Arthur de Villepin – son of the former Prime Minister of France, Dominique de Villepin – no longer lives under the shadow of his father because he’s implementing business ideas of his own with exciting projects and expansion plans to show that he can make things happen.
Today, he’s the CEO Asia Pacific of the renowned Paris-based photography studio, YellowKorner that has 80 galleries around the world including New York, Paris, London and now Hong Kong.
YellowKorner’s Hong Kong gallery, despite having been open only since December last year, has attracted great attention from photography lovers and buyers due to its one simple vision: to make photography art accessible. Meanwhile it’s also a place dedicated for allowing photography talents to display their emotions and finest works.
I’m very honored to be able to interview Arthur de Villepin to learn about how YellowKorner strives to achieve such vision. He also reveals his favorite photographers represented by the gallery and shares his perception of photography art.
Interview with Arthur de Villepin
J: Jin Wong
A: Arthur de Villepin
(Photos: courtesy of YellowKorner unless mentioned otherwise)
J: What does photography mean to you?
A: What I really like about photography is the fact that it’s something where you don’t go for a trend or a position in the art market, you go for the love of the photograph itself. We have to go back to what the photography is really supposed to mean: capturing a special moment of life, a special emotion.
J: Are you a passionate photographer yourself? If yes, what do you get and feel from taking photographs?
A: I am not a photographer because I think it’s an everyday job and requires a lot of hard work. Photographers are extremely talented people and I don’t believe anyone can replicate what they do. I truly admire and respect the photographers and their artistic passion
J: What’s your favorite type of photographs?
A: Urban landscape as it really stimulates me and inspires me. I also like the nature photographs which are often very relaxing and peaceful. I love the fact that we cover a whole spectrum of themes which allows your tastes to evolve and to start appreciating different things in photography from fashion to urban and travel to landscape.
J: YellowKorner’s mission is to make photography art more accessible, such as it would choose to publish 1000 prints at HKD600 instead of 10 prints at HKD60, 000. Would you worried that some art lovers would think the photographs are too mass-produced?
A: Actually, we have great feedback so far from art lovers. They are thrilled to discover a place like our gallery where we bring them a large selection of photographs from worldwide talented Artists.
Regarding the limitation of the editions, the concept is very simple: with the artist’s consent, the same photograph is available in one or several formats (24x36cm, 60x90cm and 100x150cm and 120cmx180cm). Each format has its own corresponding limit (open edition, limited editions with 80, 100, 200 or 500 copies). All YellowKorner photographs are prints produced by a renowned professional laboratory, numbered and supplied with a certificate of authenticity under the artist’s watchful eye.
J: How do you make sure each photograph is unique to the customer, even though it might be reproduced into hundreds of copies?
A: The willingness of the founders was to democratize art photography by offering affordable prints, without compromising artistic quality. We have an artistic committee based in Paris which is responsible for unearth new and upcoming talents. Therefore, YellowKorner is really part of a cultural and artistic concept.
Buying art is a very personal process because you are sensitive or not to an art piece according to your personality, your culture, your age, your tastes etc. By increasing the number of copies, we don’t change this very personal process; we just make it accessible to everyone – that’s what is unique for our customers. Collectors can now easily complete their collection and people that usually can’t afford to buy arts can do it for the first time. It is a true revolution into the world of Art and photography.
J: What do you think about people using smartphone to take photos? Are those photographs qualified as “art” for you? Why and why not?
A: Using smartphone to take photo is very convenient as we always have our smartphone with us. That is why almost everyone does it, including me. These shots can be interesting, beautiful, shocking or funny and the digital technology combined with a photoshoped treatment can produce beautiful images. But beauty is not always art because the approach is completely different. When we take pictures with our smartphones, we want to capture a moment in order to keep a track and memory of something we are seeing. As the approach is different, the result is different as well. The feelings and the emotions provided by these pictures are not comparable. While we are shooting personal “life” moments, artists work on transmitting a message.
J: Which are the photographers you like the most that are represented by YellowKorner?
A: My favorite photographers in YellowKorner are Laurent Baheux, Laurent Dequick and Olivier Föllmi.
J: If we compare photography with other art forms, like painting, sculpture, kinetic art and multimedia art etc., what’s the uniqueness of photography?
A: What makes art photography unique is the fact that it’s easily understandable by everyone. The emotion of a photograph is striking at first sight and Art photographs can reach the feelings of everyone. That is why art photography is a great medium for a first approach to Art in general.
J: Why did you choose Hong Kong to open a YellowKorner gallery?
A: Hong Kong is one of Asia’s art centers when looking at trends especially when it comes to new concepts and art. It just seems like a natural and obvious place to launch the adventure.
J: What do you think YellowKorner is going to be in 5 years?
A: Today, YellowKorner has 80 galleries located in the most prestigious cities around the world, including New York, Paris, London and now Hong Kong.
In 5 years we expect to have 500 galleries with a huge focus on Asia and more especially the Chinese Market.
In the following months, we will extend our activities in Hong Kong with the opening of a new shop by the end of the year.
J: Anything in Hong Kong you think that is fostering a more vivid and active art scene?
A: The Art photography market is very new to Hong Kong and it is extremely interesting to observe the behaviour of Hong Kongers facing this new trend. People coming to the gallery are always interested by our concept it is a great pleasure for us to feel we are really bringing something to their everyday life and to be able to prove that Art is not only for rich collectors but can actually be for everyone. I think democratizing art as we are doing is a great way to get more people interested and involved in it. It is sending a message saying “Art is not a price tag, it is a feeling, it is an emotion”. That will definitely help attract more people’s interest in the Hong Kong art scene!
J: If you need to choose a place in Hong Kong to take photos, where would it be?
A: Actually it depends on the kind of photo you are looking for. If you want to capture the amazing skyline of Hong Kong, the best places are the top of Victoria peak and photos taken from the Star Ferry Pier. These two spots offer two totally different angles of the skyline.
If you are more interested to immortalize the legendary busy atmosphere of Hong Kong, you can shoot the Crowds and shops in Yau Ma Tei or take a stroll in the Temple Street night market.
Diverse customer base
Being the lucky guy from a good family as he seems, Arthur de Villepin does work hard to introduce photography art to more art lovers in the city, and the customers of YellowKorner all come from different cultural background.
The targeted customers of YellowKorner Hong Kong are HongKongese (40%); foreigners and expats (50%), and Mainland Chinese (10%), according to David Lermusiaux, PR & Communication Manager of YellowKorner Asia Pacific.
Interestingly, the top selling artist at the Hong Kong gallery is Alastair Magnaldo who doesn’t rise much attention in Europe, however he is very popular in Hong Kong as YellowKorner believes Hongkongers are attracted by all the symbolism and childhood memories mentioned in the artist’s photos.
Other popular photographers include Slim Aarons (former photograph reporter during the Second World War that became famous by photographing the jet set between the 50’s and the 80’s) and Laurent Baheux (an artist passionate about Africa and who constantly tries to sublimate wild animals and to capture the magnificence of their attitudes and the emotion of their look), who is now currently the top selling artist of YellowKorner worldwide.
YellowKorner Hong Kong
Shop 3022b, Podium Level 3,
IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2578 5888