GALERIE W : JUST CALL ME « W »
By Maria Grazia Meda: Freelance journalist (La Repubblica, Vogue Italia…) and editorial board (France).
It’s a place. Not a gallery. It’s a crazy story. Eric Landau is a dreamer with his feet on the ground. He knows how to spot talent ; he’s a pioneer, inventive and above all, the creator of Galerie W. Just over a decade ago, it was a space of only 35 meters squared. Today, it’s nearly 3500 meters cubed of exhibition space for contemporary art. In Paris.
In 1997, Eric Landau (whose soul has been artistic probably since before he was born!) after 7 years in Andalusia, landed in Montmartre: “an Andalusian village”. It all started when Landau fell head over heels for the work of Céline Chalem, an artist in her eighties whose art had been exhibited all over the world and who worked in a studio in Montmartre on the 5th floor with no elevator despite being a sculptor… of marble ! Landau thus sought out for Chalem, a small studio on the ground floor, at the corner of rue des Abbesses. After that, the ball just kept on rolling. He pressed on with his wild desire and beautiful idea: to ‘produce’ living contemporary artists. In other words he orchestrated the financial and material circumstances to enable them to create. And all this in Montmartre. That is to say, far, very far away indeed from the more typical art gallery districts. Landau wished to give back to the area affectionately referred to as the Bateau-Lavoir by the many artists who lived there - Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Fernand Léger, Utrillo, Apollinaire, Cocteau etc. – a new sort of art, a new contemporary style.
He put art on walls, on buildings and even on estate agents’ « To Sell/ To Rent » signs. He took a bet on contemporary artists and their potential. He hired premises all across Montmartre so they might be used as studios… “You’ve gone mad” people told Landau. “You’ve gone mad. Montmartre is not about contemporary, living artists, it’s not about street art!” And yet, he carried on. Galerie W thus became a producer of artists, a fast growing rumor, generating more and more interest. W grew and grew, finally setting up in the considerable premises of the ex Baguette de Bois, which was, for 50 years, the seat of artisanal picture framing in Paris. Thanks to this artisanal activity, thanks to the creative force of all the artists who passed through here towards the end of the 20th century, the space feels lived in and inhabited.
GALERIE W : HOUSING ART
But of course, at the heart of the gallery are its artists, around twenty of whom form its solid core. Troy Henriksen for example, with his pictorial, textual and colorful exuberance or Jean-Marc Dallanegra who renders his oil painted canvases with a seismic force. Galerie W only exhibits living artists (with one exception, which of course confirms the rule : Raymond Hains), contemporary art, the art of the street, the art of the world. W brings art to life both within its walls and outside of them in a number of ways: In providing the artist with a place to exhibit their work outdoors, in providing a living for the artist and the work, and through more than simply making a work visible but making it real for passersby. Galerie W is the “everywhere else”. It is as much a site for creation as it is a site for exhibition, since it embodies a certain force and vigor intrinsic to the creative process: process that, in itself, one can never truly see. That said; you’ve never seen a place like this. This place is unique.
W is an inspired space. It’s open seven days a week. But the most important thing… it’s the artists. The choices. Their journey. Welcome to a world that sees a different exhibition every month, different hangings every day, events with outside artists involving every type of art, often urban. There is painting, photography in particular, as well as sculpture, installations, music and even cooking! Every couple of days some new event or other will be happening at W: sit-down dinners for 150 people, more often standing, think tanks, concerts, fashion shows, performances, signings, award ceremonies, children’s workshops….
W creates the event because it’s a meeting place. Simply put: it’s a free space. And furthermore, W is always moving, inhabiting cities inside and out. It has created exhibitions in the South of France, the Ile de Ré and Luxembourg. It has exhibited within businesses such as the Hugues Chevalier in Paris and even in New Zealand when, in 1999, Eric Landau and the gallery’s artists accompanied a boat participating in the America Cup. W is in Boston and New York, on the Route 66, in Peking and in Phuket…
More than anything W exhibits. The gallery takes risks, just like an artist, a patron or a boss should. Launching itself into the void, into chance, into the streets… just like life itself. Galerie W has launched. W is madness. If to be mad is to exist. For existence begins here in fact, « ex-stare », literally, « to be launched from there ». And let’s be honest, in the world, in life, in space and in time, one needs a little madness in order to realise ones ideas to such an extent. More than this though, one needs to be somebody. W is not something. W is like a human being. Like some of them at least…
This isn’t a gallery but a universe which takes stock of its surroundings and the spirit of its time and which changes our lives whilst inventing its own. It has changed the life of Montmartre and those of its inhabitants. It has changed the lives of its artists and often of its collectors. Galerie W is a place where connections are made: people pass through, journeys are made and things happen. And all this is channeled through the dynamic team that surrounds around Eric and Isabelle at 44, rue Lepic.