Benjamin Derouillon

Hello, Can you introduce yourself ?

Hi, I’m 37 and I’m a young gallerist. I come from finance. After a Financial management degree at Sorbonne University, I worked as a broker. I was selling stocks and introducing small societies to stock exchange. But i had this fantasy to live few  different professional lives. I thought it would be interesting to have few lives even if it seems difficult or impossible at first sight. Thus for the gallery, nothing is won yet. I liked finance but here it’s about passion and I hope it will last.


Why did you chose contemporary art ?

I’m always careful to not confuse money, finance, art and art market. As a broker, my job was to call big investors and tell them about small societies that they never heard about before and to convince on the phone in order to calling people out so that they would meet the business owner for a new project. I don’t feel like I’m doing the same job but the aim is still about trying to convince someone to come and discover an artist I support.

Then,  contemporary art,  for me it’s about moving with the times. Often, people criticizing contemporary art takes as a wrong exemple, masterpieces from Musée d’Orsay. But at their time, impressionist artists were insulted et very criticized. I would say that I was just curious and after few meetings, the idea of the gallery came out. I wanted to open my business and be independent.


The gallery opened in 2012, a time often considered as « difficult », what’s your opinion about this ?

Mostly in France, when new crisis come up, we notice that we were not in time of crisis anymore. So I don’t know, around me a lot of galleries are closing. However, today there is a market but also a lot of galleries, we could say that the market is getting extend.  But fortunately, the gallery is going on pretty well.

I started to work in finance when the internet bubble bursted. With the experience I came to understand that societies which last are mostly those who started their activity in time of crisis, in a way it’s in their DNA.  In theory building a project through hard times shows a DNA that can last longer. It’s  mostly bad habits while fast times that turns times of crisis into very hard times.


How do you chose artists that you defend?

I have to be taken with the artist. I’m not able to support an artist that I don’t like  200%. It’s so much energy but I love it,  to find out an artist, contact him, first talks, first exhibition projects, speak about the exhibition, advancement and installation time. For exemple with Annabelle Arlie, everything is going on well according to what we had in mind and it works out (as it could not work out at all) but that’s what is amazing about it.

Also, we do a lot of fairs around the world as exhibitors or visitors. I meet the artist to know if we share the same vision. There has to be an exchange and I have to be sure I want to support him or her.

How would you define your communication part with artists ?

There is a real exchange, we speak and debate a lot, also according to our own experiences. For exemple, Roman Moriceau, for his last exhibition at the gallery, I nearly let him do whatever he wanted to (according to possible means). After it depends, sometimes there are a lot of communication and talks to give a purpose to the project together.


What are the next projects for the gallery ?

I have a lot of projects, I’m dying to do new projects. I want a larger space to highlight my artists and their works but days are not that easy. Today it’s a privilege to pay an honest rent. So I’m in between taking a bigger space with a more substantial rent or to keep this one and take more risks with artists. For now it depends each day.

We also apply for some fairs, NADA in New York for exemple was successful for us and we would like to do it again. Selling work also a lot more over fairs but it’s still difficult to enter the system. Huge galleries in the business do a lot more than before.

Also we will be a part of Galeristes, a new project from Stéphane Corréard, beginning of december, it’s the first editions and it’s ruled by collectors.


What is your conception of the white cube ?

I think the space of the gallery here is a good example of what it can be. The good thing with the white cube is that, from one exhibition to another it always looks so different as, everything is always new. I’m more and more open minded to invest and bring a bigger scenography. Thus, I’m also in to do shows in another setting. I would say that my gallery as a white cube is slightly different as it’s open on the street.


What about the aim to have your artists recognized within time ? I know it mays seems obvious at first.

Yes, it’s a lasting commitment to represent artists. I don’t like trends that much. For  artists such as Roman Moriceau, Nils Guadagnin, Micky Clément or Annabelle Arlie I mostly curated their first show and it’s important.


Currently, what is your opinion about the art market ?

When you look at numbers, the biggest part of the market is in between the same hands . But for new artists, it’s different, not the same level. There are more people interested into art over the last ten years. I would say that the market tends to expand. For now, I don’t complain because we are a young gallery and I’m used to say that we started from nothing, so getting bigger is not that complicated for now.


What is the importance of internet in your way of working?

Internet tools are essential, mostly for our generation which knows all codes. Instagram for exemple, I use it everyday. But be careful, it’s a very useful tool for communication and image of the gallery, mostly around the world but it doesn’t create miracles and collectors don’t spend their time to look on Instagram.


Do you have any advice for young collectors ?

There has to be a real impulse and the collector has to trust himself. It’s not only about investing money in it, it’s about living with the work everyday. There has to be pleasure and also speak with the galerist in order to share something. To collect it’s also following one artist’s work, look at his career and work progression.


Do you have any advice for those who wants to open an art gallery ?

Do an internship in an art gallery, this would have save time for me, also to have a first view the system. But the thing is that, it’s not enough to have amazing artists and a space, you have to touch collectors feelings, it gets more and more difficult as they are asked all the time.


What does art means for you ?

Art is about living with your time. It’s a sophisticated way to question society.


Interview by Fiona Vilmer, writer specialized in contemporary art.

Photographs and text courtesy of the artists and the gallery.