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Bruno Plantin-Carrenard welcomed us to his house, surrounded by his collection, to give us an interview. Currently CEO of UGC Belgium, our host could have walked straight out of a Paolo Sorrentino film.

The most dandy-chic of our art influencers looks back at his career and presents us two artists of his curatorial selection.

Where does your passion for art come from? Tell us about your journey.

When I was a student at the Sorbonne, studying art science, I went to interview Sophie Calle in her workshop in Montrouge, on the outskirts of Paris.

I was late and in the end it was Christian Boltanski who welcomed me and invited me into his workshop next-door. It was extraordinarily well organized, like the workshop of a retired carpenter. Of course, I had nothing in particular to ask him and was just stunned to be with him when my subject was about a piece of art performance by Sophie Calle.

A commonplace conversation quickly turned into a monologue from Christian Boltanski in which, for half an hour, he tells me about his journey – no doubt in response to a stupid question I had asked him – he explained in detail how he had spent his childhood on the passenger seat of his father’s car, who travelled along the same streets every day, to the same place where the car was parked during the day. Seeing the same girl every day at the same time on the same pavement, he saw himself ageing through this little girl, who then became a young woman and eventually an adult woman walking along the same street.

He concluded that it was his finest school.I would have liked to have the same experience and probably had it. Like everyone, in fact.

My passion for art comes from literature.

The walls were papered with fluffy red velvet. The bed spreads were red velvet. The chairs were red velvet. The carpet was red velvet. The sink was red. The curtains were red. All the reds were matching reds. There was no red less red than another red or more red than the red next to it. He settled there.

Texts like that.

How did you end up the CEO of UGC Belgium?

Through a succession of coincidences and encounters, as always. When I was at the Beaux-Arts in Reims, Michel Journiac, then the theory of art professor – incredible when you think about it – whispered in my ear during an exam that I shouldn’t be there and instead would do better to wear down my student pants on the benches of Saint Charles, the Sorbonne Panthéon Paris I art school. Leaving Reims for Paris at the start of the 1980s: important professors (Paul-Armand Gette, Côme Mosta Heirt, Michel Covin, Jean-Michel Palmier, etc…), Le Palace, Templon and Lambert, the bistros, the light, Beaubourg and of course Montparnasse.

In Montparnasse, which had definitively become my neighbourhood, followed a student job at the UGC Montparnasse. Another chance encounter, one of the founders of UGC, René Verrechia. Although I had decided I would become a curator, museum director or something similar, in the midst of my thesis on “Georges Bataille and laughter in art” I began to have second thoughts.

I was already being offered a job, cinema director. I enjoyed it there. I got into my boss’s Jaguar and signed my name on the contract. There would be no more professors, but all Paris, nocturnal by preference (this profession is voluptuously shifted in its schedules) was even more accessible to me.

Is the UGC Art Box in Brussels a synthesis of this story?

When I was young, I was fascinated by a photo shoot of a model that appeared in Lui. At the time, I enjoyed Lui as much as Artpress – and today neither one nor the other, but that’s another story-. She was posing in the loft of Ghislain Mollet-Vieville, an art dealer who lived discretely in a loft near Beaubourg, where we could go, upon appointment, to admire his American “minimal art” hangings.

The model walked nude through the aseptic, furniture-free interior of the loft where Carl André and others such as Walter de Maria and Joseph Kosuth took centre stage.

The strangest thing about the magazine was neither the sensual curves of the top model, nor the artworks on show during the shoot, nor more than the loft (which was familiar to me), but the captions beneath the photographs. So far from everything and therefore so close to a truth. “If it’s art, it’s sexy” to parody Frank Stella.

I try to find and share this revealing surprise.

In the premises in question, occupied by a cobbler, we either needed to rent them to someone else or create “something” other than a shop front abandoned to the drunken revellers leaving the nightclub opposite.

The first solution was indecent, the second self-evident, especially given UGC Belgium’s close connection to contemporary art (inaugurated by Yahnn Kersalé, the great Guy Peellaert, etc…). It was clear what we should do: one space, one artist, one artwork, one month.

The evidence appeared ; a space, an artist, a work, a month.

But what is the editorial line?

We began with an exhibition of David Lynch: a photograph printed from an order made by the Maison de la Photographie in Paris.

For some, it seemed clear, art is more or less connected to film.

But no. It’s as much a trompe l’œil as David Lynch: when he is a photographer or designer, he is not a filmmaker!

There are two aspects to the French Revolution : the epic and the domestic, The guillotine and the teapot.

This sentence from Hamilton Finlay always amused me, even though I didn’t really understand its meaning until I thought about the extravagant difference in styles existing between important artists for me, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Sol Lewitt or Georg Bazelitz and Daniel Buren, Cy Twombly and Frank Stella.

… or even a href=”/en/artists/arnaud-kool”>Arnaud Kool and Fabrice Hermans , who we’ve been lucky enough to exhibit.

What is art for?

Precisely nothing, it’s a pure loss, and it’s exactly for that reason that it is essential, increasingly essential.


Photos : Miles Fischler

Bruno Plantin-Carrenard's curatorial selection