robert Peirce in his gallery in Paris this January, 2012, at 4, rue Quentin Bauchart, 75008,
beside the Arc de Triomphe.


Robert arrived in Paris, from South Africa in 1972 and worked in the french construction industry as a structural engineer, subsequently in project & general management, for 40 years. His first project was the build of the George Pompidou centre with Ove Arup, working with Rogers & Piano.

During his first professional career, he specialised in multi billion euro construction projects but at about the age of 50, began the change towards a career in the arts.

He had always been an art collector but had never consciously thought, he might one day, run his own art gallery but looking back, he recognises that it was something that was always at the back of his mind. After a period away from france, he took a year out to study art as a business. He studied the historical aspects together with technical and legal & fiscal side.

On completion of his studies a friend invited him to share the running of a gallery in Paris. He took the opportunity. He now works independently with his own gallery. The location is perfect as it is in the golden circle, beside the Arc de Triomphe.

Q. Hello Robert. Thanks for taking the time to give this interview.
Can you tell me what kind of art you deal in?

A. Initially I dealt both in contemporary and historical paintings at the same time, because I love both. However after the first five years I realised it had to be one, or the other. Not both. The audience and the means of communication are very different. So I decided to focus on historical art, simply because I had a passion for the fine details of research, philosophy, reading and the history.

Q. What do you love about being a gallerist in Paris?

A. I enjoy building my knowledge of the artists lives and works. This is a characteristic shared with many of my visitors. The exchange of knowledge with clients and other collectors is very stimulating and I enjoy educating and being educated. I've refined my ability to judge art based on experience and a knowledge of the market as a result.

I also love learning about the lives of different artists. It expands your knowledge of the the world and this profession gives me a window into that world. It feels as though I've become a part of their history. Of having become a part of their life story, which in terms of art, continues long after their death because of the people who collect their works.

I also like dealing with contextual works. That's highly stimulating. Items which have a trail of historical material connected to them. Such as the work of the 20th century artist Olivier Debré (Paris, 1920 1999). I purchased a gaouche painting with a note attached. A card in Debrés handwriting, which he had written to Bazaine, an artist and one of his friends. The painting was inspired by a design for a stage set, a ballet which was produced in 1997 by Carolyn Carlson. The card was dated 1996. The work was a particularly nice gouache on paper and the ballet starred Carolyn Carlson. I even saw it myself in a recent reproduction. So there is a huge amount of historical context, in that one image.

In terms of contemporary art, among others, I love the work of Peter Bond. A very interesting Australian artist whom I've collected over the years and whom I exceptionally exhibit in the gallery among the historical artists here.

Q. How do you choose an artist?

A. In contemporary art that's a valid question but not in historical art dealing.
So I don't. You need to have huge financial and time resources, to specialise in one or two historical artists. Plus, there are a lot of good artists out there who are worthy of attention so I don't focus on a specific circle.

However, I have specialized to a certain certain extent through two collections I have had the privilege to handle. I represent the family of Emmanuel de la Villéon (1858-1944). There are about 100 of his works in the gallery. I've sold another 100 and his family know and trust me so I see them regularly. They bring me works and I've become an expert on his art and life. I also consult for the musée de la Villéon in Fougère, Brittany.

Gorges de la Covatanne
by LA VILLEON, Emanuel Victor Auguste Marie de, comte

The other collection has been lovely drawings by Maximilien Luce (1858-1941), which has made of me something of an expert in his field. Although I may really know a lot about an artist, I can't afford to obsess. A gallery is a passion but it's also a business and if you obsess you make the wrong kind of decisions.

Q. How do you price art?

A. Historical art and contemporary art are very different and it's a tricky question because you can't underprice the contemporary artists works but you also have to sell them. I base prices on per cm2 values and each artist will have a different cm2 value. Ironically, whether it is contemporary or historical art, the value of a work goes up per cm2, depending on a decrease in the size. So smaller works are worth more per cm2 than larger works. This is more true for historical artists.

