Art and culture

In conversation with Serena Cattaneo Adorno, Director of Gagosian Paris

September 03, 2020

As director of Paris and Le Bourget’s Gagosian Gallery, Serena Cattaneo Adorno tells us how the art world is evolving and shares some of her favourite places in the city with us.

What inspired you to join the art world and Gagosian?

Growing up in Genoa, Northern Italy, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the city’s remarkable heritage. My parents collected art so I grew up with an awareness of contemporary art, which has developed into a passion I’ve cultivated throughout my life. Working with art is fascinating because it allows you to constantly expand your knowledge and appreciation. We aim to seek and achieve the very best for our artists and exhibitions, and Gagosian assist this with their tireless commitment to in-depth research.

Photo: Billy Farell, Courtesy Gagosian
Photo: Zarko Vijatovic, Courtesy Gagosian

What makes your Gagosian gallery a leader in Paris?

Paris is a city that attracts both collectors and artists. Many visitors come here planning to see exhibitions and it’s always been a strong cultural pivot city in Europe. Gagosian Paris provides a generous opportunity to view a diverse collection of art, build emotional connections and become completely absorbed by the work.

How did you engage with your artists & collectors during lockdown?

There’s no replacement for the emotional reaction you have when seeing art in the ‘flesh’, but as a gallery we have developed very strong relationships with our artists and collectors, in a way that allows us to engage with them digitally. I think art is a universal tool for communication and it’s in challenging moments that people can turn to art and look at it in new ways.

Photo: Gautier Deblonde, Courtesy Gagosian
Photo: Thomas Lannes, Courtesy Gagosian

What tips do you have for visiting Gagosian Paris?

In addition to our main gallery in central Paris, we have an extraordinary space in Le Bourget right by the airport. It’s designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and visitors are often keen to spend time there too. In parallel with all our exhibitions, there’s always a great deal of related information in the form of videos and publications. We encourage visitors to engage with our gallery experts who can provide valuable knowledge and even suggest visiting our private viewing rooms.

Are there any interesting changes you’re seeing in Paris?

With the UK leaving the European Union there are many galleries, foundations and institutions enabling Paris to increasingly become a European cultural centre for art. We’re seeing a major investment from many private collectors to open foundations and create exhibitions that complement the biggest museums, such as the recent Musée d’Orsay’s presentation of Picasso’s Pink and Blue period. The calibre of museums and exhibitions staged in France – and in particular in Paris – are unique in the world, drawing from many extraordinary national collections.

Musée d’Orsay
Living art at Le Meurice
Living art at Le Meurice

What changes will Gagosian make for their clients in the future?

Gagosian Paris have carefully adhered to French government guidelines – allowing visitors to view in limited numbers, with some one-way systems in place to protect them within the gallery space. Le Meurice guests will also be offered pre-arranged private expert visits by appointment at any time.

Do you think this period will have any positive impact on the art market?

It’s been a meditative time for many artists who have been able to produce work in a more intimate manner, as a result of many studios being closed. With the lack of art fairs, collectors are now being offered interesting online initiatives, which include in-depth analysis and didactic presentations of the works.

Photo: Thomas Lannes, Courtesy Gagosian
John Currin. Squeaky, 2019. Oil on canvas, 23 x 18 1/8 in / 58.4 x 46 cm 2. © John Currin Photo: Robert McKeever, Courtesy Gagosian

Can you share any upcoming Gagosian Paris highlights?

In October, Gagosian Paris will mark its 10th anniversary by staging a group exhibition in homage to ‘Bustes de Femmes’, which will offer extraordinary works by many of the most celebrated figurative artists the gallery has engaged with. Historical pieces will be shown alongside new works from artists who will create works specifically for the theme. The designer India Mahdavi is working with us on the layout, and we’ll encourage a digital and physical experience by making some of the exhibition only viewable online.

Do you have any particular suggestions for collectors?

The process of buying art has become more transparent and open, with collectors able to easily research artworks online. This has even helped to overcome the hesitancy of requesting the price and information. This transparency is important to support the acquisition process.

What do you always recommend if visitors get spare time in Paris?

There are some wonderful hidden gems to see. I recommend Maison La Roche, one of the first architectural private homes designed by Le Corbusier. As an avid collector of books, I think we often forget how beautiful some of the city’s public and private libraries can be. In Paris, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France has an incredible collection of rare books and manuscripts, which can be viewed by appointment. I often dine with artists at Cibus on rue Molière – a favourite of mine with only a handful of tables.

Maison La Roche

For more inspirational art from Gagosian, take a look at their array of upcoming art exhibitions.

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