Marine Tanguy: “Invest in Artists, not in Art”

Article en francais sur French Quarter Magazine

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 12.03.37 PMI had the chance to meet Marine Tanguy, founder of the artistic agency MTArt during her stay in New York for the opening of the exhibition The Voice of a Generation at the Quin Hotel.

Marine Tanguy has been selected by Forbes for the “30 under 30” for her innovative approach to the art market with the creation of the first agency for visual artists, whose credo is “invest in artists”. Its goal is to support the work of artists with innovative content and bring art into everyday life so that it becomes more familiar and interests a wider audience. She was able to mix her intellectual background (literature and art history) with an American business approach drawn from her experience as a gallerist in Los Angeles. An already impressive journey for a young modern woman who demonstrates that it is possible to make things happen. 

What is your personal background?

My family comes from the Ile de Ré in France and has been there for more than two hundred years. We are deeply rooted! I did Hypokhâgne and Khâgne in Poitiers, I left after two years and studied art history at Warwick University. I threw myself into Anglo-Saxon culture because I wanted to understand it and I was lucky to be supported by a fairly English network thanks to that.

London Bridge Project MTArtLet’s talk about your MTArt agency. I read in a previous interview that you had the idea to duplicate the model of the entertainment industry to the art market. What do you think are the main points to improve in this sector? When I founded the agency, it was after the creation of a gallery in Los Angeles where there were a lot of Hollywood agencies. These artists have an audience that is huge compared to visual artists. The problem I’ve always had with the art industry is that it’s very small and that art could have a bigger place. If we think for example in terms of digital influence, someone like Kim Kardashian has more than 100 million followers and Ai Weiwei who is one of the most important artists has less than 400 000 (on Instagram ED) . It was something that shocked me because I understood this Hollywood system and I regretted that this marketing is not used for more inspiring purposes. This goes beyond digital networks we can think of partnerships for example to integrate art into everyday life.

Indeed, and yet there is a public demand for art. The fact that cavemen created paintings or that each child does coloring shows that this is deeply rooted in humans. There is obviously a disconnect between supply and demand what is your point of view?

I am convinced that art is essential. It starts from the conversations that unite us from one human to the other regardless of our backgrounds. Of course we have this dichotomy between our daily concerns and those reflections that go deeper. We are lucky when we have a job like ours to be able to spend time on these subjects. When we are not and are exposed to a contemporary artist whose work revolves around death or cultural divisions, I can understand that it is difficult to embrace and that we want more relaxing things . Yet we always come back to it because these are essential questions. This is why it is important that art is more present in the everyday life because it becomes more familiar and therefore easier to access.


You are in New York for your exhibition at the Quin Hotel, can you tell us about it?

The Quin Hotel is a nice coincidence: they had Georgia O’Keeffe in their customers and for my part, it’s been three years since I was sponsored by the Comptoirs des Cotonniers who chose Georgia O’Keeffe as an inspiration for their new collection! Four years ago they redeveloped the hotel and they wanted a cultural program. What is really nice is the involvement they had in this exhibition The Voice of a Generation. The hotel really wanted to develop a cultural program and sees it as a real value. This project lasts 2 months with a focus on 4 innovative British artists: Alexandra Lethbridge, Jasmine Pradissitto, Tim A. Shaw, David Aiu Servan Schreiber. The latter leads a reflection on the environment, Tim on the medical, Jasmine combines science and art and Alexandra works on optical illusions in a world where we rely heavily on images. It’s a way to show how art makes people think and they did it very well.

You are usually based in London, do you have other projects in the USA?

I chose London because it’s between my French education and the American marketing. Most of my artists, knowing that we receive about 200 portfolios per month, are selected on criteria of technical innovation and content. Three-quarters of my artists have done PhDs and one could think it’s tough to do marketing around their work. London helped me enormously from a credibility point of view: we did a lot of lectures in universities; museums and the city of London helped us. The thing I missed and which attracts me in the United States is their understanding of Entertainment and the agency concept. In England they are very interested in social, political and philosophical subjects but a little less in Entertainment. How to make teenagers follow this or that artist? We would like to develop a base here. I do not exclude France because it is a nice triangle and I based a lot of what I do on the French side too. What art teaches us is that by being in several multi-cultural places, one generates good ideas.

TED talk
Marine during her TED Talk

Regarding France and its place in the art market, a recent article indicated that French artists and galleries make less extensive use of social networks. What do you think?

I think it’s deeper than that. Social networks are self-promotion and it’s not something that French do naturally. When I went to Los Angeles at age 23 and did a personal promotion, I had shocked reactions from my girlfriends. What I say to my artists, whether they are established or young, is that they can express themselves directly. One side that bothers me in some intellectual artists is a somewhat snobbish way of seeing things by cultivating this “small commitment” and looking down on people who have a lot. From my point of view, you cannot be snobbish in life. Then if you have a lot of people supporting you, it is that you are doing something right and that gives you a responsibility. We must therefore encourage more intellectuals with a lot of content to develop more commitment. Social networks are not a category of people, they are many different people and everyone can get their voice and I think it is possible to use them in an intelligent way.

What do you think of the relationship to success for artists?

I had a conversation with someone who thought that artists loved by the public were not great artists (we were talking about David Bowie). I find this very sad, pointless and full of prejudices. Personally I can listen to “commercial” hits and some music that is more confidential. We can have different desires depending on the moment. By saying that, we denigrate and exclude a part of the population and I find that dangerous. One of the things I like about public art is the fact that people take ownership of the work and talk about it with others. When we feel included we are interested.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 12.04.16 PM
Art by Pierre Marie Lejeune

What is your next project? There are several but the next big project is in London in March: it’s a visual walk about the environment that will start at Euston station. The works will absorb pollution and the path will take you away from the more polluted main road, with permanent art. This shows that we can transform an environment by art and integrate it into cities.

What is your biggest challenge in your business? Changing mindsets: changing things takes time and the cost of a business is expensive. The debate about the fact that the masses cannot appreciate great art is something that I would like to change, but it takes time. We reproduce behaviors without understanding them because we are familiar with them.

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