INTERVIEW E - ABOUT THE FUTURE TO COME
After three months of Paris debriefing/hang over, it was time for the big closure: the retrospective exhibition “From Dam to Paname” we had planned at SAMA’s gallery. The team was growing with some national and international students from Heritage and Memories studies (UvA & Reinwardt), among them were of course French interns from Universite Savoie Mont Blanc, Hyper-Media studies, and we had to beautifully end the Blog’s Paris cycle with a sparkling touch. To do so, we decided to reach out to the 13 Art Fair’s artistic director, ARTIST - painter, sculptor and poet, as well as fascinating art collector - Elphège Frémy.
As I got touch with him, he immediately and kindly accept to give SAMA an interview. I remembered his classy appearance, glorious white beard, amazingly original style, the goodness of his smile. After a few contacts along 2018 year’s beginning, here we are, exchanging through thick emails about his artistic vision, afterwards feelings and professional opinions.
“You have a kick-ass look Elphège; Anna was very intrigued by the jacket you were wearing during the exhibition, the one which was signed by so many renowned urban artists.”
“It started on a totally trifling way in December 2015. My friend Mehdi Ben Cheikh, co-founder of the 13 ArtFair committee, invited me: Shepard Fairey had installed his famous “Earth Crisis” sphere under the Eiffel Tower. We got along very well and he signed this jacket’s backside. One year later, we met again during his exhibition at the Itinérance Gallery, at my friend Mehdi’s (him again) and he did the exact same thing. In 2017, we went to Los Angeles with my friend Mehdi (oh no, not him again ahah) and he did it AGAIN for the third time. But during those three years, other artists made me the honour to play the game, like D*Face, Cranios, Hopare, Bom.K, Tristan Eaton, or Ben Eine. It is unbelievable what this jacket triggers when I met urban art passionate people like me.”
“In an interview to ArtistikRezo, you said that among your recent heart-stoppers were Hey!, Agnès B. and SAMA. What’s in them which called your sensitivity and what motivated you to invite them at the Cité de la Mode et du Design event?”
“This fair’s spirit wanted to go over what Street Art usually stands for et go further concerning Urban Culture, like talking about tatoo, hip-hop, skateboarding, Lowbrow or Pop Ssurrealism. This is kind of our trademark and it was warmly welcome by the audience. We also wanted to show an institutional approach of this protean movement in order to enrich the mainstream’s vision of Urban Art. Of course, it was not conceivable to only concentrate on Paris stage’s contributors, and we were very happy to make our visitors discover the actions that SAMA foundation leads. You’re into sharing too, and this is obviously something we love.”
“You were in charge of selecting the participating galleries and artists, like Swoon (LJ Gallery), Pure Evil (Pure Evil Gallery), Inti (Albin Michel Publishings).”
“Establishing a qualitative line-up, in less than six months, for a new fair’s first edition, is a task which requires not to have any idea of the difficulties we are about to face. It was clearly our case and so much the better, because the result was worthing it. We had to adapt to a massive amount of unforeseen events, but the one thing we could never give up on was quality. By the way, our whole team is deeply pride of all the artists’, galleries’, collectors’ feedbacks…: I didn’t even hear a single one bad comment even if the art environment can be easily critical…”
“Could you make a little “guided tour” of them for us?”
“Making a sum-up of each gallery would be way too long, so I encourage every reader to go to the 13 ArtFair website to check on every guest. Of course, all of them succeeded in showing qualitative artworks (that anyone is free to dislike of course) with a nice hanging. They trusted us and I take the occasion to thank them again.
Some of them were coming from quite far away, like Avenue des Arts (Hong Kong and Los Angeles), or Hellion Gallery (Portland, USA). If I’m allowed to talk a bit about this last one, it was a gallery who had never participated to a European fair and who came on the recommendation of Adeline Jeudy from LJ Gallery (who notably defends Swoon, their stand was gorgeous). Matt Wagner, Hellion Gallery owner (who became a very good friend of mine) introduced artists who are not (or poorly) represented in France: AJ Fosik, Ben Venom, Stéphanie Buer or Tengaone, a Japanese artist who had never been exhibited in Europe before.”
