New York-born Eric Mourlot, as the fifth-generation owner of Galerie Mourlot and its printing arm Mourlot Editions, helms a family business that once made prints for Picasso and Matisse. As the images here testify, it remains Mourlot Editions’ prime raison d’être today. So how is he ensuring that the name Mourlot remains one of the most important on The Big Apple’s world-beating art scene?
Do you recall a catalyst moment, in your formative years, when art became your ‘calling’?
Growing up two streets away from my family’s studio in Paris, I spent countless hours doing my homework there before going home with my dad. I met countless artists and I learnt the craft. To earn money, I would clean the latrines, sweep the floor and wash the ink rollers. It doesn’t sound like it, but it was incredibly romantic… It was like stepping back into the 19th century.
Later on, I became the black sheep of the family as I went to college in the US, studied Political Science and joined an investment bank. I finally realised that while banking was very lucrative, it wasn’t my passion. I was already collecting art and what I really wanted to do was to help artists create works and help them put it out there. I also love working with our archives and educating people about what attracted the Modern Masters to my family’s studio. I get to work with my passion now, and while it can be challenging at times, I do feel fulfilled and try to rise up to the challenges.
Do young artists – in the US and elsewhere – have enough of a platform to showcase their work and reach an audience?
Yes and no… The problem is that the high end of the market is highly manipulated and the core of the market is oversaturated – not only online but also within the gallery world. Which is why the art market needs people to curate and edit. Collectors have to educate themselves, but they have jobs and are busy with their lives. They can spend hours online and they will easily get frustrated with the amount of good versus false information they get there.
We are trying to do as much preliminary work for them as we can. We are trying to offer as much quality works from honest and talented artists as we can because our goal is to be as democratic as possible. We want the artists and the collectors to be proud and happy with the transactions that we conduct. My work requires a lot of humility as we are only a platform for the ones that have the true talent.
Is there a stand-out artist whose work has had more emotional impact on you than anyone else’s, and why?
There are so many artists that I adore for completely different reasons. I am partial to Fernand Leger because of his artistic style but also the optimism for the modern world, which he shared with another hero of mine, Le Corbusier. I love Picasso for his insatiable appetite to discover and paint the truth in all its angles. So many contemporary artists we represent are exciting too!
Elena Kosharny is one of the most amazing photographers I have seen in a long time. Her work is sensual and elegant. It seems like she gets the perfect composition and lighting effortlessly, yet it took her years to get there. James Stroud is one of the process artists we have represented for close to thirty years and he is in many major museums already. He is one of the most dedicated and serious artists I know. His work is highly intellectual and yet it appeals to my senses because of the lushness of his inks. I love the dichotomy: after all, smart is sexy!
Anthony Fisher is the closest thing to Picasso I can think of. He is the most intense raw talent I have ever seen and, like James, studied at Yale. His work never fails to raise my consciousness higher. I have a special mention for an English artist named Joseph Ryan who is one of the most talented young British artists on the scene right now. While his technique is superb, it’s the soulfulness of the work that transports me. There is love, melancholy and so much strength in his paintings that when I am down, it gives me the strength to carry on… That’s what a “good” work of art is at the end of the day… an inspiration! Something that inspires you to do good and to be better…
How are tastes evolving, as younger generations become interested in purchasing art and prints?
Tastes are evolving but people are also more cynical! I think that pop art has been prevalent for a couple decades. It’s colourful, clever and fun. In certain cases, it can be excellent as it is in the case of Rosenquist or Lichtenstein. However, in many cases it has been used by the less talented artists to feed the beast of self aggrandisement, because it is so simple to make but It’s a bit like pop music and at some point people grow up and they wan to hear some classical or some jazz.
I love Giorgio Armani, however the world would be boring if we all wore blue and grey suits! I truly believe that we should celebrate diversity and especially diversity of taste! Younger generation are just like the older generations and their taste equally evolves over time.
How would you advise a debutante art lover to hone their appreciation skills, ascertain their aesthetic tastes etc?
Go to museums and galleries, look at art, read about it! It’s fun and it will expand your mind. It’s also a great hobby for couples as you get to really discover the other person’s way of thinking. It brings people closer because that is what art is meant to do. A viewer has a very important role in the conversation with art. While I am a curator, I am also loath to judge someone else’s taste. Without the audience a work of art would be akin to a tree falling in the forest if no one is around… would it make a sound?