A Rare Specimen: Antoine de Galbert’s Paris

Walking into Me Collectors Room for the show of Antoine de Galbert’s collection is like arriving at a space somewhere between contemporary art gallery, living room and zoo.  Nicolas Milhe’s stuffed Hyena bears it’s teeth, with some gold additions to the set, whilst Damien Deroubaix’s sharks circle ominously, marked with the word Control. 

More than decor

The effect is destabilising; walking into private collection is rarely so confrontational.  Refreshingly, de Galbert’s taste is challenging, politically inclined and does not pander to the whims of a viewer, or even wholly to the commercial art world.  The individual artefacts successfully hold their own  as  autonomous works, whilst also pointing to an overarching mode of inquiry that hints at the narratives and concerns which permeate everyday life.  Theo Mercier’s spaghetti statue slumps mournfully whilst Richard Fauguet’s child-sized bike sits weighed down by a multitude of lurid looped locks and, when viewed as a whole, the works have a cerebral sentiment to them. The artists de Galbert has chosen are influenced by the political and social history of their country and, whilst privileging inquiry over decoration, the collection probes the essential questions and condition of humanity; loneliness and greed, control and power, dominance and weakness.

Objects of wonder, items of value

The non-mainstream interests and tastes of the collector are self-evident through the combination of outsider and folk art displayed upstairs in the Wunderkammer selection alongside artefacts from the Olbricht collection, where shrunken heads meet home-made totems and altarpieces, seemingly imbued with ancient belief or naïve imaginations of magic. Combined with the contemporary artworks downstairs, one is alerted to the history of the collector figure and the roots in Orientalism and the empire. In this installation artefacts have been captured: works of art, objects of wonder, items of value. 

Ancient and modern

The show is also experiential in it’s accumulations, from the direct address of Claire Fontaine’s ‘Strike’ fluorescent tube sculpture to Celeste Boursier-Mougenot’s From Hear to Ear installation, where live zebra finches are enclosed in a netted space.  They nest, chirrup and play guitars as they fly around their limited enclosure and the electronic noises combined with the tweeting is a clash of ancient audio with current sound making, similar to the clash of ancient and modern artefacts in de Galbert’s possession.

Young Parisian artists


This collector’s support of young Parisian artists is one of the truly unique aspects of this exhibition.  Entitled ‘My Paris’, this is a view of one man’s impression of the city’s art scene since he began collecting in 1987 and the 40plus artworks reveal a selection of artist rarely shown together outside of France.  Following Charles Saatchi’s recent outburst on the state of contemporary collecting, this exhibition seems reason to retain some faith in the collector auteur.

  • Me Collectors Room, “Collection Antoine de Galbert. My Paris”, October 10th – January 8th 2012, Tuesday – Sunday 12 – 6 pm