Parisian Gallerist Agnès Monplaisir Shares Insights on her Gallery and Artists

Casey Lesser
Mar 3, 2015 3:50PM

At the age of 18, in a tiny 86-square-foot space in La Bastille, Parisian gallerist Agnès Monplaisir launched her career. Now, some three decades on, her eponymous gallery in Saint Germain de Pres thrives, showing a richly diverse roster of artists.

Current exhibitions include Brazilian artist Nádia Taquary’s African and Creole-inspired installations and visions of Rio’s Carnival by French photographer Eugenia Grandchamp des Raux. Recent months have seen the provocative collage works of young New York-based artist Rashaad Newsome and intricate, gilded textile works by Olga de Amaral. Through what began as a personal passion, Monplaisir now specializes  in contemporary artists from Latin America, Africa, and Oceania, which is now an integral part of her gallery’s program.

As she geared up for a fresh slate of shows this spring and the opening of a hotel in Brazil, we caught up with the gallerist to learn about the impulses that have driven her career, the strong relationships that she maintains with her artists, and what’s in store for the future of Galerie Agnès Monplaisir.

Casque bleu, 2014
Galerie Agnès Monplaisir
Ogum, 2014
Galerie Agnès Monplaisir

Artsy: How did you come to open your own gallery? What made you decide to devote your life to art?

Agnès Monplaisir: My mother was a teacher in history and geography; my father was a banker. They both hoped that I would devote myself to the more practical and concrete areas of academia: mathematics, chemistry, or biology. Instead, I felt an inescapable pull towards the arts from an early age. Whether it was playing the piano, sketching by myself, or gazing at a lush Monet painting, I cultivated a deep love of the arts on my own terms. I knew that I wanted to fill my world with the creative visions of artists like Monet. Pursuing this dream, I opened a small gallery in the area of La Bastille with a small collection of inspiring artists with whom I felt a personal connection.

Artsy: How did you develop your gallery’s roster? What characteristics do you look for in artists and their work?

AM: All of the artists that I collaborate with share a common trait—they have deep spiritual ties to ecology and pay homage to the Earth. A respect for the natural world is something that unites global cultures, from ancient civilization to modern day.

When I first laid eyes on [Olga de Amaral’s] work, my life took on another dimension. I wanted to go inside her work and live in the lush world she creates with her tapestries. In her work, I saw the extraordinary beauty of the earth, and the values of patience, as her work demands much time to create. I also saw courage. Olga shut herself off from the mainstream art arena for 50 years while she created an isolated world of her own in Bogotá. Beyond that, I felt her respect for the history of the Latin America, a continent ravaged by the Portuguese and Spanish lust for gold. Her textiles pay homage to antique civilizations, and have a spiritual dimension evoked by using precious materials like gold and silver.

Since that day, it has been my mission to promote the work of Olga de Amaral and share the incredible artistic world she creates with new audiences.

Artsy: Can you tell us about some of the commissions you’ve worked on with artists?

AM: My close relationships with my collaborators extend far beyond the traditional role of gallerist and artist. If they are willing, I love to support all stages of creation, both spiritually and financially. For example, I recently commissioned an inspiring and imposing sculpture by Daniel Hourdé to be displayed in front of my gallery. Likewise, I have commissioned several sculptors to craft unique pieces to fill my spaces—blurring the line between décor and contemporary art. One artist in particular, Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj, has created a series of mosaic tables. With these pieces, he has succeeded in elevating the idea of furniture to a new artistic realm.

Ah la la, 1995
Galerie Agnès Monplaisir

Artsy: What about Paris has led you to root your gallery there? Would you consider opening a gallery in another city?

AM: I grew up in France, studied here, and spoke French as my first language. It was natural that I chose Paris as the location for my gallery. That being said, I now speak English, Portuguese, Russian, and Creole. While a piece of my heart will always be in Paris, I look forward to expanding my influence and enterprise into new regions.

I will be opening a hotel called LARA in Prainha-Aquiraz-Ceara, Brazil this April. This venue will include a gallery that I created and curated just for this location, and will feature  many of my favorite South American artists such as Marcos Coelho Benjamim, Nadia Taquary, and Luri Sarmento. Beyond the gallery, the entire hotel will be steeped in contemporary Latin American art. Each guest will be transported to a fantastical world shaped and cultivated by these talented contemporary artists.

Untitled, 2013
Galerie Agnès Monplaisir

Artsy: What’s next for you and your gallery?

AM: My next great project will be an important solo show for Olga de Amaral at SP-Arte in Sao Paulo. Olga is a dear friend and an inspiring talent. I couldn’t be happier to celebrate her lifetime of works at such a renowned venue.

I also recently organized in the ancient city of Ouro Preto, Brazil a public works shows for Daniel Hourdé, a talented French artist and sculptor. His bronze sculptures were exhibited at the Banco do Brasil cultural center where they were viewed by over 65,000 visitors in just three weeks.

Beyond that, I have been involved with several projects for international fairs like Art Basel in Miami Beach and Frieze. I can’t speak too much about these, but trust me, there are many great things to come!

Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.