Beauty industry magnate Didier Guillon on why his Valmont Foundation for the arts is his most important challenge yet

By Michelle Johnson | 15 Aug 2019 | Culture, Design, Art

The Valmont Group founder and CEO tells Tempus why Venice is the place to support the artists of the future

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* Didier Guillon is the founder and CEO of the Valmont Group, and founder of the Valmont Foundation

"The best place to buy art is Venice. This isn’t a city where artists sell their work, especially during the Biennale – you don’t see the price of a piece anywhere in the Giardini – but it’s about exploring challenging concepts and showing what young artists can do. I often say that Venice is where real art lovers go to see the works they will buy at the world’s big fairs – Basel, Frieze New York and London. There’s a sense of artistic collaboration within Venice, which is very exciting, and made it such a logical choice for the Valmont Foundation to make Venice its permanent home.

My aim for the Foundation is to support the young generation of artists, offering them space for exhibitions as well as studios that they can work from. I inherited my artistic DNA from my mother’s family; I wouldn’t be pretentious enough to say that I’m a big artist but I love to collaborate with other artists, and be involved in the art world from a creative level. And after 40 years of developing the Valmont Group, it’s my real pleasure to offer artists a wider reach with the gallery spaces in our Maison Valmont stores around the world.

Our new gallery space at our Palazzo Bonvicini means that we can create remarkable exhibitions that really show the collaboration between artists. Our first exhibition, Hansel & Gretel: White Traces in Search of Your Self, is actually the second in a trilogy of fairytale-inspired exhibitions all running concurrently with the Venice Biennale. Everyone has two faces: there’s our mainstream identity, behind which we are very logical and rational, but at the same time we also need disruption.

The exhibition is a symbolic journey through memory and heritage, facing the darkness within, to difference visions of the future. The three artists – Isao, Silvano Rubino and myself – also worked together on Beauty and the Beast two years ago, and have announced our next exhibition, Alice in Doom Land, for 2021.

It’s my hope that the Foundation’s collaborative exhibitions might encourage what we had at the beginning of the 20th century in Paris – when Picasso, Braque, Dali, Matisse and Modigliani were working together. This was a fantastic group! The result of their collaborations can be seen in every museum in the world. It was the same with the US abstract expressionists after the second world war – Pollock, Lichtenstein and Rothko. Collaboration is what I feel we’re perhaps missing today, when so many artists are far more concerned with being individual. >>

Related: Art ex Machina: Meet the AI challenging everything we know about art and ethics

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* Guillon's Hansel & Gretel exhibition is on display in Venice until November

As an art collector, I’m often asked what advice I would give to people beginning their collection, or even just looking for new investments. My answer is always the same – let your emotion take the lead and never buy to speculate. Don’t think, ‘This artist will sell in auction for a higher price’. If your mind is only focused on your return on investment, any emotional understanding of the work is impossible. My second piece of advice is this: if you pass by Gagosian, don’t go in.

Imagine you have two galleries. You have the Gagosian, with Jeff Koons in the window, and you have a small gallery nearby with a young artist that nobody has heard of. Now, you could buy that Koons piece for $23m and hang it in your interior-designed house to show off your status to your friends or, for $5,000, you could discover an artist of the future and purchase a piece that you will really love and suits your own taste. It’s much more than an investment.

The beauty of the Venice Biennale (11 May to 2 November 2019) is that there are so many up-and- coming artists ready to impress art collectors. My advice is you must take your time, visit the Arsenal and other galleries around the city as well as the Giardini.

You may not like 90% of what you see during the Biennale, because it’s very conceptual, but there will be at least one piece that makes you stop in your tracks – and that emotion, not just its value, is what makes it worth buying."

Hansel & Gretel: White Traces in Search of Your Self is exhibited at the Palazzo Bonvicini until 24 November