CHRISTOPHE VAN DE WEGHE LAUNCHED VAN DE WEGHE FINE ART IN 1999 WITH A STELLAR EXHIBITION OF ANDY WARHOL WORKS ON PAPER FROM THE EARLY 60s.
FROM ITS INCEPTION TO THE PRESENT DAY, VAN DE WEGHE FINE ART SETS THE HIGHEST STANDARD OF EXCELLENCE IN EXHIBITING SECONDARY MARKET WORKS BY MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN MASTERS.
IT IS TRULY A PRIVILEGE AND A PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE CHRISTOPHE, A TRUSTED FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE, TO THE LRFA BLOG. I HAVE ADMIRED HIM SINCE OUR FIRST ENCOUNTERS WHEN HE WORKED AT GAGOSIAN GALLERY AND HIS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION AND SUCCESS HAVE FAR SURPASSED EVEN MY INITIAL CONVICTION THAT HE WOULD BECOME ONE OF THE GREAT DEALERS AND GENTLEMEN IN THE ART WORLD.
THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO SHARE THE GALLERY’S SEVENTEEN-YEAR HISTORY AND CONTRIBUTION TO OUR KNOWLEDGE AND APPRECIATION OF THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF SUCH MODERN MASTERS AS PICASSO AND ALEXANDER CALDER AND CONTEMPORARY LUMINARIES AS BASQUIAT, WARHOL, KELLY AND SERRA.
YOU ARE ORIGINALLY FROM BELGIUM, A COUNTRY ALTHOUGH SMALL IN SIZE THAT ENJOYS A LONG AND IMPRESSIVE ARTISTIC TRADITION REFLECTING THE INFLUENCES OF BOTH ITS FRENCH AND DUTCH CULTURES.
WHAT WAS THE PATH THAT BROUGHT YOU FROM A CHILDHOOD IN EUROPE TO A LIFE IN NEW YORK?
I used to be a tennis player but I was injured when I was 18 ½ years old and has a serious back issue. I couldn’t play professionally for two years and had to have back surgery. I had been on a tennis scholarship at school and had traveled the whole world.
I didn’t want to go to college at all so I decided to go to California to attend Pepperdine University. The main campus is in Malibu with a 830-acre campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I shifted my sports to swimming and shifted my academy focus to art history. I was interested in art dealing and in the art that I viewed in museums.
DID YOUR FAMILY COLLECT ART? WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST POSITION IN THE ART WORLD? WAS IT ALWAYS IN THE GALLERY SECTOR?
My family were not collectors. My parents were divorced but my stepfather was a collector. My first job was my own business. When I returned to Belgium, I opened a small gallery by the sea, in the Belgian town called Knokke, which is located in the province of West Flanders.
Knokke was a seaside resort, a gathering place in the summer for some of Europe’s wealthiest families and attracted film celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier and Marlene Dietrich. The centerpiece of the town is a modern building, the Casino, that housed a wonderful mural, Le domaine enchante, a series of eight canvases that Magritte painted to fulfill a commission from Gustave Nellens, owner of the seaside Casino Communal at Knokke-le-Zoute in Belgium.
I began showing some American artists such as Ed Ruscha, whom I had met when I was in California and had become friends with the gallery dealer Jim Corcoran. Jim had introduced me to Ed Ruscha and I gave him a show in 1993. I didn’t sell anything at the time – the works were black and white with letters.
It was the early 90s and the art market was dead. The art gallery scene that flourished in the 80s was decimated by a recession and Jim Corcoran, whose gallery was the premier showcase for California artists such as Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston and Kenneth Price, closed. Corcoran joined forces with the collector, Goldman Sachs chair, Robert Mnuchin, in a new gallery venture in New York, C&M Arts.
WHEN WE FIRST MET AND BEGAN WORKING TOGETHER, YOU WERE A DIRECTOR AT GAGOSIAN GALLERY IN NEW YORK. HOW LONG WERE YOU WITH THE GALLERY AND WHAT WERE SOME OF THE PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS THAT STAND OUT FROM THAT PERIOD OF TIME?
At the time, the biggest gallery was Pace. I was interested, from the beginning, in the art market, the auctions and the New York art world. I attended a lot of sales, and would write down all the prices of the things that sold, analyzing what was selling, trying to determine why the art market goes up and the way in which it goes down. I’d always spend May and November in New York during the auction months, and one evening, at Nell’s, a popular bar/restaurant on West 14TH Street, I met Larry Gagosian.
Having just attended an auction uptown, I said to Larry, “You bought a wonderful David Hockney. I’d love to have a job with you. I think I can sell.” And he said, “Come by tomorrow and drop off your resume.”
I went by the gallery the next day and Larry looked at my resume. He told me I had zero experience, that I was a professional tennis player, but that he’d give me one month. “See what you can do”, he said. During that month, I made every appointment imaginable with potential buyers, went to every opening, and only on the very last day of the trial month, I sold a Basquiat for $50k- it was 1993. I gave Larry the invoice, put it on his desk, and said, “I’ve made a sale”. He said, “OK, I’ll give you a job at $30k a year plus 10% of the gallery profits.
In three and one-half years, I was the top sales person. Larry had two galleries in New York, one uptown and one downtown and one in LA and had shows with David Salle, Phillip Taaffe, Warhol and Basquiat.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA POST, CHRISTOPHE WILL DISCUSS THE OPENING OF HIS FIRST GALLERY IN NEW YORK AND SOME OF ITS MANY EXCEPTIONAL EXHIBITIONS.
IN THE MEANTIME, BE SURE TO VISIT THE VAN DE WEGHE BOOTH #8 AT TEFAF, AT THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY ON 57th STREET, THE ILLUSTRIOUS MAASTRICHT FAIR LAUNCH IN NEW YORK AND THE GALLERY.
CURRENTLY, AT VAN DE WEGHE FINE ART, 1018 MADISON AVENUE, BETWEEN 78TH AND 79TH STREET, THE GALLERY HOSTS AN INSTALLATION BY THE BRILLIANT CONTEMPORARY BRAZILIAN ARTIST, HENRIQUE OLIVEIRA, WHOSE WORK CHRISTOPHE FIRST VIEWED IN PARIS. DON’T MISS IT!