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SLICK art fair: Interview with Johan Tamer-Morael in Paris

Johan Tamer-Morael co-founder of SLICK art fair Paris (October 29, 2006)

AfN: This is an interview between Artfacts.Net and Johan Tamer-Morael from Artcore Gallery. He is one of the founders of SLICK art fair in Paris. Hello, Johan.

Johan Tamer-Morael: Hi.

AfN: When and why did you choose with your partners to organize an art fair?

Johan Tamer-Morael: We've choosen to organize this art fair very naturally because we needed something different in Paris. The fiac is coming back to the center of Paris and this was the occasion of doing something very different. To give the opportunities to young galleries and new talents to have a visibility in Paris in this very hyped time.

AfN: When everybody comes from the international art scene.

Johan Tamer-Morael: I think a lot of good galleries came back to the fiac.

AfN: And will come.

Johan Tamer-Morael: And therefore collectors will come back.

AfN: But when did you decide this?

Johan Tamer-Morael: We decided this in the beginning of July.

AfN: You and ....?

Johan Tamer-Morael: Cécille Griesmar, she has a gallery called Hors Sol next to my gallery. We where feeling that something is missing and we where waiting for something. I think people have been waiting since 10 years anyway and no one did it until now.

AfN: In London we've met Simon Pittuck from Keith Talent Gallery, he is one of the co-founders of year_06. That was an alternative co-event to FRIEZE this year. One of the most amazing things was the location. The same in Berlin there are co-events like Kunstsalon on the one hand and the Berliner Liste on the other and they have a very special architecture in very special locations. The same goes for SLICK it is a very nice industrial complex in the Menilmontant district. How important is it to be a resident in order to make good shows?

Johan Tamer-Morael: I guess we know Paris and also lived in foreign countries. I know the feeling of going out of the centre - how it feels. When you go out of the crowded areas where everybody is. I think it is fresh to go somewhere different. And Menilmontant is an area that fits the project of SLCIK.

AfN: Is it an artistic neighborhod, here?

Johan Tamer-Morael: You have a lot of artist studios and artists are living here.

AfN: It's a hill site with a very beautiful view.

Johan Tamer-Morael: You see the city in a very certain way. In a way you have never seen it. Even in other areas of Paris you will not have the same view. It is the most beautiful and most poetic Paris.

AfN: So you have chosen this location by objective. You wanted to have a contradiction to the Champs-Élysées and the Grand Palais.

Johan Tamer-Morael: Yes, of course.

AfN: On your web site you said that you have two criteria of choosing a gallery: a) their insatiable desire for discovering new talented artists and b) their dynamic passionate state of mind. In other words the galleries have to be hungry? Is hunger a substitute for emerging? Or what does it mean: The desire of discovering new talents?

Johan Tamer-Morael: The will of not being afraid of risk.

AfN: Not being afraid of taking risks.

Johan Tamer-Morael: We work in a field where we have to take risk. As soon as you are not taking risk you disappear.

AfN: When I look at the origin of the galleries participating in SLICK it seems like a unusual selection. There are mostly French and American galleries and a gallery from Croatia and Vietnam. Why is that? Are these friends?

Johan Tamer-Morael: It is a network. I've lived a long time in the US and therefore I have contacts there with people who can tell me what is going on in the country. Who is doing something in this exact moment. Who is doing something interesting.

AfN: But, was there a actually a selection or is this a full network?

Johan Tamer-Morael: There was a selection.

AfN: Because some galleries said to me: Oh, we did not know about this. It is so nice here. Why did nobody tell us? So, how did you get in touch with the galleries?

Johan Tamer-Morael: You know, we started this project very late. Really late. That's why people where thinking that we will never make it. Until the last minute we where still putting things up and getting ready. The last galleries we took where a few weeks before the opening. Just because people did not know about the event. You know, we send e-mails to galleries but they all where in vacation. They opened their mailbox in September.

AfN: Waling Boers the director of BüroFriedrich in Berlin and UniversalStudios in Beijing, said to us last year that he thinks that art fairs are uninteresting because they are not curated." In other words art fairs are boring art bazaars. Is this a balancing act for you market versus content?

Johan Tamer-Morael: I would say that fairs will never replace galleries and curated exhibitions. Still, we need fairs to go faster because we are in a pace, in a fast environment. And I think you need fairs. People are counting galleries, counting on fairs, for sales, for exposure.

AfN: For exposure.

Johan Tamer-Morael: For exposure. It is very important.

AfN: So, it is not important that it is not curated?

Johan Tamer-Morael: They have their galleries to curate their shows. In the fair they have a booth of x square meters. They have to deal with this. Here we really wanted the galleries to take it as a project and not just as a fair. We really wanted them to take risk and to make a project.

