An Interview with a Dealer: Francois Grossas
Each week, CGN interviews a local art dealer to discuss the ins and outs of running a gallery in the city of Chicago. This week we caught up with Francois Grossas of Galerie Waterton.
Gallery: Galerie Waterton
Name: Francois Grossas
Previous occupation: World Bank Executive
Hometown: Originally from Provence, France
CGN: How did you become an art dealer?
Francois Grossas: I had a career as an investment banker, working for Chase and for the World Bank. With the latter, I spent several years in Southeast Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, and Indonesia) and while working there, I spent my spare time visiting art galleries, meeting and developing personal relationships with local artists and building an art collection. I also participated in the life of galleries, forming friendships with gallery owners and sometimes “babysitting” their galleries while they were away. Then one day I decided to open my own gallery in Singapore (2009).
CGN: Describe your gallery’s program in one sentence.
FG: Galerie Waterton promotes and exhibits emerging and established artists mostly from South-East Asia.
CGN: What's the first thing you do each morning when you get to the gallery?
FG: After opening up, I tour the gallery and look at every painting on the walls, making sure that everything looks good before visitors arrive.
CGN: Thumbs up or down on art fairs?
FG: I like attending art fairs but would not participate as an exhibitor. I find the cost to be excessive for the potential return.
CGN: Best sale you ever had?
FG: It was in Singapore, when I had an exhibition for an Indonesian woman artist. A collector from Malaysia bought six of her paintings a couple of days before the opening reception.
CGN: What advice would you share with new or young collectors?
FG: Don’t be obsessed by names or reputations, go for what you like, follow your instinct and above all, buy an artwork only if it literally fascinates you. Art appreciation is a personal thing, and you have to fall in love with an art piece before buying it. Our challenge is always to introduce new and attractive artwork so that our collectors and buyers keep coming back.
CGN: What major successes have you had this year? What about challenges?
FG: An exhibition for the late Indonesian artist Chandra Johan was well received and some major pieces were purchased. We also had an exhibition for another Indonesian artist, Gatot Widodo, and sold practically all the paintings exhibited.
CGN: How do you view working as an art dealer in Chicago?
FG: Being part of the River North Gallery District is very satisfying. It’s a nice community of dealers who exhibit quality art, are friendly to one another and make a coordinated effort to promote the district as an important art destination. I am proud to be part of it.
CGN: What is your favorite interest outside of the art world?
FG: Traveling, mostly by car on the open road, going West to California and visiting the wonders of national parks.
CGN: What is your favorite work of public art in Chicago?
FG: The Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor
CGN: What’s coming up next at your gallery?
FG: We are exhibiting several women artists for the remainder of 2017. Our next show is Mamas, Monks and Marigolds featuring two artists, one from Singapore and the other from Germany (June 23), followed by Chicago-based French artist Laurence Lignel, who will present her latest sculptures and paintings (September 8) and Indonesian artist Diah Yulianti (November 3).
CGN: What five differences do you see between Chicago and Singapore?
- Singapore is a much smaller town, but it has proportionately more expats, who are good buyers and collectors.
- Singapore is a major regional center and attracts elites and wealthy visitors from neighboring countries.
- Singapore’s government is very involved in promoting art, galleries and art fairs.
- Chicago has more local artists than Singapore and a much longer artistic tradition.
- Asian buyers tend to look at art more as speculative investment than for its decorative and artistic value.
Francois Grossas is the owner of Galerie Waterton located in River North. For more information about his gallery and upcoming exhibitions visit: Galerie Waterton.