Emmanuel is a New York-based art dealer and owner of the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in Soho http://www.emmanuelfremingallery.com/. I met him during ArtHamptons 2010 while I was in his booth admiring the work of one of his artists Drew Tal. He came over and we started chatting. I asked him if he would like to do an interview, he said yes and what you see below is the pleasant result. As you'll see, Fremin has a refreshing, uncomplicated view of contemporary art.
MICHAEL: Hi Emmanuel. Thanks for chatting. I was really impressed with your booth at ArtHamptons 2010. You obviously love contemporary art. What is your personal relationship with art and how did you become an art dealer?
EMMANUEL: Hey Michael, Yes I love contemporary art, especially photography and installations. Back in Paris, at the age of 17, I used to represent a French painter named Michel Giliberti. Our first exhibition in the "Le Marais" area went so well that I started to sign other artists. Thanks to Michel Giliberti, I entered the world of modeling and had a very successful career as a model, shooting for Burberry, Dunhill, L'Oreal and such. Moving to New York at the age of 21, I signed with Elite and started to do artist representations at the same time. I met with fashion photographer Drew Tal, we did our first fair which was Scope Hamptons and it was a successful experience. From that point, we joined the fairs in Miami, Santa Fe, New York City up to our cruising speed of today with one of his works at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach. I also still represent Michel Giliberti, but only his photographs.
MICHAEL: Wow. You represented an artist at the age of 17? It sounds like you were a child prodigy. What was your childhood experience with art? Do you come from an artistic family?
EMMANUEL: I had none. I was training to become a body builder from the age of 14. One day, after a contest, someone gave me a card. It was Michel Giliberti's info. He immersed me into a world of art, showing his incredible paintings and I became one of his main muses. I am self taught, but I learned from the best.
MICHAEL: Being an art dealer requires so much knowledge about art, business, sales, psychology and people. How have you learned this? Did you go to college? Did your modeling career help? You still seem so young to have your own gallery.
EMMANUEL: I got my degree in Marketing at 19. Then I moved to Paris and started modeling right away. Everything about art, I learned it talking with artists, observing what people like to buy and such. I believe in my own taste and I usually know what artist will be a success and where to show his work. At the Hamptons fair, we sold a total of 9 artworks. It was better than any of the other galleries around us or I had been talking to. Based on the public response and what they have bought in the past, I'm able to make the right selection at the right place. My modeling career helped hugely. Most of my artists have a fashion background ... many of my collectors also. It's all connected in one. I am 33 today.
MICHAEL: It's interesting that you say you believe in your own taste. Do you think the fact that you're French helps with that? What role did this play? The French are known for being great aesthetes and taste makers.
EMMANUEL: I have never thought of that to be honest. I am thinking much more like an American than a French person. I am a New Yorker, not a Parisian. I believe French thinking is overrated.
MICHAEL: Hmm, very interesting. I think it's great that you did so well at ArtHamptons. That's definitely an art crowd. Still, the fact remains that most people won't have much exposure to contemporary art, let alone buy it. Many people either think it's weird or they're afraid of it. Isn't it exhausting for you as an art dealer to constantly have to educate people?
EMMANUEL: We can't really change people's views on art, but we can surprise them by showing them great artworks. That is as far you can go. Many people don't consider photography art itself. That's their choice, I respect it. I am only here to appeal to people responding to my artists, not to educate them.
MICHAEL: Like you, I also love photography. However, I think there's a huge difference between art-photography and simple snapshots. I've attended major international art fairs where I've seen what I'll call, "blown up snapshots" that I feel I could've taken. For you, at what point does a photo become art?
EMMANUEL: You're absolutely correct, many artworks seem more like snapshots than anything else. For me, when I see a photo like for example the one with the monks by Drew Tal, which is the perfect shot, it makes people cry or think, "Wow, that's a great piece!" Then I know we're looking at a real piece of art. I want to be able to think that I cannot do the same ... that I don't know how it was made, but I like it.
MICHAEL: So, for you it's the emotional effects and belief that the image is somewhat beyond your grasp that makes it art. Cool. Still, there are SO MANY websites out there these days and so many ways that people are bypassing artists and creating their OWN art. Is this a good thing or bad thing for contemporary art?
EMMANUEL: Well, people can create their own art for themselves, but it won't have any value in time and won't be considered as investment. The goal is to buy art that you like, but with value in it ... part of a museum collection, for example. That's why I only represent 8 artists total, so we can concentrate on them, sell them well, make them grow, showing them to the fairs, etc.
MICHAEL: Cool. Along those lines, where do you think the art world is headed? With digital art growing so big and fast, will photography takeover? Will painting die off? Will emerging artists remain "emerging" forever?
EMMANUEL: Yes, the photography will at some point be as valuable as painting. We can already see the effects of prices at auction houses. Painting won't die off, but photography, video and installations will have a larger share in the near future.
MICHAEL: Hmm, given that, what is your own future in the art world? Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?
EMMANUEL: This is a tough one. As I only plan for the upcoming 6 months in advance, seeing myself in 20 years is theoretically impossible, too many factors have to be counted, but for the upcoming years, I see many of my artists being well known and their work widely recognized.
MICHAEL: Good for you Emmanuel and best wishes for all of your artists. Thanks for chatting.
Again, you can find out more about Emmanuel Fremin by visiting his website at www.emmanuelfremingallery.com.