Tag: Interview

Homa Taj in Conversation with Peter Kjeldgaard of Bruun Rasmussen Auction House (Denmark)

Photo Courtesy Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers
Photo Courtesy Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers
Photo Courtesy Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers

Homa Taj in conversation with Peter Kjelgaard,  Head of Design at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Scandinavia’s leading auction house. Rasmussen recently exhibited their stunning Le Corbusier tapestry from the collection of famed architect Jørn Oberg Utzon (1918-2008), at Collective Design Fair, in New York City.

Homa Taj – For those who may not be familiar with Bruun Rasmussen, can you tell us about your firm?
We are one of the leading auction houses in Scandinavia based in Copenhagen and we are a leader in primarily Nordic design and art. Knowledge and passion is the driving force behind everything we do.

HT – When was your Auction house founded?
Our auction house was established in 1948 in Copenhagen, Denmark by Arne Bruun Rasmussen.

HT- How do you select which artists, periods, etc to represent?
Many objects are presented to us daily, and we select those suitable for our international sales based on our knowledge and our interpretation of what is happening in the market – sometimes trying to point to something new or different.

HT – How do you see the dramatic rise in real estate prices (in New York) affecting the art and design market?
Growth in real estate is actually good for us. We see a growing interest from clients in the New York area specially from discerning clients looking to buy Nordic design from the country of origin.

HT – How do you define the New York art market – in comparison to other art centers around the world?
New York is a giant magnet for all items of exceptional quality. That certainly is the case for the increasing interest in vintage design of which Danish midcentury design is a critical component.

HT – What trend(s) do you anticipate in the art/ design market in the coming 5 or 15 years?
Mid-century vintage is a relatively new field of collecting. We think that the difference in prices between what is simply a good piece and what is an exceptional piece will increase dramatically as buyers become more knowledgeable.

HT – What are your thoughts about the trend toward purchasing art and design online?
We see online purchasing as a great opportunity and believe that this is an unstoppable trend. We offer online auctions on a daily basis and have done so for 12 years. This is part of our business model and we seek to expand this area. Selling expensive, high quality pieces online does however require sellers to meet very high standards of description, photos and service associated with the buying of such pieces. We believe that a gradual process toward this will happen everywhere.

HT – How would you define the importance of art fairs?
Art fairs offer clients the opportunity to see pieces displayed in curated context. They play an important role in moving the interest in new directions.

HT – What has been your most memorable encounter with an art collector?
Our company have had the privilege of countless memorable and eccentric clients over the past 6 decades so to name anyone particular would be unjust to far too many.

HT – What is your next big project? 
We are constantly trying to expand the knowledge and understanding of Nordic Design through our international sales. In our international sales we aim for a special focus that can offer a new perspective on both unknown and well established designers. These “stories” are presented with an array of other well known pieces. Our next sale will focus on Danish Designer Poul Kjaerholm following up on an affair with him that took of with our seminal 2006 special Poul Kjaerholm sale.

HT – What upcoming auctions should collectors get excited about?
This idea of trying to bring something new and fresh out about iconic designers has also been the underlying reason for our presentation of the wonderful Le Corbusier tapestry that came from the Home of world famous architect Jørn Utzon. This tapestry was made in 1960 and intended as the starting point for Le Corbusiers involvement in the decoration of the interior of the Sydney Opera House. A project never fulfilled that now seems a loss to us all.

Utzon was the first Dane to win the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, in 2003. A year later, his design for the Sydney Opera House was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Later in June (9-11), Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen will present Jørn Utzon’s private art and furniture collection. The preview runs from May 28 to June 1.


Homa Taj in Conversation with French Photographer Grégoire Alexandre on His Show at FIAFNY

Grégoire Alexandre, Victor&Rolf, Surface, 2010. © Grégoire Alexandre
Grégoire Alexandre, Victor&Rolf, Surface, 2010. © Grégoire Alexandre
Grégoire Alexandre, Victor&Rolf, Surface, 2010. © Grégoire Alexandre

Grégoire Alexandre, an exhibition of photography organized by the distinguished curator of photography François Hebel is on view at French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) until  Saturday, June 13, 2015.

