Class of 1954, Guy Pieters has been protagonist of the artistic scene for more than thirty years. Supported by his wife Linda even in his work, he has always shown an entrepreneurial ability and an uncommon sense for promoting and collecting artists of depth, one of many being Marcel Duchamp. Originally from the small Flemish village Sint-Martens-Latem, Guy Pieters was introduced to the world of art at the age of sixteen by the Latem impressionist Leon De Smet (1881–1966). Today he manages four galleries in Belgium and France and in his long career has organized exhibitions for internationally known artists such as Arman, César, Yves Klein, Robert Indiana, Robert Rauschenberg and many others.
How has the search for new artists and the relationship with them changed in the course of your long career?
When I started, supported by Arman, the relationship with the artists was like a friendship, all based on the common passion for art, in which we shared many moments of life and especially free time, lunches and dinners, so much that the time dedicated to “real” business was reduced to only five minutes. Today the relationship with artists is built in their studies and laboratories and we assist them in their commercial strategies. It’s surely different and in a certain sense even easier, because there’s the figure of the assistant that filters the relationship with the artist, and because thanks to the internet communication and information have become much more immediate and simple. Another difference consists in the production of artworks, much faster now compared to before. Just think, for example, about Christò and Jeanne Claude’s project ‘Over the River’, planned for the Arkansas river in Colorado and started back in ’92 or The Mastaba of Abu Dahbi’ in the United Arab Emirates, planned way back in 1977: they’ve both had a concrete development just last year. And this is because the artists today are better supported and can establish important and profitable relationships with key people that can help them in their projects.
You’ve had the fortune of knowing Marcel Broodthaers, poet and artist of conceptual surrealism of Belgian origin. How and why did you get close to his art?
My knowledge of and my interest for Marcel Broodthaers are born from the passion for Magritte and Marcel Duchamp. In particular the latter has had a fundamental role in understanding Broodthaers for me. His first activity was tied to poetry, but after twenty years spent in complete poverty, in 1964 he announced his death as a poet and his rebirth as an artist and started producing assemblages. My first encounter with Broodthaers dates back to ’67. In that period he had started making short films and documentaries. From that moment I started collecting him privately. It was a personal passion, not a commercial one.
In a period of economic difficulty for the art sector and art galleries, you’ve been able to manage four galleries. What’s your secret?
You can find the crisis in the streets, but not really in my sector. Collectors, galleries and museums continue to contact me and this means that I don’t feel the crisis.
You’ve always been an important protagonist in all the most relevant art Fairs. Do you think fairs are a real support for galleries and art commerce or do you consider them to be more of a threat?
In reality I’ve decided to not participate in art fairs anymore. For different reasons, starting from the fact that fairs are almost exclusively all commercial and, to tell you the truth, I can’t stand competing with other galleries that belong to my colleagues. And then, except for Frieze and Art Basel that have an intrinsic international air, all the other fairs have all fallen into an unsustainable regionalism. Now there’s the internet to give support to art and everything around it, so I’ll stay in St Paul de Vence, my operative and organizational center, and from there I’ll calmly continue developing the international character of my galleries as well as single professional contacts.
Do you have any young artists of talent on the launch pad?
In June I completed Koen Vanmechelen’s installation. This conceptual Belgian artist of great inventive has always concentrated on genetic diversity, on reproduction and the raising of chicken hybrids. In my gallery in St Paul de Vence his ‘Protected Paradise’ will be visible. In this installation made of a huge cage the artist has put in four interesting protagonists, nourished daily with chicks: a predator (a hybrid of turkey and vulture), reproductions of eggs suspended in a net (the embryo), photographs of chickens and the palm of a hand with the idea of birth (a chick). It’s a way for the artist to reflect on the ability of mankind to save itself from suffering. It’s a work that talks about human evolution and the violence and strength that have marked it.