“We must urgently reconsider a long-term perspective to keep a lasting understanding of art”

Interview with French collector Romain Leclere

As a collector, Paris-based Romain Leclere is constantly seeking to support the current art market while at the same time taking a critical approach to it and the way the art ecosystem develops during uncertain times. His personal collection has come to serve as an instrument to sense the world around him in a particular strong way – it is in is own words as “an ongoing DJ set – a constant interplay between different rhythmic expressions.” Tune in on his thoughts on collecting in this interview.

Name:  Romain Leclere
Location:  Paris
Started collecting in year:  2004

What led you to start collecting art?
My interest in art collecting was sparked by a wish to decorate my walls with something else than an Ikea poster, something original that I could relate to on a more personal level. Also, I feel a pleasure of ownership and the possession of objects, which I experienced from an early age when I started collecting records.

Do you remember the first artwork you acquired ?
Yes. It is like a first record or a first kiss. I’ll keep the true story for myself…

When did you feel you became a “collector”? What does the word “collector” mean to you?
Quite quickly, too quickly. I guess I already got the feeling during the first art opening dinner I was invited to. For me, galleries are here to remind us about our position as collectors and in my eyes, being a collector simply means to buy artworks. Therefore, when you stop buying artworks, you are no longer a collector.

What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
To appropriate a piece of today’s cultural history and make it a part of my own history.

Are there any defining characteristics of your collection?
I like to see it as an ongoing DJ set – a constant interplay between different rhythmic expressions.

How do you feel about sharing your collection with a broader audience?
I don’t feel really good about sharing my collection, which I believe can cause an increased level of vanity and unhealthy self promotion. That being said, I’m fond of the possibility of sharing an interest for art and meaningful points of views with other people.

How do people react to your collection? Do you see it affect people in any specific ways?
More of my close friends do not understand my passion for art collecting, but see it as a guilty frivolity or simply consider me as a fool. I cannot tell whether the specific works affect them in any ways, but they clearly take a standpoint when it comes to the fact that I collect. I noticed that my wife, by being close to artworks in her daily life – works that she doesn’t even necessarily feel very strong towards – has developed a particular sensitivity, a capacity to sense the world around her in a very strong way. So, I have great hopes for my little boy.

Does it change anything in the way you collect and share art to be recognized as a collector?
In this world you are as quickly known as you are forgotten. Being a public face induces responsibility and requires you to be clear in your convictions about what you support or what you would like to support. For me, that means defending selected independent spaces and galleries which I consider really important due to their effort in supporting emerging art in Paris.

What is your relationship to the artists represented in your collection? Is it important for you to meet them?
For me, it is not a necessity to meet an artist. Meeting an individual and establishing a genuine relation – be it an artist or any other person – is a matter that must be treated carefully and has nothing to do with the ownership of an object: there may be expectations, misunderstandings and disappointments on both sides.

Do you support artists in any other ways than through the purchase of artworks? If so, how?
Yes. As previously mentioned, there is a kind of responsibility related to being an art collector – to speak, to write, to buy in galleries, to provide financial support for them to achieve their projects. Things must exist, artists need to live, exhibitions have to be done and spaces that put them on display have to continuously resist and stand up against economic pressure that constrains each part of this precarious ecosystem, which I happily support.

Many galleries experience a drop in visitors, among other things due to a boom in fairs and international events. Can you elaborate a bit on your relation to galleries? Are they as important to you as previously?
Galleries are still as important as ever despite the uncertainty most of them are dealing with these days. They help the artist by offering them support, so that they can focus on their creative unfolding.

What are your thoughts on the current art market and its development?
I constantly seek to take a critical look towards the art market which is a part of the overall economical sphere and society: short-term and in a constant state of flux. We must urgently reconsider a long-term perspective to keep a lasting understanding of art, and I am optimistic and want to believe that it will change. However, that implies that we need to be aware of our society and its economy in order to develop appropriate financial solutions.

What about the digital aspect of the art market with the rise of the online art market and social media as serious channels for exposure? Do you use them to collect, or share your collection, or both?
I think these are tools we have to deal with, just like every technological evolution. I, myself, use them sparingly, both by ignorance and choice, limiting myself to their informative and sharing aspects. These media are indeed favoring the importance of images, but now, with Instagram, Tumblr, etc., these images are always changing, which leads to a deep confusion between reality and the virtual world. As a result, we no longer see things as they really are. The artificiel intelligence may fill this gap one day and also, this is a lack of lucidity to forget the real world and the long-term perspective.

How do you see the current French art scene and more particularly the state of the Paris art scene?
I think that the French art scene has never stopped being interesting. The Paris art scene’s dynamism must be revitalized: galleries are closing, the public purse is empty and there is a high property pressure. Salaries do not grow as fast as rents costs and the reality is harder than we want to believe. However, it is great to see how some spaces actually manage to organize themselves without expecting help from the public institutions or some providential collector. The artists would probably create the conditions for their existence by getting their independence.

What about the future of your collection? Do you already consider how you would like it to develop?
It would be satisfying if I can keep expanding my collection. You never know what the future brings, but I am excited to see what this accumulation of objects and ideas will bring.

The interview has been conducted by Thibault Bissirier and is published as part of a collaboration between Paris Gallery Weekend and Artland.

More information
Paris Gallery Weekend takes place in the days between 26 – 27 May, 2018, all around the city of Paris.

Read more at parisgalleryweekend.com.

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