AfN: On your website you said something like that you have on the one hand reasonable prices but on the other hand you invited curators for video part. You have a video section. Where you show curated videos. So, curators choose something from the galleries here?

Johan Tamer-Morael: This is something we choose as an added value to the fair. We put a video space available for the public to come and see. And someone is taking care of the curating part of the videos. And we gonna have it travel to a festival somewhere.

AfN: So this part will be a travelling exhibition?

Johan Tamer-Morael: Yes, we ask every gallery to present videos apart from their show in the booth.

AfN: Is this in a kind of cinema or where do you show the videos?

Johan Tamer-Morael: Yes, in a kind of cinema space.

AfN: So, it is not just a little screen. I say this because I had an interview with Thierry the founder of DIVA and we both agreed that videos should be shown separately from maybe paintings.

Johan Tamer-Morael: It depends on what kind of video you are showing. There are videos that fit better in a gallery space on a small screen, that are interesting to see from a to z and there are others that are more appropriate for a movie space.

AfN: It depends.

Johan Tamer-Morael: Yes, we gave the galleries the opportunity to show the videos in a movie theatre if they want.

AfN: Something that fits into the subject of art fairs and emerging is that Gunter Sachs a former known German Playboy, celebrity, photographer and collector once quoted in an interview, that a clever collector should buy ugly art - or in other words: art he does not like in the first moment, the art should be unusual - because handsome and beautiful works can not be cutting edge. If your are used to a certain aesthetic it's established. You know, if you are used to something than it is an established aesthetic. Did you consider this point in your selection process?

Johan Tamer-Morael: No.

AfN: Not at all.

Johan Tamer-Morael: We do not take beauty as a requirement or as a something that is right or wrong.

AfN: It is there or not there.

Johan Tamer-Morael: I think a piece can be a beauty and also have a meaning. For example I have a beautiful peace in my booth but there is a message behind as well.

AfN: Which one?

Johan Tamer-Morael: The one from Etienne de Fleurieu.

AfN: What is with it?

Johan Tamer-Morael: There are ferns that are mounted on aluminum sheet. And it gives something very, very slick.

AfN: Another collector, Charles Saatchi, you know the Young British Art, the Sensation exhibition. This kind of thing does not count for you?

Johan Tamer-Morael: I think everybody has his point of view and I am not the only one selecting. We are a team. But for me definitely not.

AfN: For us this year Paris, was a great opportunity to witness the impact of contemporary art in Paris.

Johan Tamer-Morael: I am glad.

AfN: No really, you see these long queues in front of the Grand Palais. Hundreds or maybe thousands. We come here to the SLICK and we can't even move, so many people are here. Can you tell me, why is there such a hunger or desire for contemporary art in Paris? The whole city seems to vibrate.

Johan Tamer-Morael: I should say, thanks to the fiac. What has been doing a lot of effort to bring back the scene to Paris.

AfN: But the people coming are Parisians? The majority of visitors are Parisians. It seems to me that they are hungry to see contemporary new stuff. Is it because the city was sleeping the last years?

Johan Tamer-Morael: I think so.

AfN: Paris is waking up now?

Johan Tamer-Morael: Yes, Paris is waking up. For us it was a very important year to be here because everybody that is inside the art scene in Paris could feel that something is happening. Something in the air. That was moving - you know, when you scratch a match.

AfN: To start a fire, an explosion.

Johan Tamer-Morael: There was an explosion.

AfN: From both sides, the visitors, the artists, curators and galleries.

Johan Tamer-Morael: Yes.

AfN: Will this keep on? Will you do it again?

Johan Tamer-Morael: Of course. We want this next year. And the selection has already started.We are talking to galleries we wanted for the first edition, who could not do it because it was too late.

AfN: Will it be in the same space again?

Johan Tamer-Morael: It can be anywhere.

AfN: At the end I just wanted you to explain. We are ...?

Johan Tamer-Morael: ... in the VIP lounge.

AfN: Right next to us is an art work.

Johan Tamer-Morael: An art work, an installation by Nicolas Buffe.

AfN: Can you tell me, what will happen to this art work?

Johan Tamer-Morael: This art work will be taken into pieces and sold to people at the last day.

AfN: Will it be an auction?

Johan Tamer-Morael: We have to ask the gallery which is representing Nicolas it is Galerie Schirman & de Beaucé. They will take care of this.

AfN: Who had the idea of selling the VIP lounge?

Johan Tamer-Morael: I think the gallery.

AfN: Johan, thank you very much for this interview.

Johan Tamer-Morael: Thank you.


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