The Rue des Beaux Arts in the 6th arrondissement of Paris is a haven of peace, tucked away in a quiet courtyard. It was there that Loft Gallery was founded in 1985, over 30 years ago.
During an interview with its director, Jean-François Roudillon, we were able to get a glimpse behind the scenes and learn the key steps to the success for this gallery, which has been supported by Artsper since 2013 and is well in tune with the times.
How has this Parisian gallery overcome challenges to become a major player in the contemporary art market?
Jean-François Roudillon in front a Mao by Chinese artist Xue Song
I. The origin of Loft Gallery
The power of intuition
Can love for art be inherited? In any case, it was Jean-François Roudillon's father, an expert in African art, who influenced his taste, and gave him the opportunity to hold his first exhibition, "Les Gazelles sont des oiseaux". Jean-François was only 21 years old at the time, but he had already fallen in love with Francis Bacon's Portrait of a Man Descending the Stairs, which did not yet have the reputation it has today. He then followed his instincts and started working in contemporary art, inspired by its art historical links.
"The work of a gallery owner is above all the work of an archaeologist, rightly or wrongly, it is important to be a precursor."
A gallery's first task? To find and identify promising artists. An investigative job that requires a certain flair, Loft Gallery has presented artists such as Jérôme Mesnager, Blek le Rat, Daniel Baugeste and many others to the public for the first time…
The importance of values
In an art world where practices are sometimes considered questionable, values play a central role. And for Loft Gallery, like many of Artsper's other partners, nothing is more important than doing everything for its artists.
"Our artists are our oxygen, we can't live without them, we have to encourage them as much as possible in their projects when we believe in them."
The motto? Honesty, commitment and perseverance. Indeed, several years of work are often necessary to guarantee the artist and their gallery a good reputation.
Loft Gallery is tackling the problem of illegitimate appropriation of works. This battle is all the more important because "real" collectors, who buy out of personal conviction and not financial interest, are rare!
Artworks by Philippe Hiquily
II. A link between artists and collectors
How to promote artists
The work of a gallery owner is largely focused on the promotion of his artists, with most not having access to marketing! It is therefore important to support and promote artists, while remaining firmly anchored in one’s convictions. Artsper provides the ideal platform to maximize the online visibility of artists.
For example, for 7 years, Jean-François Roudillon has concentrated all his efforts to promote and sell exclusively works by Chinese artists. A risky bet in the early 2000s, but based on the strong belief that it was a promising market. And it did not fail.
"Knowing how to interpret and appreciate a work of art is not reserved for the elite."
To grasp the potential of a movement or an artist, it is necessary to dually understand the context and go with your guts. A gallerist needs to reach out to artists in order to offer promising work to collectors.
Knowing how to make good investments
Once an artist is ready to work with the gallery, it is very important that they feel supported throughout their creative process - and their career. From the production of catalogs raisonnés, which take six years to complete, to promotion at art fairs and the financing of works, the relationship between a gallery and an artist is founded on mutual trust and hard work.
"As soon as we have the funds, we invest in our artists! It is because of this that we can offer giant sculptures."
Emo de Medeiros, who was recently exhibited at the Musée du Quai Branly is working closely with Loft Gallery on one of his upcoming works that will be presented in September 2021 at the Paris Art Fair. The objective will be to connect the work to the viewer or collector by mixing primitive and contemporary art: a return to the roots for the gallery.
Loft Gallery's stand dedicated to Marino di Teana during the Art Paris 2019 Fair
III. A vision of the future
Making art accessible to all
Jean-François Roudillon has many future projects in store for his gallery, which is still supported by Artsper. Among them, the Art for All project. The project is based on the creation of editions, which are full-fledged works of art but in small scale, sold between 100 and 600€. This is a step forward towards the accessibility of art to a new generation of collectors and the democratization of contemporary art.
The barriers to entry into the art world remain strong! For example, entering a gallery is intimidating for a member of the public who is not immersed in the art world. This self-censorship is mainly explained by the public's image of the art world but also by the price of certain works.
Thus, the very objective of the Art for All project is to allow everyone to afford a work of art... especially on Artsper, which pursues the same goal of putting art within everyone's reach, by removing geographical constraints.
"As long as you support real values and talented artists, there's no reason why it won’t succeed.”
And the project is still in its infancy! Jean-François' goal is to offer no less than 50 different works, in order to offer a wide choice to collectors and to establish a serial collection perspective. Li Lihong, Hiquily, Marino di Teana, Philippe Huart... All of the Loft Gallery's leading artists will soon be available in accessible and limited editions. Marketing campaigns on Artsper have already resulted in many of these works being sold on the platform, making it an ideal channel for Art for All.
Loft gallery is already well aware of the resale price of these works, thinking ahead to the secondary resale market. A winning bet in the long run for the collectors - and the gallery.
The necessity of technology
For Loft Gallery, digital is at the heart of their overall strategy. Many works are sold through Artsper, including those from the Art for All collection. A long-time partner of Artsper, Loft Gallery is convinced of the value of the platform, both at the point of sale and in terms of communication. According to the gallery owner, Artsper has a communication capacity and traffic that is far superior to any gallery website.
"In the art world, there is a desire to convey a message, to share the vision of the artists and Artsper helps us with that."
Loft Gallery's projects echo Artsper's vision of making art accessible to as many people as possible and reducing the distance or mutual prejudice between the public and the art world. Everyone should have access to art and culture, regardless of income!
Miniaturized works from the Art For All project launched by Loft Gallery
Today, the Loft gallery continues its race for success with many projects in its sights. The strategic direction given by Jean-François Roudillon and his team is stable and digitizing while remaining faithful to their core values. It would seem that this is the ideal recipe for a gallery’s success!
"Certainly since we opened our second gallery across the street and are on Artsper, we have a lot more resonance and visibility. "