"a very special agent" interview by Paul Ardenne for Galeries
Magazine, Décembre 1992
His apartment on rue Beaubourg had
served more as a meeting place than a business location(biography)
. Ghislain Mollet-Viéville, art agent specializing in minimal
and conceptual art, has recently moved to rue Crozatier, not far from
the Bastille. He hasn't changed his orientation though. For this atypical
player of the art-market game, the gallery is a vestige and the material
artwork an often superfluous object. Far more well-founded is the commerce
of initiatives and ideas.
You qualify yourself as an "agent d'art" That's not exactly
a time-worn denomination...
Indeed I created the term "agent d'art"
quite deliberately, in the late 1970s. For me, the main thing was to
signal a specific attitude, more artistic than commercial. Agent d'art,
and not artists' agent. More than one nuance is at work there. I wanted
the chance to intervene myself.
So your spin on the art system was straight away that of an operator,
not an economic representative ?
Yes. An operator, an actor, someone who most definitely intends to dynamise
the state of art.
In what way ?
In 1975, at 26 rue Beaubourg, I hung a show of minimal and conceptual
art. That constituted the first event in a long series, which included,
for example, an action by Andre Cadere around the idea "Establish
Disorder" - which, as a matter of fact, and not illogically, ended
up as a huge tussle set off by the arrival of a crowd of rockers in
the apartment. A museum would obviously have had some difficulty organizing
this type of action, simultaneously presenting the most advanced thinking
on a given problem and its immediate abyssal reflection, in real time...
In 1979 my apartment was the focal point of Philippe Thomas's first
interventions, and in 1981 the presentation of a found, unsigned manuscript
launched an investigation of the text's relationship to its author -
the first event in a fiction that is well known today
So your apartment is above all a stage ?
The appartment is only one of the means at my disposal. Many actions
take place outside, in the city. It's a way for me to keep my activity
from freezing in a single spot, and to keep open the possibility of
occupying different spaces, different contexts... What's more, since
the beginning my "gallery" has only open by rendez-vous. This
exchange-oriented formula allows for much more comfortable relations,
it strikes up a balanced rapport between the artist, the art-lover,
and the agent d'art himself, who then can play his full role as provider
Your active position results from a radical refusal of the conventions
that apply to the gallerist. There's an analogy with the challenge posed
to the museum institution by the conceptual artists whom you represent...
I thought at the time, and still think, that the designated cultural
sites cannot take on art in its real dimensions. In such places, the
public does not learn to look at works for what they are. The presentation
of the works is tributary to the classical contraints of exhibition,
which turn around to entrap the works themselves. In fact, the cultural
site encloses the artist with its rules. The ultimate consequences is
the public's near inability to understand those artists who, precisely,
have chosen to provoke original situations in response to the traditionnal
propositions of exhibition or acquisition. This is why I myself judged
it necessary to rethink these confrontations, notably by changing the
conventions that ordinarily serve as a basis for the concept of the
Do you deny all legitimacy to the traditional gallery ?
Let us say that my work complements the gallery's. Thus I'm also free
to present the ideas of artists who are themselves represented by galleries,
when these ideas are not adaptable to the ordinary gallery strctures.
I quite agree that your activity diverges from the norm. In the end,
though, doesn't such activity come right back to the market ? After
all, the art market remains your territory, even if you live off honoraria...
I can define my activities, not so much by the presentation of such
and such an artist, but rather by the key words of information and distribution
of art. My field of activity involves everything relating to the management
of archives or articles, to the lectures and interviews I give, to the
expertise I supply, to the public sales or exhibitions I organize here
and there - in short, the activity of communication as well as presence
on the market. It's less important for me - I insist - to participate
in the market of the art object than to reveal the degree to which this
market in itself is an art object. If the market interests me, it's
to the extent that it participates in artistic activity.
That's the famous reversal of codes proper to late capitalism : art
validated by economics rather than by its aesthetic value. The artwork
remains nonetheless a material object...
A Mondrian painting or a Brancusi sculpture are objects, you pay for
them, you have them in your home. Other twentieth-century artists have
occupied a more opportune, more analytic position, now on the point
of generating an audience somewhat less eager for objects than for critical
ideas. We're evolving from the aesthetic of the art object toward the
aesthetic of the concept. If I became an agent d'art, it's because I'm
convinced that the promotion and distribution of art is an artistic
activity constituting both the content and the "meta-form"
of an art that is itself no longer productive of forms. On the artistic
level there is no fundamental reason to return to the object. My collection,
for example, takes the form of my library and my computer disk, every
bit as much as the note-cards, the indexes, the projects by artists
So you sell ideas ?
I sell ideas. I also hold that art lovers no longer have to be "collection
potatoes". They can act on their own initiative to realize a wall
drawing by Sol LeWitt, or to take charge of Claude Rutault's "definitions/methodes"...
The collector can feel a legitimate right to make art, to participate
in an artistic gesture. It's then up to me then to arrange the occasions,
to play my role as intermediary.
In the end you deal in action, not just in contemplation. But by selling
the abstract for the concrete, you sacrfice the fetish...
People have been preaching the abandonment of illusionism in art since
Cezanne. After Duchamp, the art object left the realm of the decorative,
moving into fields of reference. With the aesthetic of the art object
as such now obsolete, it is possible to adopt an aesthetic of reality,
an aesthetic which takes the world for what it is. Consider my action
at Picard frozen foods, with the presentation of Lawrence Weiner's statement
: IN AND OUT... I present an ordinary business as an ordinary business.
Nothing was modified for this event, all the store's products remain
in their real places. The very presentation of the announced Weiner
piece consists only in the comings (IN) and goings (OUT) of people doing
their shopping, or of visitors to the opening, searching - fruitlessly
- for the tangible product that the art market generally offers them.
Here, I've presented art in the form which I think is truly its own
- that of the concept - by asking this question : when is there art
and how can it be made ? We slip from the aesthetic of the concept to
the aesthetic of the context. An artistic process is inscribed in a
larger reality, on which it depends. Now, if I had to define in a single
phrase what I find interesting in my relation to art, it would be exactly
that : the revelation of the context
, as a way to throw our current art system into question.
Agent d'Art, Expert-conseil
Expert honoraire près la Cour d'Appel de Paris
Membre de l'Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art
59, ave Ledru-Rollin 75012 Paris France
+33 1 40 02 07 40