Françoise Chibret-Plaussu created Galerie de la Présidence forty years ago on the mythical crossroads of Place Beauvau and Faubourg Saint-Honoré, opposite the Elysée Palace. Her daughter Florence Plaussu joined her about 15 years ago and it is she who now runs the gallery. The former keeps an expert eye on her masterpieces while the latter carefully prepares the themes of their upcoming exhibitions and selects new acquisitions.

An in-depth interview that addresses both the subject of painting, their choice of artists, the career of a gallery owner and the art market in general. A concert of two voices in unison.

. Under what circumstances was Galerie de la Présidence created?

Françoise
: Having studied Art History from the age of 15 and with experience in pharmaceutical advertising, I decided to create Galerie de la Présidence in 1971. It was a time when many currents were emerging, there was a true artistic bloom and this inspired me.

Florence: Anecdotally, the 70’s correspond to my childhood and works of art surrounded me. The taste for beautiful aesthetics was an important part of family life.

. Did you have family history that predisposed you to this job?

Françoise
: I was undoubtedly influenced as my father was already an art collector and it was thanks to this common passion that I could fulfil my dreams by creating a gallery. This helped me in the training that I thereafter completed and was added to my natural passion for art and a veritable desire to share my favourites. My brother, Henri, who is President of FRAC Auvergne, also shares this same vision on art.

Florence: I really feel that beyond the necessary courses and the culture required, art is also a question of perspective, bias, shared adventures and passion, always passion. In this case, thanks to my mother in particular and also my family, I was able to penetrate this environment at a very young age and familiarize myself with it.

. How did you select the first artists that you exhibited?

Françoise: I must say that at the beginning I was advised by a friend of my father who was a collector and who was particularly interested in figurative art from the 1950’s, principally Bernard Buffet, Lorjou, Marchand, Clavé and Michel de Gallard... Then relatively quickly I became interested in the first half of the 20th Century and prepared an important exhibition of Albert Marquet followed by another dedicated to Maurice de Vlaminck in the 1980’s. More recently we presented an exhibition of 60 Paul Signac watercolours and in 2008, an important selection of Henri-Edmond Cross watercolours. Participating in the discovery of a painter or acquiring deeper knowledge is a part of my job that I particularly appreciate.

Florence: I would add that we are pursuing this expansion with a major exhibition of Derain sculptures, a domain which is still relatively unknown to the general public and we have also organized a highly successful exhibition of the first part of Jean Hélion’s work.

. Is there a necessary or desirable link between what you like, the works that affect you and those you expose?

Françoise: It would be very difficult for me to talk about and therefore sell an artist whom I feel distant from or for whom I have no affinity. This is also a gallery owner’s privilege, to be able to approach artists that he/she appreciates or admires, as is our case with Marcel Gromaire, and to thereafter become their ambassador. This emotional link seems necessary, if not vital, to me.

Florence: Yes, it goes without saying that this interest, when it is not admiration, that we have for an artist helps us to better identify his work, to be in empathy with it and to therefore be able to recommend it more warmly. I think I can say that we only select and buy paintings that we like. This is the message that we share with friends and collectors – quality in diversity. And this is what stands out when you enter the gallery.

. Marcel Gromaire is your fetish artist, why him?

Françoise : He is not the only one but it is true that I have a passion for this artist who is as discreet as his work is major in the art of the 20th Century. Gradually, as I saw his paintings and drawings - at which he excels – my passion for his work grew without any concession, totally authentic. I was lucky to meet his son, François Gromaire, who trusted me and this allowed us to prepare the Catalogue Raisonné of his father’s oils. I think I can say with pride that this publication is a reference. A little anecdote: when the catalogue raisonné was published, the Fine Arts Academy called me to announce that we had won the Academy’s Thorlet Prize. I thought it was a joke as Marcel Gromaire always avoided any such distinctions!

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Florence: I feel very strongly about Marcel Gromaire’s work which is powerful and generous. It shows a man from the north, marked by the war in which he participated. We can also perceive the humanist values which are the basis of his painting that is both serious and serene. His son, François, revealed himself to be a fine connoisseur of his father’s work as well as being rigorous and serious. These same values are to be found today in the artist’s grandson, Jean-François Gromaire with whom I am collaborating closely for the publication of Marcel Gromaire’s watercolours.