For visionary fashion photographer Grégoire Alexandre the subject of his work is the studio itself. Alexandre’s nonchalant sense of humor is revealed in playful uses of artificial lighting or transformations of seamless backdrops from hidden set elements to active centerpieces. As he tears, crumples, and folds them like origami he creates something new and unexpected. This is the sublime protocol of Alexandre. At only 43-years-old he lists Hermès, Arjomari, Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Absolut among his clients.  .

Homa Taj – You began your studies as a filmmaker and then moved on to photography. What made you choose photography…?

Grégoire Alexandre – Yes, I began studying film but I realized it required a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of money (at the time) and long term energy, which meant a great confidence in your ideas and in yourself. I didn’t have that. I was quite young and I liked to work on my own and not be depended on others to create my images.

HT – Yes, I understand your reservations – I was a scholar for many years and worked as an independent curator. Now that I am making my first feature film, I realize how incredibly dependent one becomes on others…

But, you did not consider becoming a DP (director of photography).

GA – No, not really, since you are considered more of a technician helping filmmakers manifest their visions and what they have in mind. Also, when I studied film, years ago in Paris, I did not think that I had a solid enough idea of what I wanted to say in such a complex art form as film. So, I chose photography.

HT – You work both as a fine artist and commercial photographer…

GA- Actually, I don’t make a big distinction between creative and commercial work. I like to take commissions and try to make them personal.

HT – I take it that you can do this to because working commercially in Europe, and France in particular, allows for greater degree of creativity. In America, commercials are brutally just that, commercials. They are very much focused on selling objects or services…

GA – Yes, but, over the past 10-15 years, Europe is becoming the same. We used to have much more creative freedom as so-called commercial photographers but now it’s becoming more and more about the product. Much more ‘business-oriented,’ if you will.

HT – You were born in Rouen but went to school in Arles School and you have kept you Arlesien-connections. I get the impression that there is an Arlesian Mafia of visual artists …

GA – [LAUGHS] I suppose you can say that. I did study at l’Ecole nationale supérieure de la photographie in Arles which is the only public school in France to focus on photography. So, naturally, there are a lot of us photographers who graduated from there and have gone on to work in various fields…

HT – So, is that how you met François Hebel and exhibited at Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles?

GA – I did two solo shows at the Rencontres, in 2008, invited by Christian Lacroix and in 2012 when the Rencontres celebrated the anniversary of the school which was created in 1982.

But I was already working with Christian Lacroix, who is also from Arles… Not me, though. I was born in Rouen.

HT – Yes, I did read somewhere that you had worked with Lacroix who is one of my favorite living fashion designers. He is really an artist!

GA – I met Christian in 2007 when Musée des arts decoratifs organized an exhibition of his designs called Christian Lacroix: Histoires de Mode Exposition (8 November, 2007 – 20 April, 2008). The show was curated by Olivier Saillard who is now the Director at Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode. He invited me to shoot the catalogue for it… And, since then, I have worked on several projects with Lacroix.

But that’s how I became involved with Rencontre. At that point, Lacroix was a guest curator.

HT – What other museum exhibitions have you had?

GA – To name a few, I’ve been invited by Michel Mallard and Raphaelle Stopin in 2008 to be part of a group show « Fashion in the mirror » in 2008 at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. Also, when I had the HSBC prize in 2009, I had an exhibition travelling to different institutions in France (Lille, Metz, Marseille and Paris). I’ve also been involved in some residencies in Finland and at the Villa Noailles in Hyères.

More recently, at another Lacroix-curated group exhibition (Lumières: carte-blanche à Christian Lacroix http://museecognacqjay.paris.fr/les-expositions/lumieres-carte-blanche-christian-lacroix) at the Musée Cognacq-Jay, in Paris.

HT – As for New York, is this your first time exhibiting here?

GA – Over the years, I have done commercial work in New York but the show at French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is my first time exhibiting in America. They had launched a series on fashion and photography, so this is how I began to work with them…

HT – Your photos are somewhat witty. And, they show a different notion of behind-the-scene work. It’s as if the studio itself has ‘character’…

GA – Yes, for me, in this series, the studio is as much part of the process of photography as photography itself. I like staging different elements in a studio and integrate them into the image, in front of the camera.