“What do you thing of the concept of a Street Art museum considering that this movement is a movement made for and by the street?”
“To me, it is not antinomic. Some people think that a Street Art piece doesn’t belong to a gallery for it would lose its strength if pulled out of an in-situ context. Some people think the opposite. In my opinion, this debate doesn’t have any sense for there are no “Street Artists”, there are just “Artists”. That’s it. If you are gifted, nothing keeps you from enchanting a neighbourhood again AND producing a workshop style artwork. Go outside and admire the StreetArt13 path’s walls, then go to the Itinérance Gallery to enjoy Inti, D*Face or Bom.K artworks: it makes us realize than borders are only a problem into the mind of the people it is convenient for (to position themselves as well as to denigrate). If the work owes a historical interest, why shouldn’t it been kept into a museum for memory? It is a true thing that Urban Art’s essence is ephemeral, but here, we’re not talking about stealing art from the streets. So if a museum helps discovering artists or discovering them again, that is a good thing, once in the street they will be more identified and make people crave for more.”
“In the same building than the Cité de la Mode et du Design, right next door, an artist squat was on (unfortunately evicted since). Did you know about it?”
“We had been contacted by some of the galleries’ managers and artists to allow them to paint on this squat’s walls. When we called the Paris’ mayor’s Port Autonome (regional authority), we had been told that a procedure was in process between them and the estate owner. It was out of the question to interfere, so we gave up the idea.”
“What do you think about this structure’s model, officially illegal but concretely active on a social and artistic way?”
“I assume a right balance has to be found, but I don’t want to be the one defining it. Everybody knows that this movement birth would never had occurred if artists back then had waited for authorizations (watch again the video of Keith Haring arrest in New York Underground when he was using chalk). Personally, I’m not against this kind of initiative: let’s remember about the Rivoli Squat (N°59), the building was formerly owned by Crédit Lyonnais Bank and has been threatened with eviction several times, but people fought and now, it is a legal place with many artistic residencies and wide open to public.”
“What inspire you as an artistic director? Your travels, your encounters, your activities?”
“All of the above! During the day I take care of fiscalism, retirement, insurances, nothing artistic, on the contrary. However, all the rest of my time I eat art in every shape and form: I’m an artist, a collector, a blogger (MyFactory.net) and now, 13 ArtFair co-founder. I’m very lucky for my life partner, Yûko, follows me into it. My numerous trips are always organised around art thematic: as an artist, I participated in projects in Tunisia Tunisia (Djerbahood), Indonesia (Tropica Bali Urban Art Festival) and United States (Groupshow), but we also attend a lot of international fairs, visit a lot of galleries, museums and workshops. I think art is the only industry permitting so many interactions without any social backgrounds limits: it is “le pARTage”.”
“What are your predictions concerning the future of Street Art on a worldwide scale? What type of evolutions, possible developments?”
“I am not a psychic, but I observe some tendencies indeed. From the art market point of view, it can feel like the main contemporary art characters (galleries, curators, some museums, collectors) are totally losing interest for this movement. Of course, a fistful of artists play their cards right like Banksy, Os Géméos, Shepard Fairey or Invader to quote a few ones, nevertheless in auction rooms their artworks are way lower than a majority of unknown artists. Urban Art stars’ position evolved: their street work counts a lot, but the workshop work becomes more and more important. Lately, there is a tsunami of propositions, and an infatuation from mainstream that we had never seen before. This success can maybe be explained by the fact that Urban Art is really accessible whereas it can be subversive or containing a dual reading. But quantity doesn’t always stand for quality and market will sort the offers, I think that 90% of the current artists will be out of the picture in the next ten years.
What will happen to Street Art from then? It is difficult to say, but it will certainly keep on being protean, no doubt that new ways to work on site will appear. We are already assisting to the video mapping development, later maybe holograming. The environmental topic will probably be the core of some artists’ reflexions. As far as I am concerned, I will follow all of this with the greatest interest while continuing roaming the planet to flash Invaders.”