There is also a pecking order between galleries. I verify prices against the value that other galleries put on the same artist. If there is a higher demand for an artists works then you can sell the works for more. Collectors set the real value when they compete for the artist, but it is a known fact that they are prepared to pay much higher prices in big galleries than in small, which is where we come in, with low cost structure and lower prices.

Setting a price is a function of 3 things. A combination of acquisition price, the market price of the artist and the quality of the work. So when someone buys a work from me, it's gone through the filtration process and I charge my markup for that service. Initially, I didn't have the courage to markup the price on works that I believed to be exceptional. Then over the years, as I developed more experience and knowledge I got better at facing the fact that certain pieces really needed to be championed.

For historical artworks there is a price based on historical performance.

This is muddied somewhat by the internet.

There are some artists whom I sell and whom I know are sold in galleries with vitrines for 50% more. That's an immediate loss to the buyer. But I accept that. It's commerce. Supply and demand. The buyer who see's a piece in a window doesn't benefit in the same way that someone who comes looking to me, does.

BISSIERE, Roger (1886-1964)

Q. Do you ever buy from auction houses?

A. Yes, but it takes a lot of work and there is a lot of confusion among buyers about the official prices set by auction houses. The auction houses publish the prices which art sells for 'under the hammer'.

But the buyer actually pays 30% more, for the works.

That equals the sales commission which the auction house adds to the sale price. They take that from the buyer and they also take a 15% commission, from the seller. That's almost a 50% markup.

So auction results create a false value because the works are worth at least 25% more than the values being quoted.

If someone comes to me and tries to negotiate based on auction prices I tell them that they should simply buy at auction, if they have the time and the competence, and want to take the risk. In that manner, they gain experience and understand the value of the work I do.

Buying at auction takes an enormous amount of time, knowledge and stamina. I might pick out 100 works worth buying but narrow that down to just 10 and out of that 10, get just one. I would have spent days to get that. People who come to me, benefit from that work.

Q. Do you have other sources?

A. Yes, people who know my reputation bring artworks and often ask me to represent them. To find a buyer for their collections. I prefers to work with art that hasn't been exposed on the auction market. These are virgin works. Pieces that have been in the same family or with the same collector since the artist first sold the piece.

Q. How do you market the gallery:

A. I thought initially that I would use this gallery as a base for marketing to the UK and I started doing fairs in London. I regularly did the Watercolours fair in February and Art London in October. An art fair costs about 25K. You have to sell a lot to cover that cost. It's really a marketing action for a gallery and you try to make it pay of course but if it doesn't, you have to see it as marketing. You do, directly meet a lot of people who are real collectors and future clients.

Then you have to utilize all that new information. Create databases, spend money, create newsletters, fliers. That's a huge amount of time writing and communicating. You get the idea.

After the fairs, when the English come to Paris they come to see me. I get on very well with them and they are very loyal. I also have a few American clients who regularly visit when they are in Paris.

I also attend fairs here in Paris and it's the same situation. There's a lot of work involved. I have started exhibiting in fairs in other European countries such as Brussels. but I don't network. I sell art to people who have a mutual feeling for an artists work and I find those people through art fairs and they find me.

Q. What about posters?

A. I did spend a lot of money on posting les affiches all around Paris and I still do posters but it's out of loyalty to the artists because I didn't find that they work. I also placed articles into art magazines but I had to recognise that the results were minimal. Press releases are used promote certain artists but it's not that which brings in collectors.

Now it's art fairs, the telephone and writing to collectors. It's very direct communication,, which wouldn't be possible without going out there and finding them. Things like Christmas cards help and I don't skimp on quality. The paper and printing costs are high.

Being a galerist is a bit of a vocation. It's like being an artist and this gallery is like my home so it has a somewhat relaxed ambiance. People often join me for lunch in the gallery and we discuss art and the fiscal aspect of collecting. I have a lot of credibility when discussing finance because I've managed the fiscal end of construction projects and can explain the benefits of investing in art, in terms of tax. So if we aren't discussing art, we are able to discuss business or Paris.

