LA GALERIE W
In 1998, Eric Landau created an art gallery, imagining it as a land where art would be discovered. He made it grow, and the artists grew along with it. Galerie W went from 350 square feet to 10,000. It has become a presence, a forum for discriminating artistic discussion, spacious and splendid.
Ten years after its founding, the gallery represents twenty artists whose works are always on show: Samuel Benchetrit | Vincent Bousserez | João Luíz Bulcão | CharlElie | Cynthia Cappe | Jean-Marc Dallanegra | Winnie Denker | Jean-Claude Gautrand | Dom Garcia | Pierre-François Grimaldi | Raymond Hains | Troy Henriksen | Élodie Lachaud | Mirko Lovric | Miss.Tic | Chris Morin | Christian Nesler | Jean-Baptiste Perrot | Pierre-Alex. | Georges Poncet | Denis Robert | Bruno Schiepan | Philippe Vermès | Véronique Vial
The walls and works change daily or almost. Focus exhibits scheduled on a monthly basis are complemented by temporary exhibits. The gallery also hosts a number of other events: signings, concerts, meetings, happenings, and children's art workshops.
GETTING TO GALERIE W
By Métro, Line 12: Abbesses. Line 2: Blanche
By car: Parking available 24h/24, 7/7 less than 600 feet from the gallery.
VISIT THE GALERIE W
GALERIE W : JUST CALL ME « W »
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: a 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… You’ll find W’s signature on a whole host of seemingly improbable happenings. For example, W has worked with Disneyland for the past three years to use art as a scare factor during their Halloween celebrations. The first such event was in 2008 when Troy Henriksen took over a whole platform in the Metro to paint directly onto billboards in front of the dumbfounded passengers alighting or descending at that stop. During the winter of 2010, David Bersanetti and an excellent creative team, worked on an immense animated tableau, erected on the Champs Elysees and made up of thousands of sweets that attracted the attention of everyone who saw it, be they 7 or 77 years old. What is more, just last year to mark the 10th anniversary of Fooding®, the gallery stayed open for 72 hours non-stop, inviting a different well known chef to prepare food every four hours for a group of amateur food lovers who had come from all over to take part. Also last year, when the Art Rock Festival proposed 1000m₂ of street side space, situated in the middle of its Saint-Brieuc Festival, consecrated to Troy Henriksens’ works, W called on all its collectors to lend works they had bought in order to create a thorough retrospective exhibition on the artist. This year, the gallery is organizing a huge exhibition of Miss.Tic., programmed to run during the Art Rock Festival 2011 (9th-12th June), and beyond. 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…
ERIC… QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY ISABELLE, THE ARTISTS AND THE COLLECTORS: A UNITED, SOLID TRIO.
He had the crazy idea. She met him six months later. “He wholly succeeded in his amicable take-over bid… of me” she says. First and foremost W is Eric Landau. But then it’s also Isabelle Euverte. He wanted art to be for everybody, that’s why the gallery is ‘W’: it’s a letter, it’s practical. “A letter can’t be hijacked, it’s everyone’s property,” he says. He wants art to be all around him, that it not be a privileged domain and that it be open to everyone alive. Eric can be found in every print, in every frame and canvas. He is very close to the artists, many of whom drop in to see him simply for advice. He has this same closeness with the collectors. Isabelle says of Eric that, “he has a vision of art, a vision of space and of time.” And it’s certainly true that this art dealer is a visionary; he senses trends before they really emerge, he has an eye for artists and a great empathy with art lovers. Eric Landau is a pragmatic poet, for not only does he have ideas, but he knows how to execute them. Isabelle claims not to be a gallery director but rather that she turns her hand to everything. She is high speed. She writes concisely. She types fast and hard. She foresees all eventualities; she’s fiercely independent and always communicating. Her network of friends is endless and loyal. These two are the soul of the gallery. They are the people who make the gallery so much more than just a gallery. They make sure that W belongs to everybody. 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.
A MODERN DAY FAIRYTALE?
Thirteen years after its foundation, W may have changed its size but not its ideals: its building, but not its neighborhood. Some people might say it’s a fairytale. But I would say that talent and ideas wouldn’t come to anything without perseverance and hard work. This idea holds true because of this time, this space and these people. It was a simple belief that contemporary art could settle and live in Montmartre and the gamble has paid off: other galleries have followed suit, bringing a host of new contemporary art in their wake. The notion of creating a place in which art could be discovered, open to all, to all ages, all walks of life, and all types of art: once again, the gamble paid off. Most visitors to the gallery have heard of it through word of mouth, some by chance. “People say that the gallery has a very New York feel,” says Isabelle. Admittedly, that’s what I thought the first time I visited, for there is a definitive lack of Parisian snobbery, a lack of that coldness which so often accompanies ‘galleries’. But returning to the final thread of the original concept that defines W: a space that openly displayed the creative process. Here, amateurs as much as collectors are invited to see each step in the life of the works of art and to be involved in them. Indeed here, the collectors are often the initiators! Many of W’s collectors, from as far afield as China, USA, South America, London, Brussels and Barcelona, don’t think twice about spending a weekend in Paris to come and visit the gallery. For many of them, they see the gallery as ‘their’ W. W is like a family because it is organic. A meeting with W always means a meeting with someone. The artists drop in all the time, some of them every day. It’s a home - which is as much proved by the fact that Eric and Isabelle live there. It’s a creative laboratory, a successful workshop and a collection of futures: A hubbub of desires, talents, accidents and meetings. Everything here is art. W belongs to all those who cross its threshold. There are a lot of them and they are happy. “People have an attachment to W. It’s like a brand… But better!”, says Isabelle, smiling. It’s better, yes. Because W isn’t a concept. It’s energy. A bit like electricity. A bit like life.
Maria Grazia Meda Freelance journalist (D La Repubblica, Vogue Italia…) and editorial board (France).
Kate Glover Translator who specializes in the arts.