HT – Tell me about the way in which you’ve chosen to exhibit the works, out of frame and stuck to the wall…

GA – Well, Francois (Hebel) and I had done a version of this exhibition – though, it was different – in Arles where we framed the photos but decided not to hang them. So we built a shelf and casually set them on top of each other. So the photographs did not look so precious.

In FIAF, we reprinted all the images on a paper that is really like wallpaper. So, when the show is done, they will rip them off the wall. In some way, we have made the works, ephemeral.

Having said that, I did leave a margin around each image which makes it look like a frame – but, of course, it is not.

HA – What was your experience of an American audience seeing your work – at FIAF’s opening of your show, last week?

GA – I was surprised at how open Americans, or I should say New Yorkers, were in approaching me and asking me questions about the work, and also telling me their responses to it. They didn’t need to be introduced. Much less formal than we are in Europe. So, it was very nice. Very different.

HA – Are you looking for a dealer (representation) in America?

GA – I am not actively looking for one. I haven’t knocked at anyone’s doors and ask them to represent my work. But, sure. I am open to having my work represented in the US.

HA – What’s next for you?

GA – Possible an exhibition in Rouen, Normandie where I was born. But can’t say much more about it.

HA – Lastly, is there any projects that you dream of working on?

GA- Yes, I I have always been quite stimulated by contemporary dance… I remember being quite impressed by some shows that I have seen! I like connecting points. More the scenography – than choreography – of dance.

HA – Perhaps, you can ask Christian Lacroix for some advice given that he has done so much work on the stage.

GA – Perhaps I will.




Homa Taj in Conversation with Photography Curator François Hebel

François Hebel - Photo courtesy Le Monde
François Hebel - Photo courtesy Le Monde
François Hebel – Photo courtesy Le Monde

François Hebel is one of the most influential figures in the world of photography. He has led such powerful organizations as Les Rencontres de la photographie Arles (1985-87 and 2001-2014) and Magnum Photos (1987-2000). Since leaving his position at Rencontres in Arles, Hebel continues to curate exhibitions at various museums, cultural organizations and festivals from New York to Paris, to Bologna and Changjiang (China).

Hebel’s latest curatorial project, Grégoire Alexandre, in New York City can be seen at French Institute Alliance Française FIAFNY. Also, stay tuned for our Conversation with Grégoire Alexandre, to be published, early next week.

Homa Taj – Were you trained as a photographer? Or, how did you began your work as a curator of photography?

François Hebel – No, not at all. I trained myself to travel which funny enough got me into photography as a reason. However, since 1980, I have been working with photographers at various capacities.

HT – You have been based in france for most of your career…

FH – When I worked for Magnum Photos in Paris (1987-2000), I had to go to New York a lot. So, I am very familiar with working in NY. And, of course, I do a lot of curatorial work around the world.

HT – What was working at Magnum Photo like?

FH – When I was hired to work at Magnum’s office in Paris, the company was in a bad shape, financially speaking. I was their first director in many years since it was run like a photographers’ cooperative. I quickly told them that the world is going to become digital sooner than they thought. That was around 1987-89. And, I remember at a meeting, many photographers laughed. They said, “We’ll, will be there with our white gloves on … ” I said, “No. You’ll be dead.”

Back then, archives had begun to digitize their images only to expedite their delivery, at Magnum we did it in order to maintain the best of our memory. We began to organize traveling exhibitions which brought in a lot of money for the organization in order to finance this digitalization and do our PR at the same time. …

HT – You have talked about photography as an elastic art form, using examples of projections, or slide shows. Can you say a bit about this concept…

FH – Well, back in 1986, I saw Nan Goldin’s slide projection of her The Ballad of Sexual Dependency which ran for one hour and thirty minutes. I told her that I loved what she was doing. At that time, everyone was doing – as some still are now – black and white photography in frames hung on walls, etc. So, I told Nan that you are using this low-value medium which is terrific. I, then, invited her to exhibit at Rencontres internationales de la photographie d’Arles – where I was a director – 1985-87, and later 2001-2014. There we had a great Théâtre Antique where she projected her work.