. Less well known is Michel de Gallard who is also present in your gallery. What links you to this artist?

Françoise: I discovered Michel de Gallard through the intermediary of the gallery owner Maurice Garnier. From the 1960’s, Maurice decided to dedicate himself exclusively to the promotion of Bernard Buffet and he asked me to take over that of the work of Michel de Gallard. The writing of this painter, whose palette returns to the difficult times of the Second World War, interested me. Even if he is part of the “Miserablism’ Movement, great sensitivity and strength emerge from his work which little by little translated into esteem and admiration from an amateur audience.

Florence: For my part, Michel de Gallard touches me because he was hypersensitive - the scenes that he transcribed are both sober and pure. He knows how to express the poetry of beings and things. Even though I did not know him very well, he was a discreet man and one who today deserves greater recognition, as do many painters of his time.

. What, if any, is your client profile?

Françoise: The majority of our buyers have been loyal to the gallery for decades and have become friends. They come from all over the world and even from certain institutions. Recently a Dubois-Pillet drawing was purchased by an important American museum based in Washington.

Florence: We have noticed a new younger profile emerging, curious about the 20th Century movements and as interested in Marquet as Dubuffet. The recession has brought collectors who are certain of the sound values that we have always defended.  We do not want our collectors to take risks.

. Who is ‘top of the bill’ at the moment in the gallery?

Florence: Beyond current trends, we remain loyal to those who have always supported us and who form the foundations of the gallery: R. Dufy, Gromaire, Marquet, Cross, Vlaminck, Signac, Matisse, Vuillard, Roussel…

Françoise: We work with museums that ask us for paintings for certain important exhibitions. In 2011/2012 for example, I had the pleasure of working as a scientific commissioner for works on paper with the Marmottan-Monet Museum for the ‘Henri-Edmond Cross and Neo-Impressionism, from Seurat to Matisse’ exhibition.

. How do you share tasks?

Françoise: We are very complementary and form a tandem that perfectly combines cultural, operational, artistic and pragmatic aspects. You need to have ‘the eye’ in this business and from the outset; Florence has had an excellent eye. I did not want to pressure her to come to work in the gallery. She has added a lot of dynamism to looking after the trade fairs, organizing the exhibitions such as those dedicated to Derain or Jean Hélion. Furthermore, today Florence runs the gallery and I am proud of the path she has taken. She has things under control and the gallery will gain a lot from her presence at its helm. I would like to add that we have a wonderful associate at our sides in Eric Antoine-Noirel who assists us in the everyday running of the gallery and welcoming our visitors.

Florence: Nothing was set in stone. I studied in Business School and followed with an internship in Sotheby’s and I felt very much at ease in this business. My mother did not try to dissuade me and I felt very comfortable in the gallery. Today, we each have a role and our duo works very well associating experience and youth, expertise and discovery – a good balance. interview

. Who are the artists who do not yet have the recognition they deserve and who are going to ‘take off’ in the years to come?

Françoise: There are many artists who were presented in museums forty years ago and who have disappeared or are currently ignored by the elite of curators. Derain does not have the place he deserves; Gruber and Marchand should be rediscovered. This is also a period that is coming to the forefront, as seen in Eric Mercier’s book ‘Années 50, la jeune peinture, l’alternative figurative’. It would be very interesting and sensible to follow this return to grace.

. Is it possible to treat oneself and buy one of your paintings without being wealthy?

Françoise: Absolutely. Money is not the main criteria to become a collector. You can come into our gallery simply for pleasure and make a reasonable purchase. It all depends of course on the artist and the period. You should start off at your own pace and according to your means. One of our greatest pleasures, besides that of discovering an exceptional painting, is to help an amateur begin his/her collection by helping them to discover an artist’s universe – to initiate them.

Florence: I can confirm that even with a lower budget, you can buy a quality piece from an important painter, for example, it is entirely feasible to buy a Gromaire drawing or Marquet bamboo-feather inks that come from the heart of the artist’s inspiration and work.