Conversation with Jean de Loisy, President of the Palais de Tokyo

Interviews - -

In this artistically rich new season, Artsper has had the opportunity to meet Jean de Loisy, President of the Palais de Tokyo. The opportunity to find out more about his path and his vision for contemporary French art.

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{Artsper}: What is your professional path?

Jean de Loisy: For a long time I was responsible for independent exhibitions before becoming president of the Palais de Tokyo. I have also been the curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou, the curator at the Fondation Cartier and also deputy director at the Musée de Nîmes. I was entirely responsible for everything I did. I made contact with the artists, viewed their studios and their works. Everything was hands-on, not virtual!

{A} Have you always worked in the world of art?

JDL: Yes, from university I have attended workshops in order to understand artists. After much trial and error and many misunderstandings, I decided to specialize in this.

{A} You have been the head of the Palais de Tokyo since 2011. Do you think the Palais de Tokyo should be considered as THE window for contemporary art in Paris?

JDL: Definitely not. The role of the Palais de Tokyo is to be subjective and engaged. It does not reflect contemporary art per se, but the exceptions. That is artists who do not have a lot of chance to show elsewhere with flexibility, intensity, with commitment and means. The number of events (about thirty exhibitions per year) can effectively show the diversity of view points concerning art today. Those who visit all the contemporary art galleries in Paris, for example, will sometimes have converging ideas and, sometimes diverging ideas, of what is contemporary art. The interest is in the creation of contemporary art and not in its criteria.

{A} Do you consider that there are criteria in contemporary art?

JDL: Yes, But the Palais de Tokyo is for free expression of contemporary art as a collective language. We support artists who are exploring the art who can thus be individualistic. It is in individualism that we are interested.

{A} Tell us about the 2014/2015 programme for the Palais de Tokyo.

JDL: Autumn 2014 will be very busy in Paris. The re-opening of the musée Picasso, the opening of the Fondation Vuitton, the opening of the Monnaie de Paris, the FIAC… one can only be amazed by the power of Paris. We are preparing for an exhibition of about thirty artists some of whom are being shown for the first time in Paris. The exhibition is entitled “Inside”. It is a journey for the visitors themselves. The more works the visitor looks at, the closer he gets to himself. It is an initiation route. At the same time, we are exhibiting the Croation, David Maljkovic, the eastern European artist who best links politics and images.

The following spring we are working with the artist Takis, a great artist from another generation. At the same time we will be preparing a foreign exhibition with scientists, architects, people from all spheres who produce such intensely visible work that they cannot not be considered as artists. This exhibition will be called “The Edge of the Worlds”. You will discover artists who make our world visible without being aware of it.

{A} Paris is going to be centre of attention this season. Do you think that France remains at the heart of contemporary art? When one looks at London, Hong Kong, New York which are very dynamic…what do you think?

JDL: Fifteen years ago when I wanted an international curator to come and see Parisien studios, I had to fight for it. Today they don’t hesitate to come because there is so much being created here. France is perhaps not the market leader in volume but it is certainly a place of major creative vitality. In Paris there are artists of different nationalities and there exists a community. An effort is being made to reinstate France at the centre of the market. Today there are five generations of artists who speak. At the same time there are five generations of curators who speak. Equally, there are five generations of galleries who speak. The microcosmos is rebuilt, Paris has found a strength, an intellect of unbelievable diversity. I think that in Europe, Paris is one of the best places to discover contemporary art.

{A}Are you a collector yourself?

JDL: Absolutely not. I am passionate about dispossession rather than possession. But I admire the collections of others, collectors who act with passion. By contrast, I do not like “buyers”, those who buy for financial speculation.

{A}Are there, currently, French or international artists on the scene who you particularly like?

JDL: One cannot talk of the artistic scene in current terms, but as a transformation. Artists are no longer militants, they are considered about involution (domestic research) rather than evolution (add another comment to the story of artistic modernity). It is the artists who work on the cutting edge of absolute subjectivity who interest me. Those who are committed to pushing the boundaries.

{A} The artistic event which you are most looking forward to?

JDL: I am awaiting the great biennial festivals, Istanbul, Gwangju, Sao Paulo. At the different festivals, the artists do not present works, but experiences. One is completely surrounded by an experience and not by objects. In France Monumenta is an extraordinary event. Huang Yong Ping at the next Monumenta will definitely produce an incredible work. The FIAC is a unmissable venue. It has become a beautiful image for Paris. When I see all the effort made by the traders who fall over backwards to leave with a work of such quality, an exceptional new level is reached. Finally, the third event is the re-opening of the Palais de Tokyo each October on the eve of the FIAC. It is always captivating and worrying for me.

{A} In view of the concept of Artsper, do you think that on-line sales would be a viable future for the art market?

JDL: I think that we, the institutions, cannot provide all the information that there is. In such a diversified market as art, it is not possible to see everything. If Artsper allowed galleries to show the artist they have discovered quietly and away from the international markets, I think it could be good. Curators and collectors do spend time on-line searching for new talent. This helps to enrich their knowledge of what is available and discover new artists. So, I wish you all the best for the future!

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