The voice of the collector is a series of interviews ran by Tiago de Abreu Pinto, assisted by Justine Gensse, sound edition by Alberto Rubi, music intro, Dew by Levision.
With Renato Casciani, Benoît Doche de Laquintane, Laurent Fiévet, Josée and Marc Gensollen, Olivier Gevart, Frédéric de Goldschmidt, Geanina and Tudor Grecu, Nathalie Guiot, Mauro de Iorio, Iordanis Kerenidis et Piergiorgio Pepe, Joseph Kouli, Sveva and Francesco Taurisano, Christophe Veys
Josée & Marc Gensollen
Objet : artorama 2020 questions
À : Veronique Collard Bovy, Josée Gensollen Cc : Justine Gensse, Jérôme Pantalacci
Dear Josée and Marc,
I hope you are well.
I would like to know what did influence you two to start the collection. Besides, let me know about your first acquisition and how was the process of building up a collection (mediums that you don’t fancy and preferences that you have developed and so on). I would love to understand what did you learn through the time. And, last but not least, how invisibility plays a role in your collection?
Tiago de Abreu Pinto
Rép. : artorama 2020 questions
À : Tiago
Cc : Justine Gensse, Jérôme Pantalacci, Véronique Collard Bovy
Influenced by our future profession as psychiatrists, our first purchases were oriented towards the Surrealist movement thanks to etchings and graphic art. Our first original artwork acquisition was a drawing by André Masson from the massacre series, dated 1934. A disappointment strongly convinced us to acquire artworks in the making.
Nobody deliberately decides to start a collection; curiosity, readings, visits in classic art and modern art museums generate interest. The desire to create a familiar artistic environment, associated with symptomatic predispositions do the rest. Still, the qualification of collectors is formulated by others who observe our interest.
No medium is excluded from the works ensemble we constituted. But numeric art is not our favorite form of art.
Through time, we learned that one must not rush or yield to a crush, researches and readings to get the right information about the artist are the best guarantees for an appropriate choice.
Our collection starts in 1967 with conceptual art. The precision of the contracts, the reflective content, the relevance of the idea which mattered for the elaboration of the work are essential to make relevant choices.
We value creation that tackles the human condition, its inscription in a universalist vision, and it naturally fits in our collection. The choice towards a piece is dictated by the accuracy of its association to the already composed ensemble in order to create sense or to reinforce it. The image that often comes to our minds is that to us, an artwork takes the value of a word. Artworks put together would constitute one and many sentences which once associated to each other, serve as a discourse on our vision of the world and the humans who live in it.
Performances, actions, invisible or ephemeral artworks, the ones that disappear and are not given to watch attract us and serve as vanities that we need to put things into perspective concerning the unreasonable values currently given to certain artworks.
Artists such as Lawrence Weiner who proposes only sentences or like Ian Wilson and Tino Sehgal who managed to dematerialize the artwork, strongly fascinate us. To us, as the mere provisory owner and transmitter to the future generations, we place the verb and the sentence carrying the idea, to a higher level than the one occupied by the image in an art world that is already soaked with it.
Marc et Josée Gensollen
Mauro de Iorio
- How did you start collecting?
After years of intense work, at a certain point I felt the need to bring something new into my life, so I started visiting contemporary art fairs and galleries. At first I was drawn to them by my curiosity, which increasingly grew into a thirst for knowledge and soon into a veritable passion.
- What was the first work you bought?
I don’t precisely recall my first purchase, but I do remember that at the first fair I visited, the Arte Fiera in Bologna, I was attracted by a work by Enzo Cucchi, Tramonto (2003-2004) (Sunset), which was rather challenging in terms of interpretation – a large yellow bird laid down in a hearse pulled by horses – as well as of size. At the time, I didn’t even know who Cucchi was and I didn’t purchase the piece. A few months ago I saw that same work on sale at the Bagnai gallery and it is now a part of my collection.
- Is there a medium (painting, photograph, video, etc) that you don’t buy?
I can say that over time I have purchased works in almost all available media, lately videos too. The only medium I have still to buy is performance, even though quite recently I bought a costume-sculpture by Anna Perach, Alkonost (2019) that is used for a performance. Another similar kind of work is DO YOU REALISE THERE IS A RAINBOW EVEN IF IT’S NIGHT!? (BLACK AND LIGHT BLUE) (2017) by Petrit Halilaj, that is a performance costume but can also be installed as a sculpture.
