Number one in Parisian fashion royalty, Restoin Roitfeld curates his art show at the old Dairy
Young, continental good looks, with fashion elite parents; the creatively inspired Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld will be opening his first exhibition in London during the craze of Frieze Week. The International fashion and art set will descend upon Bloomsbury for his opening of the young French painter, Nicolas Pol at the Old Dairy. Pol, born in 1977 creates large-scale striking paintings. Employing a variety of styles his canvases are loaded with symbols, text, underlying connotations, a chaotic vibrancy all expressed through active brushwork. They have a distinct reference to street art, graphic design and the renaissance masters. Dazed caught up with Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld in London ahead of the exhibition opening.
Dazed Digital: What came first collecting or curating?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: Curating.
DD: I read somewhere that you prefer to be referred to as an Art Tailor rather than Curator?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: The thing is for me, what we do is macro management for the artist we are like a gallery but we work on every single level of the project, I work very closely with the artists, I work with helping the artists with direction, I work in production, finding spaces, finding venues, building the space, curating the show, working with clients, selling the art. It’s a modern way of art dealing, rather than art tailoring, curating is one aspect of the model.
DD: Why did you decide to make the transition from the film world to the art world?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: I was born into a family that was extremely fashion orientated so I grew up in a creative environment but I wanted to do something different to my parents. I had a very strong vision of my grandfather who had a movie production company in France in the 50s and I always grew up with the idea that I’d be working in the film business. I got a position at Paramount for a smaller production company but everything was so political, nothing creative and everything was about making money and I felt in need to be close to creative people. I knew I wasn’t an artist myself but I had so many creative people around me and I started thinking what can I do with all the people that I know and I had a friend, Marco Parego living in New York who was a painter. I decided to move to New York from LA at the end of 2007 to work with Marco and to help him set up his first exhibition in Paris in Summer 2008 and the whole project was just like one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had.
DD: You are quite unconventional by not having a fixed gallery location instead preferring to exhibit artists in non-gallery spaces. What do you look for in a space and what are the benefits?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: For me, we are a gallery, we are a non-conventional gallery, people say a Pop-up gallery, but I find it’s not very respectful to what we do. It’s more than a pop-up gallery. It’s about bringing a gallery to a space, they are not gallery spaces but they are museum style spaces. I like the contrast between industrial, rough and clean. It’s interesting to pick up an industrial venue and give it life for a few weeks. I look for venues that will best represent the works of the artist. Sometimes it’s pure luck, for example with Nicolas’s exhibition last year in New York, I had seen most of the works but didn’t know how they were going to look for the exhibition itself. I found this space in the Lower East side on Essex Street, a huge building, the first meat market in New York that hadn’t been used in 50-60 years, still with the meat chains hanging from the ceilings and it was smelly, full of trash. When I spoke to Nicolas, he had already started painting and his works were so red, like blood and violent and somehow it worked with the space and it’s history. The space in London was another luck, it used to be an old dairy.
DD: Had you been to the The Old Dairy before?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: No but I knew my mum had been to a fashion show there and when I asked her, she said the energy was good, it was a positive environment. And when I saw the space I knew what we could do with it. When I came back to Paris, I told Nicolas and I discovered a lot of his paintings were like bags with supposedly milk and cheese inside.
DD: It’s like you’re in tune with one another?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: Which is really funny. So we’re going from a meat market to a dairy. Somehow there is a connection between the works and the spaces.
DD: What was it originally that drew you to Nicolas’ work?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: I think art is an emotional reaction. When I was exposed to Nicolas’s practice, I had only seen the works in photos and emails. We had a coffee together in Paris, kind of a blind date, and really got along. I think when you work with an artist, it’s not only about their talent; if we didn’t get along it would be impossible to work, you know the energy is not there. But when I met Nicolas, we understood each other and when I went to the studio and saw the work, I thought this is genius. There is so much going on in his paintings. They’re so personal to him. They’re quite difficult for us to understand because there are so many layers, so many stories. You can put his work on your wall for 20 years and everyday you’re going to see something different. I was touched by his work and I knew the guy was a genius, he’s so technically advanced. I look at a lot of artists, a lot of younger artists but it’s very rare they are so good.
DD: Can you explain the incorporation of words in Nicolas’ paintings?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: There’s a play on words, it’s all about irony and humour.
DD: Can you explain the title of the exhibition Mother of Pouacrus?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: He’s going to get pissed because I could explain it but it’s going to be a different story to what he says. It’s really complicated, everyone who knows him say don’t tell me anything, I’ll wait to talk to Nicolas as I’ll be really interested to know how he came up with this title. Basically a Pouacrus, from what I understood, it’s a medieval figure of a man, probably a French man who’s bit filthy, a dirty person in the street and then he created this other thing that he thinks is the mother of this man so that is why he called it Mother of Pouacrus but then that’s maybe a story I was told a few months ago and I could speak to him today and it’s going to be a different orientation.
(Nicolas Pol explains the meaning as – “The word pouacre in French is like a living dead word. Means someone really dirty and dreadful. Used a lot in poetry until the end of 19th century with humour, especially with Rimbaud and Verlaine. Mother of Pouacrus is like a re-appropriation of that figure of filth as self portrait. It is meant to be abstract and funny. In the show a character of evil sins, The Virgin, evolves in scenes and metamorphosis, to finally become Mother of Pouacrus. It is an invitation to see painting as witchcraft.”)
DD: What’s next? Who will you be exhibiting?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: I have the Old Dairy until mid December. After Nicolas we’re going to modify the whole space and we’ll bring 35-40 new works of Richard Hambleton and we’ll do the last exhibition in collaboration with Giorgio Armani in November.
DD: Which city do you consider to be the Art capital: Paris, London, New York or Berlin?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: New York (no hesitation).
DD: So why did you want to do a show in London?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: This is the whole model; I’m not going to look for an industrial space in New York every weekend to do different show. My angle was based on different things. I knew that if I had gone into a gallery business straight away instead of worrying about being creative, finding good artists and working step by step with them I would spend more time worrying on how to cover the cost of my gallery. So I knew let’s be dedicated to creativity and let’s be completely free to work 100 per cent with the artist. I think today; everything is becoming so global, so international. There is a growing interest for everything and I think our generation has to be visible around the world right now and not only in one street in one city and that’s the same for an artist. I mean who doesn’t want to do three to four shows in one year and show in New York, Milan, Cannes, Rome, Moscow and in London, it’s a cool concept, it's not conventional.
DD: Is there any one artist you would like to or wished you could have work with?
Vladimir Rostein Roitfeld: There’s a lot of artists that I like but I’m very happy to work with Nicolas. I don’t think I could have been luckier to be introduced to him when I started working. I think he’s a true genius of the moment.
Nicolas Pol, Mother of Pouacrus The Old Dairy, London 15 October-5 November 2010