Almine Ruiz-Picasso owns the Almine Rech Gallery in Paris, Brussels, London and New York. She is married to Bernard Picasso and she has four children.
Almine, is it true that you wanted to be an artist?
I wanted to be a painter and I haven’t abandoned the idea. Growing up I would do family portraits, and was always very interested in the visual arts and cinema. I still have a very high vision of how much involvement being an artist means. The commitment is night and day, and there is also a lonely aspect. I decided to remain in the art field, but on the other side of the fence, as a dealer.
When did you open your first gallery?
In 1989, after I had finished my studies of art, art history and cinema in Paris. I chose the plastic visual arts.
You opened a gallery in Paris with Cyrille Putman?
Yes, but not for long; I continued alone quite quickly. It is difficult to do this type of work with two people. There are some rational and a lot of subjective aspects.
When did you marry Bernard Picasso?
In 2000, and in 2002 we created the Fundación Almine Y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso Para El Arte, FABA. We moved to Brussels in 2006.
“The Foundation is absolutely non-commercial and completely separated from my galleries.”
James Turrell, Cherry, 1998
Space Division light piece
Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech Gallery
What does your Foundation FABA do?
It is a tool to loan Picasso’s works, and also contemporary art works that we own. The Foundation is absolutely non-commercial and completely separated from my galleries.
Do you own many Picassos?
My husband Bernard is his grandson. He is the son of Paulo, who was the only legitimate son of Pablo Picasso. His mother was Olga (née Khokhlova). My husband’s French mother Christine is still alive. Paulo was the main heir, and unfortunately died at almost the same time as his father, one and a half years later. So his children, Bernard and his sister Marina, took the place of Paulo. The inventory had not even been started when Paulo died.
What do you do with all these inherited works?
It is my husband’s job since many years. The paintings are mostly in Belgium, where there is a conservator and a restorer and other people involved. Every year there are many Picasso exhibitions in the world, and the Foundation is asked by many museums to loan works. This is complicated and takes a lot of time. It is not without risk that you fly a painting around the world.
Does such a great heritage make your life as a gallerist more difficult?
It can. Some people wonder why I don’t sit back and not be so involved with promoting artists, but I was doing that much before I met my husband. If I did not have a passion for what I am doing I would have abandoned it and just worked on the Foundation.
After Paris you opened galleries in Brussels, London and New York?
It is quite ambitious, but that was the natural evolution of the gallery over almost 20 years. Sometimes I wonder why I create so much responsibility for me, but you have to grow.
You deal in both the primary and the secondary art market. What is the difference?
The main difference is that primary art is work coming from the studio, or from the estate of the artist if the artist passed away. The secondary market is about reselling work. For instance, if I sold a work to someone 10 years ago he may come back and say, “Now I need to sell it.”
Which does better?
They are complimentary for the gallery business. I love the primary, it’s how I started. I was doing only primary for many years; meeting with an artist, deciding how to make his career evolve. Studio visits are the most interesting. Those are the best moments.
“When I started with James Turrell he was unknown…”
Are you proud of some of your discoveries over the years?
Yes. Discoveries can be emerging young artists that become famous, and also artists that are not recognised but exist since a long time. When I started with James Turrell he was unknown and he was part of the Light and Space movement of California. The first time I showed him in Paris no gallery had ever installed a light piece inside it. This I am very proud of. Now he is more than recognised, he is an iconic artist. He uses light as matter. Where a sculptor would use stone, he does it with light.
What about the multimedia artist Alex Israel?
A few years ago nobody knew him. Now he is very successful.
You also represent Jeff Koons?
He was already a superstar. With Jeff I do both the primary and secondary market.
How can you handle four gallery locations at the same time?
In London I have a very good director, Jason Cori. In Paris I have a very good director, Aurélia Chabrillat – she was at Christie’s for many years, in charge of relations between France and Asia. In Brussels I am more present myself because I live there. In New York the director is my son Paul.
Which does better?
New York is only one year old and doing very well. London is too. Paris is a bit more active since the elections. Brussels is a less strong capital city.
How do you divide your life?
My life has two aspects. My husband and my four children; two are still teenagers. And the art. These two things take all my time.
Do you spend much time in your country house, Pablo Picasso’s Château de Boisgeloup?
