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Joining the Dots

French art collectors Isabelle and Jean-Conrad Lemaître talk about their journey with video art and its impending future.

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay |
February 6, 2017 12:46:43 am
isabelle Lemaître, Jean-Conrad Lemaître, parisian art collectors, french art collectors, gillian weating, turner prize, tacita dean, boys time, yang fudong, steve mc queen, art collectors from paris in delhi Isabelle and Jean-Conrad Lemaître. (Photo by Amit Mehra(

In 1999, when Parisian couple and art collectors Isabelle and Jean-Conrad Lemaître came across the video work Boys Time by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing at a London gallery, they were intrigued by how she instructed four young adolescent boys to keep still for one hour and not move, so that they could create the illusion of a group portrait. “It was fun to watch. But it was also interesting because she told the boys not to move for one hour. The boys obeyed and did it. However, towards the end it became impossible for them to control and they exploded,” says Jean-Conrad. The couple had been invited to this year’s edition of India Art Fair, which concluded yesterday, as part of the Speaker’s Forum to talk about their interest in video as a contemporary medium in the art world.

Boys Time set them on a journey towards collecting more than 150 video works, including those by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, one of China’s most revered cinematographer and photographer Yang Fudong and former Turner prize-nominee and visual artist Tacita Dean.

“Almost 20 years ago, we began by collecting engravings. Then we started delving into contemporary art in Spain, and moved to paintings, sculptures and photos. Back then, we had bought a lot of still images and gradually started to follow artists who were starting to work with moving image. That is how we began concentrating on video works,” says 67-year-old Isabelle. Considered as one of the most interesting acquisitions of video art and new media in the world, Lemaître’s collection boasts of works from over 45 countries including Mexico, Israel, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Lebanon, Lithuania, Estonia, Turkey, and China.

The French art collectors’ latest purchase is a video work by award-winning French artist Clément Cogitore, which they stumbled upon during an exhibition in Nice. Filmed at a rock concert, the video captures the attendees at a big rock concert, all armed with iPhones and engrossed in the act of taking photographs. “There is this crowd holding phones and listening to rock music. It looks intriguing because it is a new kind of temper. There was this big gathering of young people and seemed to be a bit like a mass at church,” says Jean-Conrad. “A kind of new mass,” adds Isabelle.

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Speaking about the current interest of the public in video art, Jean-Conrad, 73, sounds rather optimistic as he says, “I think interest in the medium will rise with time. Many may not agree, but according to me, it is just a matter of generation. That people who were born, be it my children or grandchildren, in the age of internet, image and sound really understand what it is. So therefore when they grow older, they will buy and collect more of such works.”

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First published on: 06-02-2017 at 12:46:43 am

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