- How was your learning curve through the years? What did you learn that you can share with a collector who is starting?
Constant growth: even in the world of art you never stop learning. Apart from the more practical suggestions, I think the best advice for new collectors is to follow their own taste, to study the artists they like and to try resist the influence of the market and of trends. The collection that will give them the most satisfaction is the one that best represents their personality with all its complexities and contradictions. Their collecting will allow them to learn more about themselves.
- Which ideas organize your collection? Or better are there conceptual frameworks that you could organize the works of your collection under clusters?
The search for the sense of my collection and the identification of the genres it is composed of is a job that for some time now I have known I must address, considering that the collection now consists of 600 pieces. I perceived this need quite clearly during the lockdown, a period in which my mind abounded in thoughts and considerations about all aspects of my life. I can say that there are certainly several thematic cores that correspond to my psychological interests. Perhaps the most significant of these is the core of works that tackle the many aspects of the process of individuation of and search for one’s self. They are works that concern the dissociation of body and face and several other more symbolical anatomical parts (hands, feet, tongue). This group also includes works about gender identity. Another significant core is the one regarding death and death-related themes. Irony is a recurring theme in my collection too, alongside the minimization of myths, clichés, false respectability, the classical ideal of beauty: all slightly irreverent aspects of life that are part of the way I am and think. Finally, I have some transcendent, heartening pieces that provide a feeling of peace and invite me to contemplate and meditate, a kind of balm for my fears.
- What do you have in mind when buying an artwork?
I usually buy works I feel strongly attracted to, and I immediately try to understand what are the conscious and unconscious reasons for such an attraction: I kind of question my motives. Then I quickly study the author’s artistic career and I assess whether the work is coherent with his or her poetics. Finally, I place on the scales my emotions on the one side and the aspects of my rational analysis on the other, and I reach a decision.
- How the concept of invisibility plays a role in your collection? (I can explain more in case the concept is not clear, but it’s interesting to address each collector’s understanding of it as well. So feel free to answer the question as you may and if needed I can ask you more questions if it’s ok)
I must say that non-visibility is the most fascinating aspect of a work of art. I am referring to those elements that transcend its literal interpretation and that concern the thoughts and emotions evoked by the work and that depend mostly on the experience and on the internal conscious and unconscious images of the viewer. What fascinates me the most is that the emotions generated and the interpretation of the work change from one person to the next and can even differ completely from what the artist saw in his or her own work. The greater the difference between my interpretation and that of the others, the more this work becomes my own and places it into a sort of magic cavern, a psychological space in which I keep my favorite pieces. The emotions the works of my collection trigger in me vary significantly and the only thing that ties them together is the fact that they are the expression of the multiple archetypes I have inside me.
- Which artworks in your collection play with or activate this idea of invisibility? (So, the previous question is a moment to address the concept in general and this one is a moment to tackle it specifically with works)
All of the works in my collection activate this idea of invisibility in some way. Some, however, are especially active, such as De Lama Lamina: A Raiz Da Lamina (2004) by Matthew Barney, for example, that reminds me of a nightmare I had as a child when I had a fever, with a man floating in a black space, while for the artist it represents a figure similar to a Caliban, covered in earth and leaves, created for a carnival float in Salvador, Brazil.
Another example is a photograph taken by Mat Collishaw, Infectious Amarillis (2006), an especially beautiful Amaryllis flower the petals of which, however, bear excrescences that look like skin tumors. All is made even more dramatic by the dark background showing a sky at sunset with large stormy cloud formations. This to me represents the transience of beauty, the dramatic essence of illness and the imminence of death.
A piece that still affects me greatly even many years after buying it is You Ruin Everything (The Economy Of Zero’s) (2011) by Ryan Gander: a Degas-style ballerina has descended from the pedestal and is lying on her stomach, playing with two small cubes that symbolize modernism. To me she is a kind of domestic divinity, reminding me of a female figure who by playing with the dice decides the fate of people, a kind of tutelary deity of the home. Also quite significant is Orfeo (1988) by Giulio Paolini: two heads joined into a single statue and separated by only a few fragments of gypsum, generating a sort of two-faced Janus. This is an emblematic figure representing the fusion of two opposite principles: good and evil, day and night, yin and yang, two faces of the same medal. I love this work because it represents one of my most profound convictions, namely that the borderline between the two principles is hazy.