Founded in 2012, Super Dakota is one of Brussels’ youngest galleries, and quickly became a favorite with its fresh and international program. This weekend the newbie is showing at Art Brussels for the very first time, and on the occasion we’ve had a chat with its Parisian founder Damien Bertelle-Rogier (30) about why art fairs are supermarkets, how to sell an artwork, and the so-called gold rush to Brussels.
What is the significance of fairs when you are a gallery owner?
Art fairs are part of the art landscape and you can’t ignore them. It’s very hard to be a successful gallery if you refuse to do art fairs. It’s a very convenient event for collectors. But you need to make sure that there is a balance: Fairs are an important part of the program, but personally the gallery program has more significance for me.
A lot of gallerists these days are not really big art fair fans, some even call it an art supermarket. Do you agree?
Yes, it is a supermarket. That’s the perfect term for it, actually. But you have to play the game.
Super Dakota is a very young gallery and it’s your first time at Art Brussels. Have you participated in any other fairs yet at all?
Yes, we’ve been to Art Rotterdam a few months ago, which was our first one. I’d like to do three or four art fairs per year. We chose Rotterdam for practical reasons: we have a lot of collectors outside of our region due to our international program, and it was also a great opportunity to meet collectors from the Netherlands.
How did it go for you?
It’s a very regional art fair, very specific. So maybe it’s not a perfect fit for us, to be honest.
Is it easier to sell at an art fair than at the gallery?
I’m not sure. Of course collectors go to an art fair for a reason. But I prefer to do it at the gallery, because you have more time, you can go in depth, and you can open your stock room and show what else you have in store. You can have a proper conversation while at art fairs everything happens very quickly and you only chat for a few minutes, more about prices than anything else. But there are always good surprises and you have to keep an open mind when it comes to art fairs.
Why is it important for you to be at Art Brussels specifically?
As a Brussels gallery it’s kind of a must. And as a young gallery we hope this will help us to establish a bigger presence here at home.
How did you decide what you are going to show?
It’s an easy call because with the booth we want to support our upcoming solo shows at the gallery. There’ll be a few pieces by Ariane Schick, who you can currently discover at the gallery, and we’ll show a number of gifs, because they are also the subject of a group show at the gallery currently. We’re also showing Baptiste Caccia, because there’s a lot of demand for him at the moment. It’s important that our booth is a reflection of the gallery and its vision. And I like how more and more galleries are getting more creative when it comes to preparing their booths. We’re just in the process of picking out a wall color.
Do you have any special techniques when it comes to talking to collectors?
I get them drunk! (laughs) No, I don’t think there are particular techniques other than the one we apply here: It’s very important to be honest and truthful when dealing with art, at least that’s how I envision it. Your decision prior to selling, your choice of picking what to show in the gallery, to choose one piece instead of another, is 80% of the job. If you sell quality work and artists with interesting ideas, who are engaging, and are actually worth something, meaning they are more than just decorative objects, then most of the job is already done. Afterwards it’s your task to translate the work and know your piece. I don’t have a strategic sales pitch or something like that.
Do you visit a lot of art fairs yourself?
Yes. It’s interesting to see the differences between them. Art fairs are useful for finding out what the market is like. You can get a sense of what’s selling or not, what the trends are at the moment…I’ve always liked the Art Brussels vibe, also because of its size. Art Basel is like Disneyland compared to it. It’s so big and you get to see pieces you’d never get to see anywhere else.
You were born and raised in Paris – why did you decide to open your first gallery in Brussels?
I already knew the art fair and the city, and three years ago, when the idea of opening a gallery materialized, you could feel that something was happening in Brussels. It became this El Dorado: everyone wants to open a gallery here now. But for a young company or start-up it’s the same struggle everywhere, it’s not easier here. I love the city itself and Wiels and Bozar are very interesting institutions. It’s not there yet, but Brussels definitely has the potential to become a very big player in the art world.
Super Dakota’s booth at Art Brussels: Discovery, 3C-04D