Thierry Bigaignon is a 44-year-old Frenchman who’s embarking on an ambitious project: opening a gallery in Paris devoted to photography. In this day and age, with a sluggish market, opening a new gallery in Paris is a challenge. The location, the choice of programming, the artistic and marketing approach, and Thierry’s all other choices are going to determine the success of the project. We are going to accompany Thierry Bigaignon for the next eight weeks, until the opening of the gallery on June 10, 2016.
Could you introduce yourself, tell us a bit about your background?
Thierry Bigaignon: I am above all a photography lover who likes to share his passion with others. My background is no doubt rather particular; in any case, it’s not the background of your traditional gallery owner, if there even is such a thing! After studying political science and history in London, I enrolled a few years later at the ICP (International Center of Photography) in New York, where I had the opportunity to meet a number of photographers and study with such masters as Joel Meyerowitz an Harvey Stein.
Twelve years ago, I created a rather unique agency which aims to bridge the world of art, broadly construed (photography, contemporary art, cinema, music, theater…), and the corporate world. At the age of 44, it seemed to me like a good time to take a step further toward photography.
Could you tell us how this project originated? What made you want to start your own photography gallery in Paris?
TB: Convinced that this medium could bring real added value to many enterprises—small, medium-size, and large ones alike—for a few years now I have been developing a special offer in terms of in-situ exhibitions (Prodelia Art). Adopting a strong curatorial approach, I promoted the work of a number of talented artists (Maia Flore, Peter Funch, Cerise Doucède, Thomas Jork, Clark & Pougnaud…) and developed some beautiful exhibitions. The desire to go further in presenting and representing artists and the need to be in touch with the “real” art market and collectors were too strong to resist! All that was left for me to do was to secure financing for such a project and find a location.
Agathe Gaillard is going to be the patron of your first exhibition. How did you meet her and how did you convince her to sponsor your project?
TB: Indeed, it was an amazing stroke of luck! When you meet Agathe, you cannot but fall under her spell. Agathe Gaillard is much more than a visionary gallery owner; she’s a character straight out of a novel. From our very first encounter in her gallery, I immediately wanted us to do something together. Agathe is a unique personality in the world of photography: she has contributed immensely to the growth of this market, and so it seemed important, and even pressing, that she receive a little something in return. I tried to convince a number of figures in the world of politics and culture to join us in creating a major public exhibition devoted to French photographers, but I met with little interest. So I patiently waited until I could present her with another project. When the idea of a gallery took shape in my mind, I immediately thought of inviting her to help launch my first exhibition. When Agathe Gaillard accepted this modest “passing of the torch,” I felt very honored.
How do you see yourself vis-à-vis other Parisian galleries? How about internationally? What can you bring which is new?
TB: I am not trying to position myself with respect to other galleries. I know them well; I have seen them operate for years, and I have an enormous respect for them. I have never claimed I can do better. In all humility, I first need to learn; but above all I am simply going to try to do what I know best: that is, follow artistic creation, meet and support artists, and share their work with passion and enthusiasm. I am not setting any boundaries, I don’t want to limit myself to any particular style or label my gallery in any way. Others will do it for me! What I do know, however, is that I have always been internationally-minded in both my background and my tastes. And this will certainly determine my choices. In any case, I strongly believe in blending genres, in playing with codes, and subverting the established order. If it happens to be the direction I take, it would not be a coincidence!
Your gallery is opening in 8 weeks: what are your projects for the future?
TB: My main project is to bring the place to life. Although it is undoubtedly a commercial gallery, it is also a place for sharing, open to the outside. I am going to organize all kinds of gatherings, foster dialog between the artists and the public, invite outside curators, guide amateurs in making their selection, and, if possible, astonish collectors. If at the same time I manage to innovate a little, and I certainly am not short of ideas, that would be wonderful, but everything will come in its own time.
* Come back next week for another interview with Thierry. If you have any questions you’d like to ask him, don’t hesitate to share them with us via email — [email protected] — and we will include them in our next interview.
Upcoming – Galerie Thierry Bigaignon
Hotel de Retz – Bâtiment A
9 rue Charlot, 75003 Paris