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February 13, 2022

Spotlight on Gwenvael Launay

Article by newcube

4 min. read

Gwenvael Launay, with a painting by Ewa Juszkiewicz at Almine Rech Paris, September 2021, photo by Dominique Maitre


We had the pleasure of speaking to Gwenvael Launay, a young gallery director and visionary collector who lives in Brussels, Belgium and is a patron of the arts in his own right. Gwenvael spoke to us about his first steps in the art world and the artists he has had his eye on. 

Gwenvael, your interest in pursuing a career in the arts goes back to your time at university. Tell us more about your trajectory and why you decided to embark upon a path focused within the art world? 

Gwenvael Launay: I have been interested in art since I was young. I grew up in Brittany in France and I visited the Fine Art museum and Art center La Criée in Rennes and during summer the François Pinault Collection in Dinard. I studied Contemporary Art History and then pursued a Curatorial Program under the tutelage of art historian Elvan Zabunyan. After my studies, I completed an internship at the contemporary art center, WIELS in Brussels alongside curator Elena Filipovic who has since moved to become director at the Kunsthalle in Basel. Following my internship, I joined Almine Rech gallery while working at FABA (Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte), where I had started in 2011. I feel very lucky to have studied and worked alongside three inspiring women, who have been extremely generous and have taught me so much about art and the art world.

Eric Croes, Stèle (cailloux colorés), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist & Rossi Contemporary (@eric.croes & @rossicontemporary)


With roles at both Almine Rech and FABA, how do you successfully balance and juggle your responsibilities? 

GL: Both roles are of course different, but in fact in many ways complimentary. At Almine Rech, I am director of the Brussels gallery and I work closely on the programming of the galleries with Almine herself, as well as on the artistic coordination. Working with artists is very exciting and I am glad I get a chance to do that, with artists such as John M Armleder, Farah Atassi, Szabolcs Bozó, Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, Alejandro Cardenas, Ewa Juszkiewicz, César Piette, Genieve Figgis or Tursic & Mille, among others. At FABA on the other hand, I liaise with important institutions for the loan of works from the Contemporary Art collection of the Foundation, while overseeing the grant program of the foundation to support exhibitions and publications.

Almine Rech and her team are known to have discovered some of the most sought-after artists of our time. Can you tell us how you personally spot talent in young artists and as the director of the gallery, what does a typical day at work look like for you?

GL: Discovering new artists can happen anywhere, in a Museum show, at a fair, or even online and on social media… There is not really a typical work day, as I work on several projects at the same time. When I am in Brussels, I get to the office, spend a lot of time chatting and exchanging ideas with Almine, and then I coordinate our gallery’s program and make sure all the projects we work on are well organized. I usually take the time to visit  shows during my lunch break and obviously, a lot of time is spent meeting collectors and curators around town. I also often do studio visits, attend exhibitions and international fairs, so my job really involves a good amount of travelling.

Alongside your busy work life, you are also a collector in your own right. What prompted you to start collecting and what was the first artwork you acquired?

GL: It all happened organically, and I guess it’s now an occupational hazard! The first work I collected was a ceramic by Eric Croes, which I bought in 2015 from Rossi Contemporary, a Belgian gallery that promotes great young talents. Since then, I have acquired around fifty works (works on paper, multiples, paintings, ceramics…). I also recently started collecting design, I acquired a ceramic bench by Studio Biskt at Avenue du Roi in Brussels and I am currently in the process of buying a few Memphis design pieces which I’m very excited about.

When you add a new work to your collection, do you have a specific focus in mind? 

GL: It’s usually a spontaneous process. There is not a common thread to the works in my collection, but often times, it reflects my interest in Sci-fi as well as surrealist and fantastic landscapes, such as the work of Eliot Greenwald or Alan Prazniak. Sometimes, it’s really about that immediate crush, that is what happened when I discovered the work of Heath West on Instagram.

Eliot Greenwald, Night Car (spaghettification), 2021. Courtesy of the Artist & Harper’s (@best_ffriend & @harpersbooks)
Alan Prazniak, Lovely Earthshine, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist (@alanpraz)
Heath West, Maison Frison, 2018. Courtesy of the Artist (@heath_west)
Eliot Greenwald, Night Car (spaghettification), 2021. Courtesy of the Artist & Harper’s (@best_ffriend & @harpersbooks)
Alan Prazniak, Lovely Earthshine, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist (@alanpraz)


What is the most recent artwork you acquired? 

GL: I recently bought two works, one painting by Clément Davout, a young French painter currently based in Brussels, whom I have been eyeing for two years. His works are very subtle oil on canvas paintings mixing both abstraction and figuration. He paints shadows of plants, and his process is fascinating. He first photographs shadows of plants in nature or in an urban setting, and then uses Instagram to find the color of the gradient that is automatically generated by his phone. I also bought a ceramic work by American artist Colin Radcliffe. I already had two small phone ceramics by him and I decided to get another work from a new series. This ceramic piece depicts two men holding each other, while taking a selfie. His work talks a lot about how our generation behaves on social media. I really connected with it when I saw it.

Clément Davout, Tu manges la lumière, 2021. Courtesy of the Artist (@clement_davout)
Colin Radcliffe, João and Colin, 2021. Courtesy of the Artist (@colinmemaybe)
Studio Biskt, Balik, 2021. Courtesy of the Artists & Avenue du Roi (@studio_biskt & @avenueduroi)


Let’s dream a little. If you could have one dream acquisition, what would it be?  

GL: My dream acquisition would be a definition work by Joseph Kosuth from 1968. I worked on an essay during my studies about the artist’s solo exhibition at the Louvre in 2009 titled “Ni apparence, ni illusion”, and I have not stopped thinking about it since. Kosuth and Almine Rech have been collaborating for years now and we just opened “Joseph Kosuth, Existential Time” at our Paris gallery, which will be on until March 26th. The exhibition features 16 individual clocks with quotes by philosophers, writers… it touches on the meaning of time.

As a young collector, is there a collection or an institution that you look up to?

GL: If I had to pick one, I would say I closely follow the exhibitions at Le Consortium in Dijon, they have an impressive program of international artists as well as an amazing permanent collection.

What advice would you give to young collectors?

GL: It really is important to take a lot of time researching and reading about the artists you are interested in. Be careful not to jump on what is just easy and fashionable. I can’t stress enough how important it is to educate your eye, to attend as many exhibitions and fairs as you can. The most important advice is to buy what you love and what speaks to you.

Thank you Gwenvael, this is precious advice and very much in line with what we tell collectors we work with. Last but not least, you have been a great supporter of newcube. From the artists we work with, who would be your favorite artist? 

GL: I very much like the works of Elina Salminen and Pedro Ruxa. I am already familiar with Pedro’s work and I have seen some of his exhibitions in Brussels. He is definitely an artist I would like to collect. I particularly love Me & U and Cadmium Love. He creates an interesting dialogue between himself and Symbolism.

I haven’t had the opportunity to see the works of Elina Salminen in person yet, but I am really curious to discover them! I love Kangastus 5, it’s very sensitive and enigmatic, I like how she plays around with perception of color.

You definitely have a great eye, and perhaps a coincidence that both Pedro and Elina live and work in Brussels. We really look forward to visiting their studios with you in Brussels soon. Thanks you again for your time and for sharing bits and pieces of your passion with us! 

Cadmium Love by Pedro Ruxa
Pedro Ruxa, Cadmium Love, 2020
Elina Salminen, Kangastus 5, 2020

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