After several years of working at the PIASA auction house as the head of the urban and contemporary art Department, Geoffroy Jossaume decided to dedicate himself entirely to his passion for urban art and open his own gallery in Nice, the GCA Gallery, now showing some of the best street artists of the French and European scene.
Artsper interviewed him to share his insight on the vibrant world of street art.
Artsper: Where does your passion for urban art come from? What draws you to this genre?
Geoffroy Jossaume : My passion built over various encounters during my last position as a Director of urban and contemporary art at PIASA, a Paris-based auction house. When I was organizing auctions, I got to meet several people of the street art world. Some encounters have been more pivotal than other, especially with Mehdi Ben Cheikh, director of the Itinerrance gallery in Paris. He showed me his way of working, shared his vision and his enthusiasm for street art with me. Through him, I met Inti, a Chilean artist represented by Itinerrance gallery that I fell in love with. Step by step, I met more and more people in this world, artists, gallery owners, auctioneers, collectors, editors and art brokers. They all taught me something.
I find street art reachable on an intellectual as well as on an aesthetic level. Street art talks to everybody. Urban art encompasses different styles, topics and techniques. Some pieces touch our aesthetic sensitivity, others make us ponder over the issues of our society, and some others are playful and make us smile. Street art is constantly changing with always new technical achievements.
The market for street art is also very interesting and constantly evolving. It is relatively recent and the pieces offered for sale, as well as their prices, have changed of lot since the beginning. Vandal French graffiti and historical American graffiti largely popularized this genre, but then buyers turned to street art. Each year, prices reached new records, but it seems that the market is stabilizing now. Latest results show a renewed interest for old school American graffiti. This market is fascination because nothing is stable. Offer, demand and results are in constant change, maybe too much.
Artsper : You worked for the contemporary art and urban art department at PIASA for several years, is it an asset for you today ? What led you to open your own gallery?
Geoffroy Jossaume : My experience at PIASA was very beneficial. Working in an auction house in general teaches you a lot in terms of organization. I had to do everything by myself and find solutions very quickly if there were problems. I learn to be rigorous, which is indispensable for the well-functioning of auctions sales. On a networking level, being an intermediate between sellers and buyers is also very beneficial. It helps me a lot on a daily basis today. I apply the same rigor and precision in my work, and the same courtesy in my relationships with clients.
The desire to open my own gallery is not new. When I finished my studies in 1999, I already wanted to do so. But back then, I lacked maturity, financial means and experience. Sometime we make professional choices that lead us in different directions, and it can be for the best. I really appreciated working in an auction house. I gave a lot of myself, which is also the case with my gallery today. I am deeply involved in each exhibition I curate and with every artist I represent. It is a great source of joy for me.
Artsper : GCA Gallery exhibits big names of street art such as Blu, C2015 or Blek Le Rat, how would you define your artistic line? Are your exhibitions representative of your tastes or of the market?
Geoffroy Jossaume : The artists you are mentioning were exhibited for our opening. Today I work according to a few chore principles. Of course I need to have an interest in the artist I exhibit. One cannot sell something he does not like. Then my relationship with the artists is another standard. I do not want to work with artists I do not get along with on a professional or human level, the quality of their work aside.
I therefore mostly work following my tastes.
Artsper: What is for you the biggest challenge of a gallery specialized in urban art- since the chore of its philosophy is to be in the street?
Geoffroy Jossaume : Urban art is way less vandal than before and a lot of urban artists now work in their studio. Artists also have bills to pay. Urban art is contemporary art at the end. Street artists express themselves in the street but they are also contemporary artists who work in studio and produce exhibition like any others.
The challenge for me is to convince clients of the French Riviera to collect the artists I exhibit. There is no similar galleries in the area, so maybe collectors are not used to this type of art.
Artsper : You are currently showing the work of Italian street artist ETNIK, who were already present during your 2014 show « Made in italy », what led you to deepen your collaboration with this artist ?
Geoffroy Jossaume : The quality of his work. I obviously need to sell artworks to run the gallery, but at the closing of the “Made in Italy” exhibition, I was sad to sell the last piece by ETNIK and to not buy it myself. ETNIK’s universe makes you dream and brings you to another world. His technique is interesting because in the street, he works with spray-paint, but in his studio, he only works with acrylic, ink and paintbrushes. The contrast between his polished and detailed drawings and his splashes of paintings makes his pieces very aesthetical.
Artsper: Between this exhibition and the one of 2014, you are turning to Italy a lot, is street art a vibrant scene over there? If I ask you to give me 5 Italian street artist names, who would they be?
Geoffroy Jossaume : I am not specializing in Italian street art, but my gallery is rather young, so I have not had the chance to show a wide variety of artists yet. However, Italian street art scene is very dynamic, especially in Torino. The exhibition I put up in 2014 got me to meet great Italien street artists. I also exhibit French artists (ARDPG, C215, STEW, KOUKA, RETRO, FENX…). There is no frontiers in art.
It is possible that I keep working with Italian artists in a near future.
It is very hard to establish a top 5 of Italian street artists but I really love ETNIK of course, Des Orticanoodles, Moneyless, Pixel-Pancho and BR1.
Artsper: You must collect street art yourself? Who are some of the artists you collect on your own?
Geoffroy Jossaume : Yes I collect. I have too much favorite artists and I unfortunately cannot buy them all, because I do not have the financial means. It is rather frustrating to be surrounding by artworks all the time without being able to own them.
One of my very favorite though is INTI. I also particularly like the work of C2015, SETH and Ludo. I would love to own a piece by ETNIK, and will try to buy one. Dran’s genius touches me a lot, the universe of Natalia Rak and Etam Cru makes me dream, and I love Logan Hicks’ stencils. I also love Maya Hayuk’s compositions, and I find Space Invader’s work very in touch with our time. If only I could have one piece of each of those artists… there are so much talented artists…
Artsper: What do you think of the growing place of internet on the art market? Is street art marketable online?
Geoffroy Jossaume : Street art is not particularly marketable or not online. It is probably more popularized on social media but the growing place of internet on the art market is a global phenomenon. All the main auction houses are making the move, and meet great success.
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