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When the heir to an art dealing dynasty opens a gallery where nothing is for sale (yet)

 

You haven’t heard of the Nahmads? They’re only one of the most powerful dynasties in the art world. And when a son and heir, Joseph Nahmad decides to open a new sort of gallery in London, it’s bound to make waves…

Tommaso Calabro, Francesco Bonami and Joseph Nahmad at Nahmad Projects opening beginning of June.

 

While the Nahmad name might have been embroiled in art world scandals for the last few years in the United States, they remain one of the most powerful families of gallery owners, collectors and dealers in the world. According to the finance newspaper Les Échos, their collection counts around 4,500 pieces including a mere 300 Picassos! 

 

On the English side of the family, heir Joseph Nahmad was the talk of the town at the beginning of June when he opened Nahmad Projects, a new kind of gallery in the heart of classic art land, Mayfair. Just a stone's throw away from the really big guns (Sotheby’s, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, not to mention Gagosian…), Nahmad Projects is playing the counterproposal card. While traditional galleries generally represent artists for the long term Joseph Nahmad and his young partner Tommaso Calabro (an Italian with a stint at Sotheby’s) have turned their backs on this established model.  

 

"THREE PERFORMERS REPRODUCE THE MOVEMENTS OF THE MOST FAMOUS CATS IN THE HISTORY OF ART." Tommaso Calabro 

 

“We will be choosing projects on an ad hoc basis, organised every time by a different curator… and presenting different artists” explains Tommaso Calabro. Joseph Nahmad continues, "A project like ours would be expected in a neighbourhood like Shoreditch, but certainly not in Mayfair! I'm hoping we can inject a bit of novelty and youth round here, all while maintaining a certain elegance and sophistication." 

Performance within the project "I am NOT tino sehgal" at Nahmad Projects.

 

 

For their first project “I am NOT tino sehgal”, the two partners called upon celebrated curator Francesco Bonami to develop a rather intriguing concept: a tribute to Tino Sehgal. The Berlin-based artist is the undisputed super star of contemporary art known for breaking from all conventions. With Tino Sehgal (who'll be at the Palais de Tokyo in October), there are no material objects or traces of his work (either photographic or video)… only experiences to experience.

 

His works are “Situations”, carefully choreographed moments that combine song, dance and movement through space or simply words. The spectator generally has no idea what awaits them, the surprise is complete. The dematerialisation of art has reached its climax… But it remains for sale (in front of a lawyer or by spoken word, there is no written trace of the exchange either). 

Performance within the project "I am NOT tino sehgal" at Nahmad Projects.

 

So Francesco Bonami came up with the idea of holding auditions among the new generation of international artists influenced by the Tino Sehgal “revolution”. Thirty performances have been selected and will be shown daily – one per day – until July 20th. “The performances aren’t necessarily linked to exact works by Tino Sehgal,” Tommaso Calabro explains to us a few days before the official public opening, "But some are of course inspired by his emblematic pieces, such as "The Kiss" [choreography in which a couple reproduce the most famous kisses in the history of art]. For example three performers reproduce the movements of the most famous cats in the history of art [he laughs]." The tribute permits a berth wide enough for some gentle mocking and hindsight.

 

 

“WITH TINO SEHGAL, WE’RE WITNESSING THE END OF CONTEMPORARY ART.”

Francesco Bonami

 

  

“Ultimately any situation could be Tino Sehgal,” explains the curator Francesco Bonami. “You walk into a gallery and the security person starts talking to us… That’s pure Tino Sehgal! With Marina Abramovic's classic performances, the mise en scene and theatrical aspect clearly indicates it's a work of art. There's none of that with Tino Sehgal! His situations require just two people, the performer and the spectator. And the former often has no idea what will happen, where or when. Tino Sehgal has taken the dematerialisation of art to such a point that for me it represents the very end of contemporary art. What started with Marcel Duchamp concludes with him. The end of the object is complete."

For the inauguration of the gallery on June 9th, Tomàs Diafas invited visitors to whisper into his ear what they’d like to change about their lives in one word. Then before the assembled crowd the Greek artist cried out all of the responses… provoking laughter and occasional embarrassment.

 

 

"TINO SEHGAL'S SITUATIONS COST BETWEEN 100,000 AND 200,000 DOLLARS. BUT HERE THERE IS NOTHING FOR SALE." Tommaso Calabro 

 

But not all of Tino Sehgal’s strictly imposed rules are followed at Nahmad Projects. "We allow the public to take photographs," Tommaso Calabro confirms. "But unlike Tino Sehgal whose situations sell for 100 to 200,000 dollars, our performances are not for sale. We just gave the artists £1000 for their expenses." This obviously won't be the case for every project…

 

At the inauguration of the gallery on June 9th, Tomas Diafas invited visitors to whisper in his ear what they would like to change in their lives in just one word. Then before the assembled crowd the Greek artist cried out all of the responses, provoking laughter with some of the whispered words… "Work" ((too much!) featured several times), "girlfriend", "dog" or "philosophy".

 

“I’d also suggested another idea,” laughs Francesco Bonami, "I thought it would be very funny if Joseph, as a member of such a great family of collectors and dealers, bought the entire collection of Tino Sehgal and stored it in a warehouse. That would have been an amusing way to push the logic of Tino Sehgal's oeuvre to an absurd conclusion."

 

I am NOT tino sehgal at the Nahmad Projects gallery in London, on until July 20th

 

>> Discover Tino Sehgal’s intervention on the Jemma el-Fna square in Marrakech.

 

By Thibaut Wychowanok

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