We’d go almost every weekend when we were living in Paris, and now whenever we can. It is a beautiful place. Pablo bought it in 1930. He was looking for a place where he could do sculptures, and an estate in the countryside is very good for this, with the stables on the ground floor. Before the Second World War Pablo took away all the sculptures, which he worked in plaster. He was afraid of their destruction. Between 1935 and 1937 trucks went to Paris with the plasters, and he had them all made in bronze. Most of the plasters were photographed by Brassaï. This became a very important memoir and they became friends.
How is it to live in Picasso’s house?
Wonderful. It is full of memories, his furniture and many books. The studio itself is untouched, but empty. The big ladder he used to look at his sculptures from on high is still there.
DeWain Valentine, Concave Circle, Purple, 1968 – 2016. Cast polyester resin, 74.3 x 74.3 x 37.2 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech Gallery © Melissa Castro Duarte
Family at Boisgeloup: (left to right) – Olga Ruiz-Picasso, Edouard Widmaier-Picasso, Richard Widmaier-Picasso (son of Maia) and Ulli Widmaier-Picasso, Catherine Hutin (daughter of Jaqueline Roque), Almine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso and Georges Ruiz-Picasso © Julio Piatti
Chateau de Boisgeloup, 2017. © FABA – Fundación Almine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte © Rebecca Fanuele
Pablo Picasso, Prostituée et reître. 20 June 1968. Aquatinte au sucre sur cuivre graissé. © Succession Picasso 2018, and FABA Photo: Marc Domage
Almine Ruiz-Picasso with Jeff Koons. © Constance Le Hardy
George Condo, Collusion, 2017. Oil and pigment stick on linen, in three parts. 208,3 x 609,6 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech Gallery © Rebecca Fanuele
“We need to believe in something, that’s why art is worth so much.”
As a dealer do you sometimes sell a Picasso?
Not from our private collection, but I do sometimes. Of course I know where some Picassos are and might have good access. Each of the heirs sold a few things to raise cash, but it is quite rare.
What relations do you have with the Musée Picasso in Paris?
Very good. My husband is part of the committee and the president, Laurent Le Bon, who you have also interviewed, is a very open minded person. He considers the family as the closest relation to the museum.
Are you on good terms with all the family members?
Claude and Paloma, the children of Françoise Gilot, and Maya, the daughter of Marie-Thérèse Walter, and us are all very friendly together. We don’t see Marina as much, the half-sister of my husband who is a bit older than him, because she is very solitary. There is also Catherine, the daughter of Jacqueline Roque, Pablo’s second wife. She has no Picasso blood, but was raised by Picasso. Catherine is very close, she’s a very nice lady.
How much work did Picasso do?
Picasso did 310 sculptures, and in very few editions. He did around 4000 paintings; many drawings and etchings. The best deal you can do on Picasso now is to buy etchings. They are fantastic, especially the late period. His hand was so good until the very end. He did more than 3000 unique ceramics, and you can also find them in editions, because he discovered the ceramic factory of the Madoura family in Vallauris in the South of France. Nowadays those editions are much sought after.
Is there a new Picasso in the world today?
This is hard to say. For an artist of that level you need many years of distance to make sure. The few alive today are without guarantee because we need 40 or 50 years distance. Braque, Matisse and others in France made the possibility of Picasso. Then, after the Second World War, the art world moved from Paris to America. We know who the great artists are in the minimal movement and pop art. Donald Judd is the great sculptor of the 20th century.
What about the amazing prices reached by works of art?
I think that masterpieces of the 20th Century will be worth much more than they are now. You can have works of modern art that go for up to $250 million, but Leonardo da Vinci was recently sold for $450 million. This was a very pivotal thing. We can imagine in the future that some very rare artworks can go for between $500 and $1 billion.
How do you explain that?
We don’t know the future of money. If we believe in art it will be worth more and more. It’s a question of belief. We need to believe in something, that’s why art is worth so much. It’s very subjective, but without art we would not remember human history since prehistorical times, from cave drawings on. Art writes our history.
London, February 2018
Almine Rech Gallery will be participating in MiArt (13-15 April 2018) in Milan: www.alminerech.com
Portrait of Almine Ruiz-Picasso © Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery and Lea Crespi
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