Henri-François Debailleux (JDA N°492 - January 2018)
In Paris, rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare, hides an exhibition space, a discreet address that has seen gallery owners who have welcomed and supported the great names of contemporary art.
If number 5 of the rue Grenier Saint-Lazare could talk, there is no doubt that it would have a lot to say.
Indeed, no less than five galleries, and not the least, have succeeded one another in forty years. With, in the background, a paradox and an enigma. How could this rather ungrateful space attract Yvon Lambert, Rüdiger Schöttle, Nathalie Obadia, Laurent Godin and today the Gallery W (Eric Landau and Isabelle Euverte) ?
Of course the address is good, since it is located right next to the Centre Pompidou, with a window on the street and a stone's throw from the Daniel Templon gallery. But pratically at the crossroads of the rue Beaubourg, next to a parking lot entrance, leaning against the unattractive district of the clock, the gallery, a kind of big cube made of cubes, is neither glamorous nor charming. And yet...
It all began in 1977, at the time of the opening of the Centre Pompidou, when Yvon Lambert (whom since 1966 has his gallery on rue de l'Échaudé, in Saint-Germain-des-Près), came to settle in this new district for contemporary art. He inaugurates with Cy Twombly. Already! He will remain there until 1986, year when he invests a splendid space in 108, rue Vieille-du-Temple, in the Marais, by opening with... Cy Twombly, again. If this adress, which he will occupy until the end of 2014 (and which is today the VNH gallery) will make Yvon Lambert famous, his notoriety had already been built with 5 rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare. When asked how he explains the aura of this place, the answer is categorical: "It is the exhibitions that make a place, and of course the person in charge of it. It's the job of the artist and the gallerist to know how to occupy a space." Like a vade mecum.
When he left his location in 1986, he kept it for a while and entrusted it to Anne de Villepoix who managed it until 1989, before she went her own way.
It was then the Munich gallery owner Rüdiger Schöttle who took over. But in times of crisis, with a construction site in front of his house and too many expenses, he will only stay for about three years.
After his departure and some reorganization work, Nathalie Obadia moved in in September 1995. Ironically, here she is under her own name in the walls of Lambert after having made her debut at... Templon. "It was an important step for me, before having a larger space. And then Yvon had made extraordinary exhibitions there", says the gallery owner who closed in 2003 to leave two steps, rue du Cloître-Saint-Merri.
In October 2005, Laurent Godin took over the space which, with its iron curtain down, had remained closed for about two years, and exhibited Wang Du's work. He did important work and removed a false ceiling. "When we removed the polystyrene plates, we found a frieze in wallpaper by Daniel Buren. It's a place that has a history, a particular energy ", says Godin. He opened a miller's staircase in the largest room to also exhibit works in the basement and above all "to increase the visitor's passage time, so that they don't just make a quick trip to the first floor and back." He moved last July to concentrate on the second (and larger) space he opened almost two years ago on rue Eugène Oudiné in the 13th arrondissement.
Since December 6th, it is now Galerie W that occupies the walls (which are still owned by Yvon Lambert and his daughter Eve). Eric Landau and Isabelle Euverte, who run the gallery, have left their home on rue Lepic and have made new arrangements to further improve the exhibition conditions.
With time, the gallery improved and became a beautiful space. The adventure continues. And all say it: the spirit of Yvon Lambert, today bookseller-publisher on rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, continues to hover over the gallery.
© Drawing Jean-Yves Duhoo - 2018
© Photo Alexis Limousin - 2018