I did suggest that the show was too long and that 45 minutes may be better but that it was ultimately her decision as an artist as to what she wanted to do with it. So Nan made The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, the Arles version.

At that time, for me, this was a great revelation in the way artists can use photography. Of course, back then, Nan told me that she didn’t like prints. But, now prints are her signature – livelihood, I suppose, slide shows are harder to sell.

HT – What other examples of unconventional uses of (the medium of) photography have you encountered?

FH – Several years ago, I was in a french suburb, after the riots in France in 2005 which were covered by the international media. I saw a guy gluing photos on the wall. He said, “Hi, my name JR.” So, I invited him to Arles and there, in 2007 he did Face 2 Face which included huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, and on the both sides of the Security fence / Separation wall.

Meeting these types of artists really excites me. It doesn’t mean that I am against selling works. I think that photography is an important market. You can do a lot with it, you can print books, etc. There are all kinds of languages in photography. My fun, my interest, is when photographers try new things. The market for these types of photographers is, of course, difficult but it doesn’t mean they cannot do it.

Look at JR. He is now a big star in New York.

HT – What projects are you working on now?

FH – Last year, I was invited by Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris to curate an exhibition of works by Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert. The exhibition was opened on April 14th and will remain on view until June 14.

This was an interesting project for me since what we also decided to do was to curate, if you will, a parallel exhibition at 16 different metro stations throughout Paris. We chose entirely different photos by the artists than those shown at MEP. Also, each of these pictures is 4 meters long which is much larger than we could fit in the museum’s galleries. In other words, we turned the Paris metro stations into an art gallery – in a different way than we treated the museum exhibition.

HT – So you expanded the space of the museum, or the gallery, unto the public space.

FH – I had done similar projects – mixing different art forms and spaces with photography – before. For example, through the years, I invited musicians to perform at the shows of photography that we had organized at Théâtre Antique Arles.

I once invited Anoushka Shankar (Ravi Shankar’s daughter) to perform on Cartier-Bresson indian pictures. And, in 2006, Patti Smith performed a concert for the 20th anniversary of Agence Vu which is a French agency for photographers.

HT – You were invited by FIAF / French Institute Alliance Française, New York to organize an exhibition of photography… and you chose Grégoire Alexanre. Why him?

FH – First, the general public’s idea of French photography is what took place in the 1950’s – Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doineau and others. But contemporary photography has evolved quite a lot.
So my aim for the show at FIAF was to set a principal about what is going on with French photographers today. What are their protocals? I like Grégoire’s work because his studio is ‘in dialogue’ with the subject matters that he captures. The background, the behind-the-scene, is part of the scene… It is as important as the models or objects that he photographs.

Also, the theme of this season’s exhibition at FIAF is to introduce photographers from France that deal with fashion. And, Grégoire was the perfect candidate.

HT – Grégoire told me a little bit about the process of ‘hanging’ – or, more like not hanging – this exhibition…

FH – Yes, well, we chose not to frame the images – except for what is in print – and not to hang them either. So, instead, we used this special type of glue that photographers apply to stick their pictures to the wall. of wall paper of a great quality that glues to the wall. And, then, when we are done – when the show closes on June 13 – we’ll just tear them off from the wall.

HT – This is your first curatorial work with FIAF New York. Will you be working with them again?

FH – Yes, of course. This is the first in a series of exhibitions on French photography which we’ll be organizing.

I am excited because I like working with living artists. I trust artists. A lot of curators prefer working with dead artists… Not me.

HT – What is your next project? Beside the one(s) at FIAF?

FH – In 2013, I was invited to create a festival of photography in Bologna – such as the one I had directed in Arles, for more than 15 years.

The focus of the exhibition was is on industrial, corporate or work photography and was is hence named FOTO/INDUSTRIA. The second edition of the festival will take place this autumn (October 2 – November 1) which makes it a Biennale.

This is a very interesting event since Bologna is such a beautiful area and there are 14 venues throughout the historic city which we will be using for the festival.

HT – You are a very busy man.

FH – Did I mention that I just organized TEN shows at the inaugural Changjiang International Photography & Video Biennale – which runs through July 26, 2015 at the Chongqing Changjiang Museum of Contemporary Art (CMCA)?