Artist Interview: Art Republik shines the spotlight on Art Porters’ Guillaume Lévy Lambert
Art Republik takes a Skype call with Guillaume Lévy Lambert to find out more about Art Porters and how he juggles the many roles in the art industry
“Maybe a painting can save a life. One changed mine.” – this is the tagline of the MaGMA collection belonging to collector, gallerist and artist Guillaume Lévy Lambert and his partner, Mark Goh. The collection was exhibited at Opera Gallery in 2010 in ‘Fairy Tales: Selections from the MaGMA Collection’ and at Sotheby’s Paris in 2014 in ‘The Calendar Story – Collection MaGMA à Paris’. In 2014, Lévy Lambert founded the gallery Art Porters. Most recently, he revealed his first artwork as an artist, ‘Evidence’, at the Art World Forum, held in Singapore in October 2016. The work is currently on show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) in San Francisco as part of the Yud Video Project, which called for submissions that explored how memory is portrayed using video as art form.
Commenting on the selection of ‘Evidence’ for the exhibition out of 700 entries, CJM Assistant Curator Pierre-François Galpin says, “‘Evidence’ immediately struck us for the powerful story it tells and the multiple human connections and memories it generated. Using recordings of Skype calls in the work speaks to the genuine potential of global networks; and the work’s originality and humour convinced us to include it in the final selections of 25 works.”
The artwork is based on ‘Desk Calendar’, a painting by Roy Lichtenstein made in 1962. It was a work that Lévy Lambert and Goh encountered shortly after they’d met, and which sealed their fate, so to speak, as it included both their birthdays. The painting comes with the invitation, “call 212-288-4820”, and the number belonged to Leo Castelli, then Lichtenstein’s gallerist. Lévy Lambert acquired the number in 2011.
Often, people who came in contact with the painting, whether at its home at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles or in travelling exhibitions, would call the number out of curiosity. Lévy Lambert would answer, and explain the fortuitous events that had transpired since his encounter with the painting. ‘Evidence’ is a video work of five minutes condensed from over 30 hours of Skype and FaceTime conversations he has had with these callers.
Art Republik talks to Lévy Lambert to find out more about his artwork, the different hats he dons in his multifaceted relationship with art, and his future plans.
How did you decide which calls to include in the video work?
I looked for a diversity of callers and their reactions to the astonishing series of events that we call ‘The Calendar Story’. There was also an effort to manage the rhythm and construction of the whole piece.
What other challenges did you meet with in making the work?
Well we had many late nights and very early mornings as most of the callers were in the USA and we worked from Singapore. The editing was a Herculean task particularly for the video editor, the Israeli artist Romy Engel, who was looking to reconstruct a seamless telling of my story, repeated dozens of times over a few weeks.
What has the journey been like transitioning from collector to gallery owner to artist?
I bought my first artwork when I was 20. The decision to become ‘serious’ collectors was a natural one for my life partner Mark and I as we looked for a way to leave a trace of our story, and to express our gratitude to the world of art for the most romantic incident ever — our serendipitous encounter with ‘Desk Calendar’ just a few weeks after we’d met.
Art Porters the gallery with its mission of “sharing happiness with art” is born of the same desire of letting others experience the power of art to transform lives for the better. Our focus on accessible art is borne out of responding to many a friend’s request for assistance in starting to collect. Coming out as an artist was a longer process.
And what is it like being all three at once?
Now being all three at the same time feels natural. We avoid conflicts by not collecting actively the artists we represent, and Art Porters is not representing me. I have learnt a lot from the artists we work with. Laure Hatchuel-Becker, who will be with us at Art Stage this year also, had insisted that I must get my art process kick-started, leading to the creation of ‘Evidence’. And our sculptor friend Arnaud Nazare-Aga who brought his ‘Little Prince’ concept to life in a matter of months is a role model.
Could you describe how you felt as an artist at the opening of The Yud Video Project at the CJM?
On arrival at the CJM, I was given a name tag stating ‘artist’. I was delighted, and also in awe when I discovered the building’s architecture, including the room where the video is shown, designed by Daniel Libeskind.
What have been the reactions to your artwork?
The impact of the project is deep. One of the callers asked me to connect her with the other participants; this is how the ‘Evidence (of Divine Providence)’ Facebook page was born. Another caller travelled from the UK for a day just to have lunch with me in Paris. Three others flew from Texas to meet me in San Francisco. I have also received heart-warming reactions from both friends and visitors to the exhibition.
What’s next for Guillaume, the artist?
Art Porters has been very active in the past three years though it has not had a permanent space. What’s in store for the gallery in 2017?
For the past three years we were very happy to participate in various art fairs including Art Stage in Singapore and Jakarta as well as the Affordable Art Fair in Singapore. We also organised specific art projects such as Svetlana Petrova at The Fullerton Hotel. Clients and artists kept asking us about more regular exhibitions and a permanent space. An opportunity arose in a beautiful conserved Peranakan house on Spottiswoode Park Road, Singapore, and together with Sean Soh, Art Porters’ co-Founder, we decided to take this opportunity.
We have invested in a major renovation conceived by Wynk Collaborative as we want a space that is not just a white box but where visitors will feel the unique characteristics of the Peranakan shophouse. The gallery is divided in two spaces. We are opening the front gallery space with a solo exhibition ‘Is this fate?’ by one of our emerging Indonesian artists – Naufal Abshar, and the other room will be an art and event space. We are also plotting a few surprises for the remainder of the year.
This article was first published in Art Republik.