15 Minutes with Georges Bergès

Gallery | Sep 2017 | BY Jessica Idarraga

Georges Bergès Gallery has established itself as one of the foremost spots for emerging and recognized artists to exhibit. Cultured sat down with founder Georges Bergès to discuss upcoming projects, the future of the gallery and “Harmony in Color and Form,” an exhibition by Laddie John Dill and Kristin Jai Klosterman opening on September 7.

What projects are you working on right now?  We are about to open the fall season with “Harmony in Form and Color,” an exhibition that brings together Light and Space movement iconic artist Laddie John Dill and painter and sculptor Kristin Jai Klosterman. This show follows Dill’s yearlong exhibition at MoMA, and promises to be an amazing exhibition that will envelop the gallery’s two floors here in SoHo. A Michael Carson solo exhibition will come after “Harmony.” He has an incredible following as a figurative artist. I am also starting to work with Peter Triantos, who is gaining a lot of recognition as a very dynamic abstract visual artist. And spring 2018 is already coming together: Celebrated painter Tom Lieber will be opening the season; his works can be found in the permanent collections of Guggenheim, SFMOMA and Tate.

How do you view Georges Bergès Gallery’s role in the art world?  There are so many galleries today, and as we all know, the art world has been going through a major transition for the past 20 years. No one really knows what the future trajectory of the art industry will be. At Georges Bergès Gallery, we are sticking to the basics—I wanted to create a gallery that was centered on the artist, one that supported and worked hand in glove with its artist, not only in the promotion and selling of the work, but also in his or her development. I think in many ways, being an artist could be a very isolating experience and way of life. Historically, it was the gallerist that provided that connection, a bridge between the art world and outside world. The gallerist-artist relationship provided an environment for artists to securely and fully immerse themselves into their mediums and thereby produce some of their best possible works. Today, for the most part, artists are left on their own, especially if they’re still emerging–so I really wanted to create a gallery that was reminiscent of that historic way of working. This fits much better with my personality and sense of being. If my only purpose was to make money by selling art, I would have a hell of a lot easier time selling blue chip art, but that’s not why I wanted to get into the business.

 

Dean Dempsey’s Untitled

Why did you choose to open your gallery in SoHo?  I could have opened anywhere in NYC, but I wanted a space in an area that was rooted in history partly because of how I envisioned running the gallery. So almost three years ago we found this beautiful space on West Broadway, just two blocks away from where Leo Castelli had his gallery, and it felt very right. The obvious disadvantage has also been the location–it cuts both ways. The area has changed dramatically. High-end shops and flagship stores have proliferated in SoHo, so the clientele here is very different – but nothing that is worth doing comes easy. Despite my initial reservations, I opted for SoHo. I wanted to stand out for bringing back a 1980’s style gallery to SoHo, which I found very exciting. Now, if we ever move, I feel we have established ourselves enough and made our point–I want the name to mean something, to transcend the space, and to create a movement back to a period when the gallery world was a lot more centered and invested on the artist and his or her work. Many people who love and studied art feel miserable working in the art world–a reason is because of the disconnect between the art, artist, and the actual business. So I say, let’s go back to the basics–there’s a certain mystique about working in the art world, about being an artist or art dealer. Let’s not lose that. Let’s not forget why we were drawn to this very unusual way of life.

How does the Georges Bergès Gallery maintain its commitment to quality and originality? I work with artists whose work I personally love. I ask as much of myself as I ask from my artists. If I am not nervous before a show, then I’m doing something wrong. I also try to push myself so that every art opening is on the precipice of either genius or catastrophe–there is not a feeling in the world more exhilarating than that one feeling. Every year now, the gallery is upping the ante – we are now getting thousands of submissions from artists from around the world and it is getting very difficult to keep up–but I try to stick to my three rules: Do I like the work? Can working with the artist helps elevate the art? Do I personally like the artist? This last one is key because everything else is dependent on that connection and rapport, and this is the reason why a simple internet-submission will never be enough for me to accept an artist. A proper studio visit and even a conversation over tea, coffee, or other social event is the most important aspect of knowing whether this will be a fruitful relationship.

Which young artists have you worked with recently that deserve more acclaim? Dean Dempsey’s work really excites me. There is something sublime about his artwork. His pieces are an accurate representation of the artist. Since the night I met him at a bar in the Lower East Side, we have gradually developed an authentic connection that now reflects in his work. You can see a real progression of quality and strength. He’s definitely someone to watch out for. I am certain that he will reach heights that even I can’t imagine today.

What is your approach to finding artists working in their cultural setting?  I am very passionate about the Earth, its people and cultures. This is a fascinating and exciting period in human history. From my trips to India, China, Latin America, Africa or Europe, I have yet to experience a culture that I haven’t fell madly in love with. World art and literature fuel my vision, so I naturally want my gallery to reflect this.

What does the future of your gallery look like? Transformative. I have always been a fan of reinvention. This is why I love art so much. Social institutions and people in general always try to box the individual. Art allows us to imagine a different world and life. Art gives us permission to be brave. It gives us the courage to accept who we are or to recreate ourselves to whom we want to be. I see Georges Bergès Gallery in that same way. I want the gallery to expand our conceptions of what is possible. From the first day we opened our doors, we began this seemingly improbable journey to bring back to the future the best in art in a location that no longer seemed tenable. Whether we continue in SoHo for a decade or surprise our followers with change–the gallery will continue to work at its core to become something greater than we are.

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