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Daniel & Florence Guerlain: a passion for graphics

Florence and Daniel Guerlain. © Christophe Boulze

Collecting runs deep in the Guerlain family. Jacques Guerlain (1874–1963), the perfumer who invented the Shalimar scent, is said to have once owned an impressive collection of Impressionists, the artists of his time.

Like his grandfather, whose wealth he inherited, Daniel Guerlain is a Protestant, an art lover and a compulsive collector. Unlike his grandfather, Daniel has devoted a large part of his life to collecting art. After four generations of perfuming the world's elite, the family sold the business to the French multinational company LVMH in 1994. Daniel has indulged in his passion for 30 years, flanked by his wife Florence, an equally passionate art lover. In 1996, the couple decided to create the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation, which initially organized exhibitions on the family's property for 10 years before switching their Foundation’s focus to the Contemporary Drawing Prize that they created. 

Russian Art Focus caught up with them shortly after a visit to Moscow to discuss their unfolding appetite for Russian contemporary art. "We always become aware of new works when we travel to Russia. Pavel Pepperstein, whose drawings we first purchased in 2007, was selected for the drawing prize in 2015. We gave 30 of his works to the Pompidou Centre and we continue to follow his career,” Florence Guerlain recalls.

In 2012, the Guerlains gave 1,200 contemporary drawings, almost the bulk of their collection, to the French capital’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Now they see themselves as “ambassadors” of this collection, which travels around the world. They are counting on showing part of that collection in Moscow’s Pushkin Museum of Fine Art “probably in the second half of 2020,” according to Florence Guerlain.

“We got in touch with this fabulous museum by cultivating friendly relations,” she recalls while praising its collection of drawings as “extraordinary in every aspect.” The couple’s connections to Russia were patiently built up over the years through a growing network of collectors, museum directors, curators and gallery owners.

“Shalva and Nino Breus are true friends. We pay a great deal of attention to what they say and they have taught us a lot about contemporary Russia,” Florence Guerlain added. The couple remains focused on new talents. “We devote three quarters of our time to monitoring, discovering and seeking out artists involved in drawing,” she said, while stressing that the couple does not derive any commercial gain from this. “As we travel around with our exhibitions while showcasing our work, we frequently see works by artists we already collect or new artists whom we seek to include in our collection,” she told RAF. “We never feel the need to actually acquire the work of famous artists — although of course we might regret such decisions later. There are so many artists whom we are already following or whom we have taken note of!"

Daniel & Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation

fondationdfguerlain.com

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