Ghislain Mollet-Viéville, “a very special agent” interview by Paul Ardenne for Galeries Magazine, Décembre 1992

22 Jan , 2015  

Art   -   Art Immatériel

His apartment on rue Beaubourg had served more as a meeting place than a business location. Ghislain Mollet-Viéville, art agent specializing in minimal and conceptual art, has recently moved to rue Crozatier, not far from the Bastille. He hasn’t changed his orientation though. For this atypical player of the art-market game, the gallery is a vestige and the material artwork an often superfluous object. Far more well-founded is the commerce of initiatives and ideas.

 

Paul Ardenne
You qualify yourself as an “agent d’art” That’s not exactly a time-worn denomination…

Ghislain Mollet-Vieville

Indeed I created the term “agent d’art” quite deliberately, in the late 1970s. For me, the main thing was to signal a specific attitude, more artistic than commercial. Agent d’art, and not artists’ agent. More than one nuance is at work there. I wanted the chance to intervene myself.

PA
So your spin on the art system was straight away that of an operator, not an economic representative ?

GMV
Yes. An operator, an actor, someone who most definitely intends to dynamise the state of art.

PA
In what way ?

GMV
In 1975, at 26 rue Beaubourg, I hung a show of minimal and conceptual art. That constituted the first event in a long series, which included, for example, an action by Andre Cadere around the idea “Establish Disorder” – which, as a matter of fact, and not illogically, ended up as a huge tussle set off by the arrival of a crowd of rockers in the apartment. A museum would obviously have had some difficulty organizing this type of action, simultaneously presenting the most advanced thinking on a given problem and its immediate abyssal reflection, in real time… In 1979 my apartment was the focal point of Philippe Thomas’s first interventions, and in 1981 the presentation of a found, unsigned manuscript launched an investigation of the text’s relationship to its author – the first event in a fiction that is well known today

PA
So your apartment is above all a stage ?

GMV
The appartment is only one of the means at my disposal. Many actions take place outside, in the city. It’s a way for me to keep my activity from freezing in a single spot, and to keep open the possibility of occupying different spaces, different contexts… What’s more, since the beginning my “gallery” has only open by rendez-vous. This exchange-oriented formula allows for much more comfortable relations, it strikes up a balanced rapport between the artist, the art-lover, and the agent d’art himself, who then can play his full role as provider of services.

PA
Your active position results from a radical refusal of the conventions that apply to the gallerist. There’s an analogy with the challenge posed to the museum institution by the conceptual artists whom you represent…

GMV
I thought at the time, and still think, that the designated cultural sites cannot take on art in its real dimensions. In such places, the public does not learn to look at works for what they are. The presentation of the works is tributary to the classical contraints of exhibition, which turn around to entrap the works themselves. In fact, the cultural site encloses the artist with its rules. The ultimate consequences is the public’s near inability to understand those artists who, precisely, have chosen to provoke original situations in response to the traditionnal propositions of exhibition or acquisition. This is why I myself judged it necessary to rethink these confrontations, notably by changing the conventions that ordinarily serve as a basis for the concept of the art gallery.

PA
Do you deny all legitimacy to the traditional gallery ?

GMV
Let us say that my work complements the gallery’s. Thus I’m also free to present the ideas of artists who are themselves represented by galleries, when these ideas are not adaptable to the ordinary gallery strctures.

PA
I quite agree that your activity diverges from the norm. In the end, though, doesn’t such activity come right back to the market ? After all, the art market remains your territory, even if you live off honoraria…

GMV
I can define my activities, not so much by the presentation of such and such an artist, but rather by the key words of information and distribution of art. My field of activity involves everything relating to the management of archives or articles, to the lectures and interviews I give, to the expertise I supply, to the public sales or exhibitions I organize here and there – in short, the activity of communication as well as presence on the market. It’s less important for me – I insist – to participate in the market of the art object than to reveal the degree to which this market in itself is an art object. If the market interests me, it’s to the extent that it participates in artistic activity.

PA
That’s the famous reversal of codes proper to late capitalism : art validated by economics rather than by its aesthetic value. The artwork remains nonetheless a material object…

GMV
A Mondrian painting or a Brancusi sculpture are objects, you pay for them, you have them in your home. Other twentieth-century artists have occupied a more opportune, more analytic position, now on the point of generating an audience somewhat less eager for objects than for critical ideas. We’re evolving from the aesthetic of the art object toward the aesthetic of the concept. If I became an agent d’art, it’s because I’m convinced that the promotion and distribution of art is an artistic activity constituting both the content and the “meta-form” of an art that is itself no longer productive of forms. On the artistic level there is no fundamental reason to return to the object. My collection, for example, takes the form of my library and my computer disk, every bit as much as the note-cards, the indexes, the projects by artists and others.

PA
So you sell ideas ?

GMV
I sell ideas. I also hold that art lovers no longer have to be “collection potatoes”. They can act on their own initiative to realize a wall drawing by Sol LeWitt, or to take charge of Claude Rutault’s “definitions/methodes”… The collector can feel a legitimate right to make art, to participate in an artistic gesture. It’s then up to me then to arrange the occasions, to play my role as intermediary.

PA
In the end you deal in action, not just in contemplation. But by selling the abstract for the concrete, you sacrfice the fetish…

GMV
People have been preaching the abandonment of illusionism in art since Cezanne. After Duchamp, the art object left the realm of the decorative, moving into fields of reference. With the aesthetic of the art object as such now obsolete, it is possible to adopt an aesthetic of reality, an aesthetic which takes the world for what it is. Consider my action at Picard frozen foods, with the presentation of Lawrence Weiner’s statement : IN AND OUT… I present an ordinary business as an ordinary business. Nothing was modified for this event, all the store’s products remain in their real places. The very presentation of the announced Weiner piece consists only in the comings (IN) and goings (OUT) of people doing their shopping, or of visitors to the opening, searching – fruitlessly – for the tangible product that the art market generally offers them. Here, I’ve presented art in the form which I think is truly its own – that of the concept – by asking this question : when is there art and how can it be made ? We slip from the aesthetic of the concept to the aesthetic of the context. An artistic process is inscribed in a larger reality, on which it depends. Now, if I had to define in a single phrase what I find interesting in my relation to art, it would be exactly that : the revelation of the context , as a way to throw our current art system into question.

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