A TALK WITH ANTOINE LEVI AND NERINA CIACCIA
Photography by Thomas Chéné
Images: Solo exhibition ‘Heirloom’ by Louis Fratino
Antoine Levi and Nerina Ciaccia are a young and brave couple of gallerists, owners of the Belville (Paris) based Galerie Antoine Levi. Launched in 2013 with an Olve Sande’s exhibition, the gallery aims to approach contemporary art in a whole new, fresh light. During our encounter, we spoke about the expectations and challenges of their project, the meaning of being gallerists and collectors nowadays and the relationship with their artists.
You surely invested a lot of time and resources to create the Galerie Antoine Levi. Which is its history? How did this project begin?
The gallery has been created together with Nerina in January 2013. We both had a solid background of experiences in the art field, at some point the seductive idea to do something of our own became an intuition, and from an intuition to a philosophical necessity of expressing ourselves and illustrate our visions and proposals of the aesthetics excellence. In the end, the history of the gallery is that of any bet, of any personal challenge, that turns out to be the defiance not only of two people but of a whole family, composed with and thanks to the artists.
January 25th 2013 is a date we cherish and constantly think about: the opening of Norwegian masterful artist Olve Sande’s first show, that inaugurated our project. We wanted to create something home-cooked—we had anyway no choice because of the tight budget, but Olve wanted to pay tribute to the American modernist painting history with the cheap remains from the renovation. It has been our credo, our love manifesto, the envision of the contemporaneity foreseeing aesthetic eternity. There is no nostalgia, merely intellectual needs.
What does being young gallerists trying to spread a brand-new artistic perception involve?
It goes along and together with the artists. The stakes are the same for both of us: we work without any safety, we all have our moral, our savoir-faire, our mutual expectations; so the ‘cuisine’ is a complex dosage of the constant dialogue between the gallery and the artists. Which are the possibilities and how can the gallery help them in their full expression? The artists’ feelings are the same towards us: being young and growing old with them.
You experienced working in the art field both in France and Italy. Which differences did you notice when it comes to approaching contemporary art?
Probably Nerina and I have unconsciously cultivated a taste that is oriented to any international audience, but the “italianity” of the gallery can leak out from of our program.
Speaking of differences between two cultures isn’t very pertinent to our eyes. For instance, we are not representing any French artist so far and this is not a choice but the coincidence of what we are attracted to. France and Italy have very different approaches to art, but in the end there is only one language that covers everything, that erases every boundaries, and this is quality.
How do you choose to work with a particular artist and what kind of relationship is created through the collaboration?
The decision always demands a long time of study, of hesitation, of self conviction. Before asking an artist to “marry” us, we study how she or he can fit in the gallery’s program and think about what innovations it could bring. The artists are free to compose and to embody their ideas. Once we decided to work with an artist, the affinities become automatic. The relationship stands therefore on a mutual trust.
Do you think that nowadays the collector personality is somehow changing?
The job has changed for sure, so have the collectors. Some see the art world as a big iPad and flip the pages quickly, some do not like to come to galleries, some do not even go to art fairs. Perhaps there isn’t a real model today. Acquiring an artwork is a gesture of love, from any kind of collector, from any personality.
Are you familiar with Mutina? What is your perception of the company?
Absolutely yes, we know the brand since a long time and we appreciate it very much. Surely the research focused on contemporary art has consolidated its visibility. We like the fact that Mutina engages with various collaborations, we feel close to this idea of reuniting different people from different latitudes to build an imagery, and to constantly propose new ideas, new shapes, new ways of seeing.
Working with several multifaceted emerging artists must be incredibly inspiring. Among those you collaborated with, is there someone you’d suggest to create a collection with Mutina?
I would say Zoe Williams, for the encyclopedic aspect of her work, the elegance and the seduction in her practice, her straight efforts with British craftsmen to create unique artworks. Maybe Piotr Makowski too, because of his thorough research on abstraction and his skills to work with geometry, to adapt his work according to an architectural vision.
Which is your favorite Mutina collection? Why?
I like the Mews collection very much, it carries a modern feeling playing with geometry, but in a warm and comfortable appearance. It also has the capacity of creating monochromatic tones, which makes it very peaceful and meditative.
Antoine, you specialized in Medieval Art at university. Is there an artwork of that era that you’d like to own?
The ‘Narbonne Altarcloth’ from the Louvre collection. This piece of late medieval epoch plays a double trick on me: it’s ambivalent, made in a monochrome tone but capable of depicting emotions—the idea of sacrifice, the devotion despite the bestiality… trying not to go towards too much modernity, keeping the codes of the northern influences on southern traditions. Making it a universal Syllabus. Artistically, it is an exquisite entanglement of many pictures in one tableau, where everything is clearly visible.
Nerina, how did your passion for contemporary art develop? What is the artwork you have always desired to own?
Thanks to my family, art has always been part of my life. Launching an itinerary of studies tied with it and especially in contemporary art was obvious for me. There are several artworks I would like to acquire. A foot by Luciano Fabro and vintage photographs by Berenice Abbot would certainly make me happy.