Daniel Templon, founder of Galerie Templon, is a French contemporary art dealer who founded his gallery in 1966—when he was just 21 years old. In the years to come, Templon established himself as a trailblazer in contemporary arts by introducing many significant artists to France. We heard from Templon about the impact of Art Basel, how the contemporary art market has evolutionized, and much more.
How has attending art shows, such as Art Basel, extended the visibility of the artists that you showcase?
The gallery has been exhibiting with Art Basel every single year since 1978. Fairs have multiplied. Art Basel has imposed itself as one of the most selective, and thus attractive, art fairs in the world and has de facto become one the best international windows for our artists. This said, however, art fairs are not exhibitions, and the best way to learn and promote an artist is still through individual, in-depth solo exhibitions, either in a gallery or in a museum.
Do you find that the contemporary art market is more active in Europe or America?
One of the clichés is to assume that the pace in the American art market is faster. The truth is that the market has become so globalized that it is difficult to make such assumptions today. We have very active buyers from Asia or the Middle East. They are not afraid to travel to Paris, Los Angeles or Hong Kong to make art acquisitions.
Galerie Templon has been participating in Art Basel for the past forty years, have you noticed any change of interest in contemporary art over this time period?
At the time, the art market did not exist like we know it today. It was more confidential. The number of collectors, but also art centers, art critics, artists has exploded since then. It used to be small milieu of amateurs and art lovers, now it has become a global industry with a multiplicity of players. There is a strong interest in contemporary art in the entire culture at large.
You’ve previously cited Georges Mathieu as an influential figure in your life. In an interview conducted by André Parinaud in La Galerie des Arts, Matthieu stated: Artists should play three roles in society to allow them to bring forth a “New Renaissance”—That of creation of forms, creation of style, and the assumption of moral responsibility.
Do you agree with his view and does this perspective of an artist’s societal obligation hold true today?
When Mathieu speaks about “moral responsibility”, he means it as a philosophical stand point, like Rousseau or Kant. Of course everyone should lead their lives with a certain sense of “moral responsibility”. The notion of “societal obligation” is different. It has to do with politics, in the most noble sense of the term. I don’t think all artists need to be politically active but it can be a dimension of their practice. It can be quite subtle. My young artist Prune Nourry has made several projects in China questioning the gender selection that took place because of the one-child policy. It’s very specific yet her work goes beyond the political, it also has to do with beauty, craftsmanship, autobiography. Great artists are completely free and are above any kind of predefined role. Their “societal obligation” is to have no obligation.
In 2019, when demand and competition are seemingly increasing, do you find that the global scale of the industry has changed from when you first opened your gallery in 1966?
Yes. We have seen the rise of international mega-galleries, the domination of auction houses and the importance of art fairs. But the art world is no different from other sectors of culture of the economy. Think how much the finance industry or the electronics industry have changed since 1966! We all live in a different world.
Have there been any influential mentors in your life that shaped your experience as an art dealer?
My mentor was Leo Castelli, the legendary art dealer in NY. I first met him in 1972 because I wanted to exhibit one of his artists: Donald Judd. He was 65. I was 27. I think he liked my youthful energy. He had had a gallery in Paris in 1939 right before the war broke out. He spoke fluently French and we got along right away. We remained close friends until his death in 1999. He helped show many American artists in Paris, such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, among others. He was always very supportive and never spoke about business.
Galerie Templon was the first to introduce notable American artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Richard Serra, among several others to France. Currently, how does the gallery promote a dialogue between established artists and ones who’ve just started their career?
This is one of challenges of the program and at the same time I believe it is one of the most meaningful mission of the gallery. When you have a 53 year history, I believe it is important for our audience to have a sense of this historical depth. We try to balance historical shows – Anthony Caro, Robert Motherwell, Jim Dine, George Segal – with more experimental and prospective shows – Omar Ba, Kehinde Wiley, Jonathan Meese, and Jitish Kallat among others. Contemporary art is very fast paced now, with a very short memory span. I believe my gallery has the capacity, expertise and mission to draw connections between different generations of artists. My oldest living artists is Philip Pearlstein, who is 95. I showed him last May in one of our spaces. In the other space, we showed a new series by 44 year old Kehinde Wiley. They are both Americans, based in NY. They are both concerned with the questions of figurative paintings and portraiture, and yet, their works are so radically different. I think it was an interesting experience for our visitors to confront both shows.
What kind of impact does exhibiting artists at Art Basel have on the activity at Galerie Templon?
Fairs are essential to our turnover in terms of sales and to increase their visibility as an opportunity to introduce our artists to new collectors and buyers. But quite frankly, promoting an artist takes more than a show at an art fair. Artists need to produce strong gallery shows first. This is their best promotion.
As someone with incredible artistic taste, what is your recommendation for someone who is looking to incorporate more artwork into their home?
Look, look, look. Visit as many museums and galleries as possible, nothing replaces the education of the eye. Do not purchase a work immediately, take your time to look for artists that fit your taste and build on a collection that shows a certain cohesion.
What can visitors expect from the exciting exhibitions that your gallery is presenting at Miami Beach?
This year we decided to look at a timeless theme, body and figuration, through the eyes of three generations of artists: the oldest one with Americans Philip Pearlstein, George Segal and Jim Dine; a mid-career one with works by Francesco Clemente; and a newest wave of young artists with Kehinde Wiley and Omar Ba. We’re particularly excited to show Omar Ba, a young African painter from Senegal. He lives between Dakar and Geneva and creates elaborate paintings exploring the current political situation in Africa. I am always looking for the next generations of “great” painters. I believe he is an artist to watch!