Aside from selecting masterpieces to hang in his gallery, Georges Bergès, the founder of Georges Bergès Gallery, has made it his mission to mentor his artists and help them grow their careers in the cut-throat art industry.
According to this art aficionado and businessman, his artists “don’t just get a gallery, they get an ally. A lot of my artists become friends with each other. It’s like joining a family. The only reason I opened a gallery was because I wanted to help the artists and represent them in a better way. There was only so much I could do without a gallery.”
While he currently represents artists from all over the world, he is bringing the Bergès touch to Berlin so that he can introduce his artists to the European market. “I love the city, it’s the feature of Europe, there’s so much energy and so many artists there from all over the world. It reminds me of New York from the 80s. I said I want to have a presence there not just to sell to Europe and Germany, but to have the ability to create a feeling of artists and gallery and give them a global platform. I’m going to cities that I feel are young, dynamic, and that intuitively make me feel that this is the future. I felt that in Berlin, and Copenhagen as well.”
This art dealer, who remains deeply devoted to his artists, might never have foresaw himself owning his own gallery, but is now growing faster than ever and is even hoping to expand into Mexico City and Asia after launching his new European base in Berlin. While he had worked with artists all his life, it wasn’t until he met an artist who he said “changed my life” that inspired him to turn a hobby into an all-consuming career in the art world.
Georges has indeed cultivated a career in this creative and sometimes – or most times – crazy industry, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. With a successful gallery and young daughter, his life looks like a very pretty picture!
Georges’ gallery, which is comprised of works from artists who have become more like family, is also his greatest passion. “I don’t have a job. I haven’t had a job in many years, and it’s because I do what I love. The minute I don’t like an artist or start doing what I don’t like, it’s a job, and nothing is worth that. Every piece has to speak to me. I run my gallery spiritually and intuitively, and it’s a part of me.”
This mentor and art dealer, who is an avid art collector himself, doesn’t just hang his artists’ works on his gallery walls, he helps them get onto museum walls. From getting them press to showcasing their work to the right clients, he views his artists’ success as his own success. Let’s just say you want Bergès to have your back, and artists know it, which is why he receives hundreds of submissions every week, or sometimes every day.
Georges, who has to be touched by a particular piece in order to put it in his gallery, travels all over the world in order to gain a unique perspective on art and the way artists work from a global perspective. “It allows me to see a commonality between artists from all over. Carl Jung referred to the collective unconscious when he explained how when we look at certain art, it touches on the universality of the experience. When I look at different studios, I develop a sense of where the artist has transcended something. Picasso’s work transcended his own culture.”
Upon visiting Berlin just a couple of weeks ago in order to meet with an artist whose work he will be showcasing in the fall, Bergès’ presence brought an unprecedented amount of media attention. Jean Schmiedel might be a well-known expressionist painter in his small town, but the fact that a New York gallery was coming to see him really upped his artistic ante! This also put Bergès on the German art world map just as he is preparing to make his mark on the international market.
Kontakt, which will be Gallery’s fall opening show, will be showcasing the unique work of German-born figurative artist Jean Schmiedel in what will be his first solo exhibition in the United States. Kontakt, or ‘contact’ in English, will allow visitors to get up close and personal with Schmiedel’s work, which speaks to who we are and how we interact with each other and our surroundings.
His pieces are meant to show how living creatures develop trust through eye contact and learn about attachment through physical contact. According to Schmiedel, “Contact can be wonderful and sustaining but, depending on each individual’s development and experiences, it also has the power to frighten and disturb.”
This passionate painter always presents earnest portrayals of relatable characters and uncommon features. By using a variety of textures, colors and natural materials, Schmiedel’s style always shines through. By commonly using images of dogs and birds, this artist, who is often referred to as an “outsider’, is able to express a range of emotion. His dark animals are symbolic of the carnal energy which is part of Schmiedel’s artistic process and what he hopes others will see within themselves. Schmiedel intends to move his using uneven paint application, Schmiedel makes artwork which he hopes will move his audience by using uneven paint application and guick gestures. You will definitely want to make contact with this Kontakt exhibit.
In other breaking brushstroke news, Georges will be unveiling a prominent piece painted by close friends Nick Carone and Jackson Pollock. In addition to revealing this work, at the exhibition entitled, Three Mile Harbor Road, which is named after the street in the Hamptons where these artists lived in the 1950s, Georges explained that his artists will also benefit by seeing the relationship between different artists and how their collaboration became a legacy to their friendship.
This personable art dealer who has personal relationships with his artists, is also trying to make the process of buying and selling art less pretentious:
“Most galleries have become very transactional, so artists have gotten used to this strange world. They’re finding a non-responsive gallery world where they’re very aloof or just so small they can’t provide much, so I’m trying to fill that gap. A lot of galleries are acting like museums and museums are acting like galleries. Today galleries are very quiet and intimidating, artists are no longer welcome. Warhol and Basquiat hung out in places where they interacted and that forged a relationship, and galleries got better. I run my gallery very instinctually, it’s a reflection of me. I’m the type of dealer who is also a collector. I love the art. Sometimes it’s hard to sell it!”
From displaying the works of emerging artists to those whose work can be found in the Guggenheim, Georges’ process of picking paintings is personal. Whether it’s abstract or impressionist, he knows which one is the one when he sees it – and which one might be the one for you.
Georges, who is definitely an anomaly in the art world, is following in the footsteps of his idol, Leo Castelli, an art dealer from the 60s, who had his own unique philosophy on how to approach art.
“He’s the main reason I run my gallery the way I run it. He founded Andy Warhol. What he was trying to do was say I don’t sell art, I place art. The fundamental drive behind that is to stay authentic. What he says is yeah, you have money, but it’s not for you. It creates an authenticity, and more money will pour in when you’re authentic within yourself. Selling art should be different than selling a car or anything else. The minute we forget that, we lose sight of why we’re in it. A lot of people and galleries have forgotten that.”
Aside from visiting his current artists, this dealer also travels to various destinations to discover new talent. When a friend suggested he should travel to meet a Syrian refugee artist living in Vienna, Georges flew there overnight, and after realizing his potential, decided to represent him.
“This story really touches on migration, and it touches on the immigrant population in Europe and it captures how I work. We had a great connection and now he’s hanging in my gallery. I deal very honestly with my artists and this forces me to be authentic within myself. My committee of advisors are all in my head. It’s my artistic mentality.”
After living in Alaska and Europe, this adventurous art dealer, who has an apartment in Soho as well as on the West Side, found his way back to New York:
“New York is a challenge, it’s tough. You love to hate it, but you love it. It brings out the best and the worst in people. It gives you a lot of options in life, good and bad, and you have to have a very strong center to navigate that because you can easily get lost in the vices. I like to go to go to Woodstock a lot and get away from the city. At my core I’m very much a country person, but when I get away and leave the city for a week, I miss it! California feels like home to me, but I realized I can’t live there. I have a seven-year-old daughter and she’s born and raised in New York and my gallery is here. It’s given me so much. I’ve laid roots here very deeply.”
He might be California born and bred, but New York has brought out the best in Bergès, who has been living in the city for 20 years now and refers to himself as a real New Yorker. Georges is definitely doing what he loves in the city that he loves – it doesn’t get much better than that!