Paris, 16 May 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).
An essential event for artists and art world professionals, the Salon de Montrouge is unquestionably a place devoted to the discovery of young talents. Collectors and gallery owners visit the exhibition to find future stars. On the occasion of the 58th edition of the Salon de Montrouge, which opened on 15 May, Art Media Agency met with Stéphane Corréard, the artistic director.
How is the artists’ selection process carried out?
I received 2,700 applications and only 73 applicants were chosen for the exhibition. That doesn’t mean that the others are not good artists, but that there are simply only 73 places. It’s a contest not an exam. Some apply regularly, sometimes 5 years in a row, and as I have quite a good visual memory I can see the evolution of their works and their way of presentation. The application’s quality is very important.
You are supported by the Collège Critique. Of how many members does it consist?
We gather 15 people issued from the art world, of which one-third is changed every year, except for Gaël Charbau who is a permanent member. There are art critics (Elisabeth Couturier, Augustin Besnier…), art historian (Alexandre Quoi), a curator (Damien Airault), institution representatives (Julien Fronsac from the Palais de Tokyo, Sébastien Gokalp from the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Nicolas Rosette, a digital arts advisor at the Théâtre de l’Agora, Evry…), a gallery owner (Romain Torri), a writer (Christophe Donner)… My idea is to gather people with different profiles who, in a way, have to be art critics. The Collège brings together people who have to act as art critics in their professional environment. The most interesting for me is the diversity of their points of view. It is necessary to have contemporary art specialists but also people from other fields, for instance the field of cinema which was represented last year by Dominique Païni and Jean-Michel Frodon. Such variety favours interesting encounters.
How would you define this year’s selection?
It is always a problem for me to define the main trend because I have the impression of having created an open and diverse selection. In spite of it all, the artists are not issued from the outside world, neither am I so we have some common influences. This year, in my opinion, it is an event depicting a world in crisis, not necessarily in the economical sense, but more in the “critical” sense. These are two words with the same etymology. Many artists don’t hesitate to shake up, start everything from scratch, reconstruct the world according to their idea, question the symbols of authority, as did Amélie Dubois, who in her work titled NØNE FUTBOL CLUB created a reversed police car with the inside on the outside. Jean-François Schramme put a piano horizontally to tranform it into a standing piano. President Vertut casted a man in concrete with only his feet going over! It is in one of his works that I saw the slogan of this year’s edition, “it is time to find a new way.”
The works that you describe sound a bit absurd…
I would rather say that they do not want to follow the laws of gravity, language, syntax, they want to explore other possibilities, other worlds. Marta Caradec, for instance, created a new geography using an atlas without contour lines and thus, with superimpositions and meridians, constructed a new planet, a new world.
Are these artists driven by utopist visions?
Yes, but it is neither naive nor easily undertandable. I think they wish to sharpen spectators’ sense of criticism: Alexander Duke added another pole inside of the belfry, which is slightly different in compraison to the others. The majority of visitors won’t even notice, only the ones with sharp observation skills.
Is there any novelty concerning the materials used?
There is a diversity of disciplines represented, likewise for materials; painting, sculpture…What is new is that nowadays the artists can “finally” be free using the materials they want, after a century of ready-made, without any kind of historical connotation.
Théo Mercier, who was noticed at the Salon de Montrouge in 2009 and invited to participate in this edition, is one of the artists who use all forms of sculpture, from the most traditional to the most free, turning the ready-made against itself. The piece that he is presenting is produced with two aquarium stones. Phillipe Dagen wrote in the catalogue that this is the limit of ultra-liberalism, because one can collect the stones from the field or river bank to put them in an aquarium, but we prefer to buy the resin ones made in China. There is an absurdity here. It doesn’t surprise me that Théo Mercier was interested in this object, without a certain form, a ready-made that has no utilitarian justification, contrary to the ready-mades by Duchamp.
Likewise, I find it interesting to see all these young people that use other forms of artistic expression with complete liberty, including painting. Laurent Violeau, who normally works at the Post Office, creates kinetic paintings in his garden on wooden boards measuring 20×20 cm or 30×30 cm. He puts nails of different sizes, creating amazing optical effects, giving an illusion of digital work! It is a bit like Charles Neubach who creates kinetic paintings with sprays. He straightens up everything with his hand and refuses to use a meter or ruler. There is a beautiful adequacy between the tool and the effect, the thought and the artwork, and I like that very much.
Among the artists mentioned, lots of them have another profession, a different life. Is this the Salon’s special feature, that it gathers artists who do not do art for a living?
The Montrouge’s special feature is to offer the possiblity to be judged by the artwork. Nowadays, schools make a true effort to professionalise their students during their studies and after their graduation by organising exhibitions, publications…but schools should not have the monopoly of discovering new artists. Not only art school students have the right to be artists! It is necessary to put everything aside and look at the artwork. In Montrouge, I use the same criteria for someone with three diplomas and someone as Laurent Violeau, a post office worker who does art in his spare time. This is the role of the Collège Critique. It is voluntary and the art critic’s job is to choose the artworks.
What will be the most surprising?
In my opinion, what differentiates this edition from the others is that there is more space and less artists in 2013. In addition, as this year’s host AndEA (Association nationale des écoles supérieures d’art – National Association of Higher Education Art Schools) does not exhibit any artworks, we could put all the artists in the belfry. It is possible to enter the artists’ universe because every person has at least 6m of picture rail at his disposal, 2 walls, even alveolates on the sides. A total immersion will be possible. Far from being anecdotal, in my opinion this allows us highlight each artist’s personality, to show his special features, thus enabling points of view and practices to become more prominent. Many artists are involved in situ works, for example Nicolas Thiebault-Pikor who produces his work on 6-meter-high windows. There are many little achievements, such as the NØNE FUTBOL CLUB. What I like the most is the mysterious side of an artist who, without participating in the show, makes us question ourselves on how this is possible.
There is also something magical in the propositions of Léa Barbazanges, that convey both hyper-fragility and the affirmation of real forms, a kind of solidity. Her dandelion piece is not fragile, it does not change: stems will wither and the buds are totally dry. In this work, we find a feeling of great fragility, the spiderweb holds a sheet of white gold. Proportionally, it is more solid than steel! I enjoy contrasts like that.
It is also necessary to see that these artists will be present during the Salon in a special way. Léa will come every day after 5pm to show certain pieces that are protected. She wants to meet spectators as well. Some artists will be there every day, every week and this is something that makes me very happy. This is the special feature of the Salon in comparison with exhibitions. We do not only show the works but try to show the people. These emerging artists are also willing to meet the public, hear opinions about their work, likewise it is easier to meet gallery owners and critics.
Is the Salon a place to sell artworks?
The artists are free to do it. We do not hang the prices, we do not take any kind of commission, we provide the artists’ contact information on the posters and in the catalogue. According to our survey, the majority of visitors are collectors, followed by gallery owners and institutions, far behind. I noticed that collectors have a very free point of view on art and get involved easily. Antoine de Galbert always says that “the artists are the ones who help us, not we that help them.” This is true, but artists need funds to continue their artistic research. Collectors really know how to play this game, because this is one of the rare spaces where they can be the first to find an artist before galleries do. Thus, they can play the role of purchasing advisor for the gallery.
What is the price range?
For unique pieces, in 90% of the cases, it is between €300 and €1,500-€2,000. Then, according to size, production cost and the artist, the price can increase up to €4,000. It is quite an accessible level, but still an investment.
The only reason to participate in Montrouge is to, after a serious selection, become one of the emerging contemporary artists. I give a key trying to act on the margin to keep the selection quality fundamental and discover interesting young artists.