You can contact Robert Peirce, of Galerie Peirce
By visiting or writing to

Galerie Peirce, Sur cour au 4, rue Quentin Bauchart, 75008 Paris
Metro/ parking: George V

tel: +33 (0) 6 03 84 78 35

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Facebook friends

This is a personal project which started out as an exercise and which has taken on a life of it's own.

I decided to paint portraits of the many people that I call friends on facebook.
Although I don't add to my friends list very often I have over 600. I don't know all of them very well though I'm careful, as you should be, about accepting friend requests.

In an effort to become more aware of the people I call friends I decided to paint the portraits of a random selection who come up on my radar most often and then spread outwards. The other reason is because I have found that painting from a photo is incredibly hard by comparison with painting from the living model. Why? No idea, though other people have proposed theories. So this is also an exercise. A challenge and effort to overcome a sort of visual handicap.

Here are some of the paintings in oil which I've produced so far. There are others but I'm not ready to show them all.

There are larger versions on my website. http://www.tjbyrne.com

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Paris Galleries - Dorothy Polley

I met with Dorothy Polley in October of 2011 and she was the first gallerist of this series whom I interviewed.

When I started writing about Paris galleries I wanted the first gallery to be purely french and run by a french person and I'm glad that I made that decision.

However on writing up the interview with Dorothy I realised she is very much French and an important part of Paris. Although she is originally American she has made a huge impact here. Not just in art but in many other areas too. Significant impact. So it's with pleasure that I introduce the second in the series of interviews with french galleries based in Paris.

