Yvon Lamberts returns to Marais, this time not as an art dealer but as a bookseller and modern publisher. «I want to do something more humanistic»
Closing of Galerie Lambert
Five years ago, on the thirty-first of December 2014, Le Figaro announced a shock for the art world: the closing of Galerie Lambert, 108 di Rue Vieille du Temple in Paris. It had been opened by the French art dealer Yvon Lambert in 1966 and found premises in Marais in 1986. The news arrived three years after the closure of the Manhattan branch. It couldn’t survive competition from the US art market. «It is not a political decision. But, the effect of time, the realization that the art world is different from the one I loved. I want to do something more humanistic, less focused on money and obsession with prices», commented Lambert back then.
Lambert is now eighty-three years old. He and his daughter Eve own Yvon Lambert Libraire Éditeur. A bookshop in the center of Paris, in Rue des Filles du Calvaire, 14. A return to the quarter of Marais, this time as a bookseller and modern publisher. The bookshop sells art books, limited editions, specialized publications, objets d’art, and art collections.
Océan, by the American David Horvitz is a collection of watercolors worth one-thousand-and-five-hundred euros. It was published and sold by the Lambert imprint in a limited edition of fifty copies. The protagonist is the Pacific Ocean seen from the beach of Roncho Palos Verdes, California, during summer 2017. All of the copies are signed by Horvitz, the artist from Los Angeles, considered the equivalent of the Fluxus group timewise, and author of the project entitled Mood Disorder—a high-resolution photo that circulates freely online. The picture portrays the artist in the foreground, dressed in black, head bowed in his hands, with the sea in the background. In 2012 Horvitz uploaded the image to the mood disorders Wikipedia page. Since then the photo has been used for articles and posts about the subject.
A showcase for established and up-and-coming artists
Yvon Lambert, publisher and bookseller, has not cut ties with the artists he has represented throughout his career. Today, the bookshop is also a showcase for established and up-and-coming artists, both French and international. Examples are the ninety-year-old sculptor and photographer Paul-Armand Gette, the photographer Ann Ray, the playwright Pierre Guyotat.
He also hosts openings, exhibitions and installations. The more recent ones include that by Vittorio Santoro, the Swiss-Italian visual artist, already featured at the Lambert in New York in 2011. Nathalie Du Pasquier, from the Memphis group – the art movement founded in 1980 by Sottsass – has exhibited three times at the Yvon Lambert Gallery. Co-founder of the movement that turned its back on post-Bauhaus design to embrace pop art, the designer from Bordeaux has worked in partnership with Hermès, creating a range of scarves.
Yvon Lambert’s history and background
Rewind on Yvon Lambert. It all began when he was barely twenty. He decided to open a small shop in his home town, Vence, in the south of France, in 1936. There, he started exhibiting a collection of drawings entitled From Modigliani to Picasso. He then made his career in Paris. He, in fact, moved to the city in 1965, and opened a gallery in the center, in Rue De Seine. «Back then I loved geometric art. I exhibited the works of Jean Arp, Jean Hélion and Léon Arthur Tutundjian, an Armenian artist. At the time, Saint Germain was the trigger for a career».
In 1968 he set up a shop in a new space in Rue De l’Echaudé. It was not far from De Seine, where until 1972 he presented and sold a new generation of artists. His encounters with the Americans were the results of frequent trips to New York and the general desire among Parisian gallery owners to expand into other markets.
Lambert could appreciate the Americans, including also Carl Andre, Cy Twombly, Lawrence Weiner, the minimalists Robert Ryman and Brice Marden. For Cy Twombly – a painter from Virginia, who died in Rome in 2011 – Lambert involved Roland Barthes in the promotion. He knew he was a fan. «I had to fill my room and desk with photos of Twombly’s paintings, I begged him on my knees. In the end he accepted, and I wrote an essay about him».
The Phaedrus case
An anecdote that still links Lambert with Twombly is the Phaedrus case. On the nineteenth of July, 2007, the French police arrested a Cambodian artist, Rindy Sam, for kissing one of the panels of a triptych by Twombly, Phaedrus, on display at the Contemporary Art Museum in Avignon.
The panel was an all-white canvas worth two million euros, but stained by Rindy Sam’s lipstick. The Cambodian defended her gesture as an act of love inspired by the power of art. For this reason, he had to pay a fine of one-thousand euros to the owner of the artwork, Yvon Lambert, plus five-hundred as compensation to the museum in Avignon, and the nominal payment of one euro to Twombly.
The Collection Lambert inauguration
In 2000, Yvon Lambert returned to the south of France and inaugurated Collection Lambert in Avignon, a personal collection presented in Hôtel de Caumont, an eighteenth-century building used for public events. The exhibition then expanded to the nearby Hôtel de Montfaucon, doubling its display area from one-hundred-and-seventy square meters to three-hundred-and-thirty. The collection opened with three-hundred-and-fifty works by contemporary artists for a total value of sixty-three million euros.
In 2010, Lambert threatened to withdraw the collection due to the lack of restoration work on Hôtel de Montfaucon. One year later he donated five-hundred-and-fifty-six of his artworks to France in exchange for the restoration. This represented the most generous donation to the French state since Picasso’s in 1974.
Since 2015, Hôtel de Caumont has hosted temporary exhibitions. Montfaucon is the permanent home of the collection, counting a total of one-thousand-two-hundred works by artists including Cy Twombly, Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer and Nan Goldin.
Yvon Lambert Paris
14 Rue des Filles du Calvaire, Paris, France
Yvon Lambert Gallery is a contemporary Art bookshop, publisher and gallery in Paris founded by Yvon Lambert in 1966.