Q&A with Marie-Florence Gros of La Galerie Paris 1389

By Lau  /  March 11, 2016

Marie-Florence Gros is the founder and director of La Galerie Paris 1389, a fine-art gallery dedicated to photography and prints  from Europe and Asia, situated on Hollywood Road. Prior to launching La Galerie with French Photographer, Cyril Delettre, Marie was a writer for over 20 years in Paris.

We caught up with Gros to learn more about the Hong Kong photography scene, emerging photographers and tips on understanding the value of art photography. 

Chou Ching Hui_Animal Farm_butterboomAnimal Farm by Chou Ching Hui , 2015

Where are you from and how long have you been in Hong Kong?
I am French and have been living in Paris for last twenty years as a writer. I came to Hong Kong in September 2014 and opened La Galerie in December 2014, with French photographer, Cyril Delettre. 

What is a typical working day like for you?
There is no typical day! Every day is different, from searching for artists, choosing the artworks, writing the PR, framing, set up the exhibitions, talking with customers, organizing administrative processes. Cyril and I share the workload of running the gallery. Both of us have also have our own artistic activities and we work as art consultant and curator for other projects- which is very interesting and opens the fields to other artists and thoughts.

When did fine-art photography start and what is the nature of it today?
Ancient photography (until 1930) is a specific market and artists have worked with photography for a long time, like Man Ray. Photography has been mostly the domain of press photographers during many decades, and gave several generations of very famous press photographers, like Cartier-Bresson, René Burry, Edouard Boubat, Sebastião Salgado. In the 1990s, colour print processes changed, and then it was possible to do larger images. Then, we’ve seen the digital revolution. It has opened new technical possibilities. Then, artists began to number their editions.

The photography department in Moma opened in 1940, but the photo collection market has exploded in the end of the 20th century. Nowadays, it gets more and more important in the art market, and we can see art photography as a major media in all western art fairs.

W49 001Celestial Realm – Mt. Huangshan by Wang Wusheng, 1984.

Who are the famous photographers that are commanding the top end of the market?
Highest auctions have reached USD$6.5m for Peter Lik’s Phantom and USD$ 4.3 for Andréa Gursky Rhein II. Photography masters like Gustave le Gray, who was one of the pioneers of  photography art – reached EU€917,000 for his photograph, Bateaux quittant le port du Havre, but it doesn’t reflect the reality of the market.

Some of the other top photography masters you should know are Peter Beard, Irving Penn, David Lachapelle, Richard Avedon, Henry Cartier-Bresson, Sebastiao Salgado, Henry Lartigue, William Eggleston, Andeas Gurky, Thomas Struth, Helmut Newton, Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki.

Describe the state of Hong Kong’s fine-art photography market.
Hong Kong is still discovering the photography medium. There are few collectors; some of them are mostly interested in Chinese artists or Chinese artworks from Western artists. Apart from specific collectors, people do not know much about the value of a photography, so it must be in very limited edition (‘limited edition’ does not mean anything if it is more than 30 pieces) and signed by the artist.

The former generation of press photographers did not number their editions, but each print is developed in dark rooms so it’s a unique workshop piece. The younger generation are beginning to limit their prints to 12-15 pieces, but they should definitely keep their prints to less that 30 in order to keep the value.

Vincent Fournier_Ariane_butterboomAriane by Vincent Fournier, 2007

As China rises in economic power, more people are looking with great interest at Chinese artist, including photography. Who are the top photographers commanding the top end of prices from China?
Chinese photography begun with contemporary art photos so there is no border with contemporary art. I would suggest to look at the works of Liu Bolin, Yang Yongliang, Zhang Kechun, Wang Qingsong, Ren Hang, Xiao Zhang, Chou Ching Hui and Wang Wusheng.

Name some of the artists that you have exhibited at La Galerie and how you selected them?
We like to mix Western and Chinese cultures with young and recognised artists. We’ve shown Western artists, like Vincent Fournier, Denis Darzacq; Chinese artists, like Zang Kechung, Huang Jin; and Hong Kongese artists, like Almond Chu. 

We also have a collection of vintage photos and select them according to our tastes. We see hundreds of artists’ works and Cyril spends nights looking for new artists. We look at photographers who have a unique eye: either they have a sense of composition, a structure, an unusual point of view, a sense of aesthetics or an emotion. These are our criterias to select images.

How are photographic works priced?
Like any artwork, it’s according to exhibitions, prizes, sizes and number of editions. It is quite common that the first numbers in edition are less expensive than the last numbers. Usually the last ones available are more expensive and then it enters the seconds market.

What is the most important fair in the world for photography art?
Paris Photo and Rencontres d’Arles are some of the major festivals, which are based in France. I am afraid I am a little bias, being French, but France has always been a major spot for photography, as photography was invented in 1839 in France and the government brought it to the world.

Top five websites for photography?

  • L’Oeil de la Photographie– French’s most authoritative site on photography since the 1920s
  • Lens Nytimes– one of the most influential photography column in the New York Times
  • LFI– Leica’s in-house magazine that features the best of Leica photographers
  • Aperture– New York’s leading photo community dedicated to fine art photography 
  • VOP Magazine– Taiwan based indie publication dedicated to contemporary photography

Top galleries to visit in Hong Kong and Paris to see photographic art?
In Hong Kong:

  • F11–  a photography musuem dedicated to press photographers Douglas So’s work
    11 Yuk Sau Street, Happy Valley, Hong Kong. Tel: 6516 1122

In Paris:

  • Maison Européenne de la Photographie– one of the best photography gallery of emerging photographers as well as historical photographs
    5/7, rue de Fourcy, 75004 Paris, France. Tel: (+33) 1 44 78 75 00
  • LE BAL– a contemporary art centre focusing on documentary photography and cinema curated by Diane Dufour, previous Director at Magnum Photos
    6, Impasse de la Défense, 75018 Paris, France. Tel: (+33) 1 44 70 75 50
  • Polka Galerie– one of the leading photography galleries since 2007
    12, rue Saint-Gilles, 75003 Paris, France. Tel (+33) 1 76 21 41 30

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