A Conversation With French Collector Thierry Forien – Paris Photo 2018 – Virginie Puertolas-Syn

Thierry Forien

Thierry Forien is a collector of Contemporary Art, and former Chair of Prix des Amis du Palais de Tokyo. He is on the board of Thalie Art Foundation, Artistic committee of Fluxus Art Projects and practices as an independent curator.

When did you start collecting art?

I started collecting art 25 years ago, although I do not come from a family related to Art. My interest in art began when I was working for Leclerc, covering the oil market and it was a very stressful job. As my office was located opposite the Louvre, a very natural way to release my stress was to go across the street and to visit the Louvre Museum. At lunchtime, I was going to Louvre to attend presentations about Art. In the evenings, I went back for more talks and lectures. So my interest in art started with education, knowledge, and by just being curious.

My first acquisition was a large photograph from Nicole Tran Ba Vang. Then I joined the Tokyo Art Club and met with other collectors.

My wife had a job in London, so I used to go there every weekend and started to visit exhibitions, and even attending a course on curating at Central Saint Martin. At the end of the course, we curated an exhibition in East London. I also wanted to understand the artist’s gestures and movements, so I did drawing lessons, photography, sculpture.

How many artworks do have in your collection? Which media?

I have over 200 artworks including sculpture, video, painting and lots of photography. I like to go for “Treasure hunts”, like when I found a set of photographs on Manchester’s underground transsexual nightclub from the ’80s. Or I would go to Criterion Auctioneers, a small auction house in London, where I found a lithograph of Raymond Pettitbon for £50 as nobody knew him there.
I also buy paintings from the 18th/19th centuries because they are truly beautiful and so affordable compared to contemporary art.

Do you have a theme in your collection?

I have two main axes: people and travel – as I have been travelling all my life.
I have an important collection of old books on travel.

Where do you buy?

I buy a lot at auction houses, mostly small ones and not so much with galleries. What I like in contemporary art is to get to know the artist, in particular, young emerging artists. So if the artist is not already with a gallery, I will buy directly from the studio.

What is your last acquisition?

My last acquisition was a large photograph from Mário Macilau from Mozambique, which I discovered through his London gallery, Ed Cross. Macilau has exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in London and at the Venice Biennale. Recently Pompidou Museum bought several of his works for their permanent collection.
I also bought a large painting from Stephane Calais who I have been following for years. I initially met him years ago when he was involved in an Art project with my company.

How do you want to present your collection?

There are different options. To make a publication, or to have a thematic exhibition.

How do you see your role as a collector in the Art world?

I see myself as a supporter of young artists. I give them advice, I write some texts for them, I provide them access to my networks, and I buy some of their works as well. There is a social role for the collector. I’m part of the artistic committee of the Fluxus Art projects, a board member of the Thalie Art Foundation in Brussels and a board member of the Friends of the Palais de Tokyo. I do it on my own time. It is a way to participate in and support the development of the Arts.

What would be your advice for young collectors?

It is key to look for the sincerity in an artist, to meet the artist, to get to know them and to exchange with them. Artists are a different breed, and I have been learning a lot from them. They have challenged me intellectually and helped me to think “outside the box”.

What are your “coup de coeur” at Paris Photo?

Jungjin Lee (Korean), Howard Greendberg Gallery, James Casabere (American), Galerie Templon, Yasuhiro Ishimoto (Japanese), Akio Nagasawa Gallery, Alexandra Hedison (American), H Gallery

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