Interview to Marie Florence Gros and Cyril Delettre founder “La Galerie”
by Chiara Caratti, photo editor Yourpictureditor
Let’s start with numbers. Hong Kong Art Fair, the most important art fair of the city, opened in 2008 with 101 galleries and 20.000 visitors. In 2013, the fair changed its name to the most prestigious Art Basel Hong Kong and gained up to 242 galleries and 90.000 visitors in 2017. Numbers talk and show us how the Hong Kong art market has flourished so incredibly fast. Thanks to a strategic geographical position between East and West, wealthy inhabitants and no taxes for art buyers this wonderful sleepless metropolis became the Asian art-world capital.
Photography is growing with the city, conquering his own niche in this dynamic market. Swinging between finding its own identity and opening to new cultures, it is a very interesting place for photography amateurs and professionals.
YP met with Marie Florence Gros and Cyril Delettre, French founders of La Galerie, one of the very few galleries in Hong Kong completely devoted to photography. Opened in 2015, it is a landmark to discover emerging and well-known artists in Asian and Western high standard photography.
How did you become photo gallerist and why did you choose Hong Kong?
We are a photographer and a writer. Cyril is a photographer, has worked as a press and art photographer for years in France. Marie Florence is a lyricist, a novelist and writer for art projects. We share the same passion for photography and we became collectors.
When we arrived in Hong Kong a few years ago, there were just 2 or 3 photo galleries. Compared to New York or Paris which have hundreds dedicated entirely to Photography, it was a different atmosphere. We found ourselves in a very new world as here, photo culture is at the beginning. For example, Fan Ho, one the most important Chinese photographers, became famous just few years ago, as his work was almost unknown before. Wang Wusheng, an amazing Chinese artist we have shown, spent his life living in Japan but working all his life on the pictures he took in China. And here he is not so known either.
When you don’t have a long tradition it’s hard to have the skills to know what is a good quality picture, what it is worth to buy, and, more in general, what is art photography.
So, coming here, we were keen to showcase good Chinese photographers next to Western ones, to show to local people who are their own artists and contribute towards building a local photography culture.
How do you pick the photographers for your gallery?
We choose artists we like, that’s the first thing. And they have to tell a story through high quality pictures.
To take a picture can be very easy, but to tell a story that has your own style is different. We appreciate artists that you can recognize at first glance because their style, their quality and the story they are showing is powerful and unique.
We represent for example Vincent Fournier, a very talented French photographer, and Chou Ching-hui, a Taiwanese artist, one of the strongest we represent. His project “Animal Farm” has an effective concept realized with incredible quality. He spent five years planning every detail realized in nine pictures where there is no Photoshop at all. Technically and aesthetically speaking, everything is perfect.
How is the art market in Hong Kong? Would you suggest it to an emergent talent?
It is very difficult to say, especially for photography, because it is a very new area in the art market. But the very good thing is that price can be much lower for clients willing to buy. That’s why photography market is growing as it is considered a very good investment: for a reasonable price you can have something worthy.
What kind of collectors are your customers?
They are any kind, there are no rules. Foreigners are a very big part of our clients as Hong Kong is a very international city. They come from all over the world: Great Britain, US, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, France, Japan and so on.
There is not a specific identity of our customers. They can be collectors and buy more photographs or be someone who just buy a large format and no more.
As we said, photography can be convenient and definitely very approachable. When you don’t know modern art, you may be attracted by a painting but it could be very difficult to develop your own opinion and understand why it is good. But when you get in a photo gallery you look at things and you feel naturally more comfortable to say if you like it or not. This is the key and the approach we also have when a client asks us which photo is a good investment. “Buy what you like!” is our answer. We did the same as collector ourselves.
Why did you start a project in Instagram? What is the idea behind it?
Instagram is now a big opportunity to communicate and showcase new artists. Lots of photographers we know use Instagram to share their works, because it is a free place where there is nothing to lose.
We think about this contest as a free moment of pleasure for our followers, because we know that, generally, who loves photography loves to take picture. Photography is art, but has also become a significant part of our everyday life.
An artist who use iPhone instead of a camera, how likely is able to enter the art market and exhibit in a gallery?
Once a person we know told us: “You know, my husband can take very good pictures as he has a very good camera”. Unfortunately, a good camera it is not enough. The eye of the photographer, that’s the most important tool and that’s the foundation for a good picture.
For this reason, using iPhone instead of a professional camera is not a problem at all, if this kind of camera fits with your project of course.
What were your dreams when you were a child?
Our dreams were to write and become a photographer. Cyril is a filmmaker and press and art photographer, who participated in exhibitions in Paris. Marie Florence is now a writer and lyricist, working for French singers for twenty years. And she wrote a novel few years ago. Then… we feel quite lucky!
Photo credit: Chou Ching Hui. Courtesy of “La Galerie Paris 1839” Hong Kong