Arthur de Villepin On Why Passion and Soul is at the Centre of New Gallery, Villepin

Arthur de Villepin, 2020. Photo by Sophie Palmier. Image courtesy of Villepin.
Zao Wou-Ki, Sans titre (Funérailles), 1949, oil on canvas, 87.5 cm x 131 cm. © ProLitteris, Zurich. Image courtesy of Villepin.
Zao Wou-Ki, ST aqua (2007-11) Gaudigny, 2007, watercolour on paper, 66 x 102 cm. Copyright Zao Wou-Ki. Image courtesy of Villepin.
Arthur and Dominique de Villepin, 2020. Photo by Sophie Palmier. Image courtesy of Villepin.
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ART AND SUSTAINABILITY

Next month, Hong Kong welcomes a new player to its rampant art scene with the opening of Villepin—the latest entrepreneurial venture of father-son duo Dominique and Arthur de Villepin—with the intent to bring soul and passion back into an art market drenched in dollar signs.

 

Arthur de Villepin, 2020. Photo by Sophie Palmier. Image courtesy of Villepin.

 

TEXT: Denise Tsui
IMAGES: Courtesy of Villepin

 

“In the state of the world now, art is one of the few remaining things we can share,” said Dominique de Villepin, holding the look in my eyes. And he was right. Just that morning, before I met with his son Arthur de Villepin to talk about the plans and motives behind opening their new gallery Villepin next month, I had casually commented to a friend how art held the power to show kindness—and with the global crises we are facing together, surely we need more kindness.

This belief in the power of human connection, and the beauty and tolerance that art can bring is at the crux of Villepin’s inaugural exhibition—“Friendship & Reconciliation”—a solo showcase of the late Chinese-French master Zao Wou-Ki who was a close friend of the de Villepin family.

The exhibition will comprise of works spanning from the 1940s through to the early 2000s drawn from the de Villepin’s own collection and the collection of the late artist’s wife, and chairperson of his estate. Alongside paintings that have rarely been seen in the public eye, the exhibition will feature a selection of watercolours, Chinese inks and lithographs. “Zao was a close friend of my father and the family, and he’s been building bridges from the East and the West through his life.”

 

Zao Wou-Ki, Sans titre (Funérailles), 1949, oil on canvas, 87.5 cm x 131 cm. © ProLitteris, Zurich. Image courtesy of Villepin.
Zao Wou-Ki, ST aqua (2007-11) Gaudigny, 2007, watercolour on paper, 66 x 102 cm. Copyright Zao Wou-Ki. Image courtesy of Villepin.

 

“It’s more important than ever. Not only because art brings beauty, but because artists can bring us together and carry a message of tolerance; as we see in how many artists live among different cultures yet stay true to themselves,” said de Villepin, who has been living in Hong Kong for the past 10 years. A man whose own life reflects this belief of bridging cultures, de Villepin was born in the United States and spent part of his childhood in India before his family moved back to France. In Hong Kong, he pursued his love for art through projects under the Art de Vivre Group, which include the special collaborative collection of Pont des Arts wine featuring Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings on its labels. Villepin is also not the young entrepreneur and avid collector’s first art gallery, having opened YellowKorner and bringing the first Asia outpost of Carré d’artistes to Hong Kong.

It was also around this time that de Villepin made his first art acquisition—a work by Zao Wou-Ki of course. He proudly tells me how this first purchase, which was paid over five years and will be on view as part of the exhibition, continues to bring him joy and inspiration, and it’s this level of heartfelt experience with art that he wishes to bring to Villepin.

Villepin, thus, appears to be a natural progression for him, a venture that is the amalgamation of all his past experiences, brought together under a matured vision. As we talk over morning coffee, it becomes clear a passion for the bond and friendships with artists is a key driving force behind the vision of Villepin as a gallery “created by collectors for collectors.” De Villepin explains, “We are very excited. It’s been a project that we’ve been rambling on a lot about, so I think it comes at the right time; there could not be a better time despite the situations around us.”

As de Villepin shares some of his childhood moments meeting artists, his strong knowledge of European art history spills out and the passion in his eyes ignite. “I want to promote art and culture, and values that I’ve been raised with,” he said with a smile. “I want to build something different that was closer to who we were as a family and also something that is very human and has a soul.”

Occupying three storeys on Hollywood Road and nearly 3,000 square feet, de Villepin strives for the gallery to set itself apart from the usual white cube interiors, to bring in selected furniture and décor that, he believes, brings soul back into an exhibition space. Unlike the conventional length of a regular commercial gallery show—generally lasting four to six weeks—Villepin’s shows will be on view for up to six months, accompanied by salon-style talks and publications. “We really want to focus on the stories that we want to build and what we want to create. And from there, trying to build the collections of our collectors around these artists that we love.”

Speaking of the latter part of 2020, de Villepin shares that after headlining with Zao Wou-Ki, they plan for an exhibition revolving around an exploration and celebration of the second school of Paris, many of whom the de Villepin family personally knew. They have even begun planning into 2021, but the details he prefers to keep quiet about for now. Emphasizing the long-term approach—to the gallery, the exhibitions, its artists and its collectors—de Villepin notes that they are open to working beyond the secondary market but they are cautious to ensure they have first developed a genuine bond—like a marriage I quipped.

 

Arthur and Dominique de Villepin, 2020. Photo by Sophie Palmier. Image courtesy of Villepin.

 

“Putting the artist and the collectors at the core of our model, we are trying to bridge the gap between the two with an approach that is more from a place of passion and love for art and trying to share that on a long-term basis.” He said, “We want to know how they want to build their collection, the story they want to tell with their collection, what’s the theme around it, and getting them closer to what they want to build and closer to the artist.”

As we finished up our coffee, his father joins us and with firm belief in his voice, told me, “It’s not always about the market, art comes from passion,”—cementing all the values that had shone through from de Villepin during our conversation.

 

Villepin
53 Hollywood Road, Central

 

 


 

Denise Tsui is the Managing Editor for CoBo Social. A Hong Kong-born Aussie with an addiction to coffee, her research interests are primarily in the study of exhibition models and curatorial practices and art from the Southeast Asia Region. Previously she was an editor for ArtAsiaPacific and curator for a private collection of Australian and New Zealand art. A condensed version of her postgraduate curatorial thesis on contemporary Indonesian art was published in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies in 2015.

 

 

 
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