Whitewall 47, Profile: Georges Bergès

FOUNDER OF GEORGES BERGÈS GALLERY
BY KATY DONOGHUE, PORTRAIT BY STEVE BENISTY

WHITEWALL: You opened a gallery in SoHo this year, a two-floor space aimed at giving emerging artists a wide following and a network of collectors confidence in the primary and secondary market. The New York location is the anchor to a number of international affiliate galleries. Can you tell me about your vision for a global gallery?

GEORGES BERGÈS: Before this I was an art dealer, and I was doing pop-ups all over the world. I got to travel and my overhead was almost nonexistent, and it was just me. I noticed what I liked and what I didn’t like. There are two issues with emerging artists: One is that if you buy something, how do you know it will be worth it? And “How can I resell it?” So I was thinking, “Well, then I have to make some type of secondary market for emerging artists. But how can I do it? It is only me.” I decided, “What if I go back to the galleries I used to work with and pitch them an idea of becoming an affiliate? What are the advantages for them?” Well, instantly they are connected to New York. If they have artists here, we can do shows anywhere, like in Shanghai or Beijing, now you are a gallery based in New York. Secondly, everyone else’s inventory around the world becomes your inventory. Now you can offer your collectors a reach into the art world that you couldn’t before. And also, everyone else is selling your inventory, so now you’re not just the one person.

WW: And how does this affect the collector?

GB: Every collector has a painting that they don’t know what to do with. They don’t know with an emerging artist if it’s worth whatever they paid. I created a program where, even after a year, if you don’t want it, you can bring it back and I put it in a network and resell it for you. Now if it’s one year later, you have a very high commission. But every year you hold it, the commission is a lot lower, so it’s a good idea to hold it longer. And in the process of doing that, the collector is confident; they have this guarantee that they won’t get stuck with a work. And then the artist gets more sales because I’ve created this infrastructure where more collectors create more confidence. And then this gallery is then able to take risks with artists they otherwise couldn’t have. My whole interest in doing this was for the emerging artists.

WW: Can you tell us about the inaugural exhibition at the gallery? How did the artists’ work on view reflect your mission?

GB: I brought in Liu Shuishi, who is based in Beijing, China, and then I have Michael Hafftka, who is from Brooklyn. I love his work. I thought their energies were very similar so it would be interesting to do an exhibition that really personifies what I’m trying to do. You have this Jewish kid from Brooklyn and this guy from Beijing, an avant-garde artist, working together in some way. The message I want to convey to the universe about the art world is how the world’s getting a lot smarter and smaller. Art is like a reflection of a human experience.  I have artists from Brazil, from Italy, and I like the idea that [my international roster] talks about the universality of art and the human experience as opposed to just Chinese art.