They are in their thirties and art dealers are snatching them up: young painters are popular. Connected, they hang their paintings in galleries… but also on social networks.
Arcueil, in the suburbs of Paris, in the studio of the painter Nazanin Pouyandeh. A drying canvas, five women who have produced themselves. The artist has taken out her brushes for a feminist remake of The Death of Cleopatra, a great classic of painting declined over the centuries by dozens of artists since the Renaissance… Among his models, a very young painter, Chloë Saï Breil-Dupont, 32 years old. Barely a decade separates Nazanin Pouyandeh, born in 1981, from her colleague, but these ten years are a gap. Almost outdated in recent decades, painting is indeed making a comeback in France, as evidenced by the current craze for very young artists.
A multitude of emerging painters, with limited work, are very courted by gallery owners in France and abroad. Thus, barely finished her solo show in Romania, the young Chloë Saï Breil-Dupont is already preparing the following ones, in Belgium in the fall, in the United States next year… Unheard of for her eldest Nazanin Pouyandeh, whose paintings populated by shimmering and haughty creatures, currently exhibited at the Topographie de l’art in Paris, have taken their time to establish themselves. “Before, he had to reach your 45th birthday, be present in five collections, have been to ten museums to possibly be interested in an international gallery”, wonders the artist who continues to fight.
“Ah, no. Too old!”
It must be said that in France painting has long been denigrated, and even considered dead in the 1990s and 2000s. “When I was a student at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, people asked me why I painted”, remembers Nazanin Pouyandeh. Identical observation on the side of a “former”, Marc Desgrandchamps, born in 1960, multiple-exposed in large institutions, from the Center Pompidou to the Museum of Modern Art: “There was a form of disdain for purely pictorial approaches, missed as obsolete. It is therefore quite new that we are interested in artists who restrict themselves solely to this register. »
The painter Stéphane Pencréac’h, born in 1970, does not mince his words: “My generation had a reinforced concrete wall in front of it. We were only about ten to succeed in it, it was a rather hard and unhealthy fight which destroyed many artists. » After years of scarcity, is it then the natural pendulum of the history of art, or a fed up with conceptual art? Everyone has their own explanation, their anecdote, between envy and spite, such as that of this exhibition curator who would have the age of a creator specified: ” Oh no. Too old ! » Or that of this collector who, “for the same price, would prefer to buy a small youngster”. In the meantime, the paintings of the “little young people” are snapping up.
Thus, during the Fiac, last October, the personal exhibition of Simon Martin, 30 years old, “was ‘sold out’ from the first morning”, enthuses gallery owner Philippe Jousse. Same, in June, for the exhibition of Nathanaëlle Herbelin, 33 years old “Five years ago, we sold very calmly. But there, we were literally overwhelmed by the requests,” confirm the art dealer. Precisely, these two tenants of a new stage are currently visible at the Pernod Ricard Foundation, in the exhibition “Between your eyes and the images I see there”.
What do these artists, who are all around their thirties, have in common? “A high quality of execution, and a return to figuration, dominant in their canvases”, believes Philippe Jousse, who showed the group in his gallery in 2019. For art critic Anaël Pigeat, co-curator of the event, “These artists are all painting researchers. Their work is very neat, meticulous and reduced, often intimate, perhaps because the pandemic has led to the return to a more meditative, solitary studio practice”.
Solitary, but connected. Because the figure of the lonely artist in the middle of his paintings has lived. In a world of images and social networks, blessed is the young painter who masters the codes. Before being added to the gallery, his paintings can be discovered on the Internet, in particular on Instagram, like the “cassettes” painted in oil by Chloë Saï Breil-Dupont, which precisely question the incessant flow of images of our times. Today, the young portrait painter, 3,600 subscribers on the social network, collaborates with two galleries, the Belgians of Newchild and the Americans of Nicodim, based in California. Both times the contact is made through Instagram. Two years, the young woman estimates to have received about thirty since messages from art dealers on her profile.
“Before, you went to a vernissage, you met a gallery owner, he came to your studio. With the Covid, the galleries have been watched more on the Internet. Instagram, after all, is like a portfolio or a workshop visit. » Chloé Sai Breil-Dupont, painter
An approach strategy that until then was not so common in the art world. “Before, you went to a vernissage, you met a gallery owner, he came to your studio, she declares. With the Covid, the galleries have been watched more on the Internet. Instagram, after all, is like a portfolio or a workshop visit, but much more organic and open to the whole world. » As a result, the artist no longer has to wait for the gallery owner next door to decide to ring his doorbell. Especially since everyone is on Instagram, including collectors.
This, the painter Olivier Masmonteil, born in 1973, “old school”, but as comfortable on social networks as a fish in water, understood it well: “The environment is very backward. Before, when you were an artist, Instagram was a bit like going into a club with baskets, it wasn’t done. I don’t care if I’m taxed as a commercial painter, in the meantime I exist! » With 46,400 followers on TikTok, 23,000 on Instagram, two people to help her post, artistic tutorials inspired by the trainer of the sportswoman Serena Williams… 30% of her collectors present her activity on social networks!
Other artists, on the contrary, take the opposite route, and from the Web to the gallery. Thus the painter Inès Longevial, born in 1990. An influencer profile, 350 k on Instagram. For gallery owner Charlotte Ketabi, the challenge was therefore to legitimize the work of her young recruit. “The teenagers of my collectors knew her, but not their parents. It’s the opposite of what I’m used to doing, I’ve never had so many visitors to the gallery, but they are amateurs, not necessarily buyers. » Still, influence also apparently makes it possible to sell: “Of the thirty or so works, only two remain. » And no, a young painter is not cheap. “Inès, it is already sacred prices, 5,500 euros for the smallest format. »
But if the large, very visual flat tints of Inès Longevial’s self-portraits are easily revealed on Instagram, not everyone is so lucky. Extremely detailed, rich in many mise en abyme, the fabulous imagination of Nazanin Pouyandeh goes much less well on the Internet. “It’s true that it promotes more realistic approaches, regret this one. It has to be fun, understandable at first glance. But I’m not going to change my painting to please Internet users! » she exclaims with a laugh.
“In the works of my young colleagues made today, there are some very good things, but many also respond to the injunction of a certain form of political correctness, with a real lack of thought on the medium” , concluded with a touch of bitterness Stéphane Pencréac’h, heir artist of the 1970s. Art history or followers, you have to choose…
“Warrior women, women in combat”, until May 7 at the Topography of art, 15 rue de Thorigny, Paris 3andTuesday to Saturday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., free entry.
“Between your eyes and the images I see there* (a sentimental choice)”, until June 11, Fondation Pernod Ricard, 1 cours Paul-Ricard, Paris, Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., free admission.