Q. Hello Dorothy, for my first question I’d like to know, when you came to Paris, did you plan to open an art gallery?

  • A. No, I didn’t plan on anything. I just came here to live. I started as a language teacher. Paris was very different then. I set up a huge organisation for language teachers, almost by accident. Then In 1986 I set up a language school which I sold in 2006. We had very big contracts with International and French companies. During all this time I was involved in music and theatre had many friends in that world. Naturally, through my language school I made a lot of contacts in the world of business. In 2006 a Japanese company offered to buy the language school and I said yes. In the same year, I set up the art gallery and invited all the people I knew from International companies and contacts in the french administrative system to attend the art vernissages and other events. It took 6 months from the original decision to the opening of the first exhibition but it was a huge success right from the beginning. I’ve been running this gallery for 5 years now but I can’t compare it to the art scene when I first arrived here in Paris because I was totally involved in establishing the language school which had 80 teachers. All my outside interests were in music and theatre.
Q. And why did you choose to open in Bastille?
  • A. This was originally my family home so I already had the space and now it’s the gallery.
Q. What about motivation?
  • A. I don’t know why I did it. I was just following my inspiration. It’s best to follow your desire because you waste a lot of time and energy by trying to understand everything before you take action. The people I worked with during the first exhibitions were of great help. They were art students and they helped with the hanging. I also worked with another gallery to find the artists and we shared the space. So the first exhibitions were a great success and when I opened the doors for the first time it was full. We had a great first response. It was very encouraging.
Q. Do you get a lot of help from associations that help galleries to set up?
  • A. No but I think that they exist. You see, this is a company but recently I have begun to investigate the advantages of setting up an association and benefiting from the help which associations receive.
Q. What is the advantage of being a gallery in Paris?
  • A. The advantage is that if companies buy work over a period of years they get the money back. That’s a big advantage for the companies. There’s no advantage for this gallery but it’s great for the collectors.
Q. Why isn’t Paris an incredible hotbed for collecting art? It seems like everything is in place for it to happen.
  • A. I don't know the answer to that. We discuss it often. Everyone discusses it and no one understands why. When I began, it was often passers by who bought art, just because they liked it. However over the last couple of years people seem to be a lot less willing to simply buy art without a direct reason. I do a lot of communication, probably a lot more than other galleries of my size. I’ve sold over a thousand pieces of art over the last 5 years. It’s certain that one of the things which make a big difference to an exhibitions success is the theme. Some shows bring in thousands of visitors.
Q. How do you choose work.
  • A. The sense of meaning in a work & the discourse surrounding it inspires me to show it. Because, having been an english teacher I like words and the meaning in the work gives it a great deal of value to me. The poetry in the work is very important. I like to mix media in the shows too. There are sculptors, paintings, photos, all at the same time. Media can be abstract or figurative.
Q. Do you have many friends who are gallerists?
  • A. Yes, I like to work with a lot of galleries. I share artists with galleries and share information as much as possible. That’s very important.
Q. Is it still good to be in Paris?
  • A. I think a lot of things have changed. There are more ateliers open. People can walk around artists studios and see art in an unstructured manner and many come to see art fairs such as FIAC. Collectors have begun to come to Paris in waves rather than as a steady stream. There are a number of art fairs each year. All of which effect the galleries. I’ve taken part in some but a gallery is better for artists. A lot of people who don’t know a lot about art but who are eager to collect feel compelled to go to big brand galleries which show established names. That’s not the way to start collecting. There is a lot to learn about the process and there is no quick fix. It’s an intellectual as well as emotional/visual process.
Q. Pricing, how do you pick a price for the art?
  • A. Well that depends on a lot of things. It depends on the work, on the artist. The artist and I will discuss that. If I think the price is right I’ll agree with the artist or advise them. Artists don’t realise that they have to have a range of prices. So that people can begin to collect them if they can’t afford a larger piece. People collect not just because of an individual piece but also because they like how the artist thinks.
Q. What’s your favorite part of running an art gallery?
  • A. Unwrapping the art. Discovering a new artist and seeing the work in real life because often you have just seen the pieces on the internet and the real thing is a completely different experience.
Q. What do you like least?
  • A. Being in the gallery every single day. You want to treat people as you would like to be treated yourself so you give each visitor your best and it can be exhausting. You can’t leave that to someone else.
Q. How do you find people to invite to exhibitions?
  • A. I have a long list of guests built up over the years.
Q. Do you collect art yourself.
  • A. Not really. I do have art but I don’t consider myself to be a collector.
Q. How much money do you need to have to open a gallery?
  • A. I don’t think that’s the right question. I think that you have to be in the right circles to open a gallery. It can be very expensive either way. Paying assistants. Putting up posters. Organising receptions. Contacting journalists. Creating communications in different magazines. So it’s very expensive but if you are in the right circles, with people who collect, it’s possible to make it work. Then there is the keeping everything clean and you have to create a book for each artist and each show.
Q. Would you not feel comfortable promoting the same artists all the time, over the years.
  • A. No I like to promote a core group but I also like to add to them all the time. I am very loyal to the artists that I like but the stimulation of the new is very important. The artists like it too.

Dorothy Polly

Painting by Matthew Grabelsky
Title: A weight on his mind

Painting by Eric Turlot

Video clip from the show: Paris-Texas:

Texas artist Ealy Mays : http://youtu.be/h4PkS2xiYuE

French artist Eric Turlot: http://youtu.be/ynb8yCnpVF8

Dorothy’s Gallery
27, rue KellerParis, 11e
ouverture du mercredi au samedi de 13h à 19h
mardi et dimanche de 16h à 19h
Métro : Bastille
Tel: 01 43 57 08 51

Add Video
For lovers of Surrealist Art:

In March 2012, in Dorothy's Gallery, there will be an exhibition called Héritages Surréalistes. Its vernissage is on March 30th 2012. It will be an international surrealist exhibition with artists from 7 different countries. There is a well rounded group with two friends and collegues of André Breton: the Portuguese surrealist Isabel Meyrelles and the recently deceased French surrealist Anne Ethuin, wife of the poet Edouard Jaguer ( a member of the “Main à plume” surrealist group during the French Resistence ). With the sculptors, there are fourteen artists in total.

The exhibition is a collaborative effort between Dorothy's Gallery, Liba Waring Stambollion and Santiago Rebeiro, who is the curator and the founder of the show (which has already taken place in Portugal). It is a show which is showcased and partially funded by Bissaya Barreto.