The entrepreneur introduces his latest business: a gallery that makes world-class art accessible to everyone

“Whatever I’m doing, I’m always trying to build this bridge between French art de vivre and Asia,” Arthur de Villepin explains. And so far, he’s succeeded. With the companies under his Art de Vivre Group, Arthur has already introduced Hongkongers to French food, quality wine (through Pont des Arts) and world-class photography (with YellowKorner).

Now, Arthur—a 2016 Generation T lister—is turning his attention to the art world. On Hollywood Road, he’s opening the first Hong Kong outpost of Carré d’artistes, a contemporary art gallery founded in 2001 in the picturesque French city of Aix-en-Provence that now has more than 30 exhibition spaces around the world.

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The ethos of Carré d’artistes is to make art affordable and accessible; rather than hosting months-long solo exhibitions, Carré d’artistes showcases works by dozens of different artists at any one time. Before the opening of the gallery, Arthur explains why he wanted to bring this unique concept to Hong Kong and why art should be accessible to everyone. 

What was your first encounter with Carré d’artistes?

I was renting an apartment in Paris, in Saint Germain, and 200 metres away from my apartment were two Carré d’artistes galleries. Every day I’d take my croissant or my pain au chocolat and walk by these galleries, and I was really struck by the concept and the people there.

Then I went to Aix-en-Provence for a holiday and I went to Carré d’artistes there. Again, the people had a different approach to the galleries that I was used to.

What makes Carré d’artistes unique?

I was raised with the idea that art is all around, that art is a necessity in society and that we should be confronted with art all the time. Art should be something accessible, not something just for the elite.

When I arrived in Hong Kong, I felt the way people approached art was more towards investment, where you had to understand who the artist was and why they were important. I think Carré d’artistes has a more humble and simple approach, where the focus is on diversifying the number of artists.

It’s not just one solo show at a time—Carré d’artistes shows different types of art, whether it’s sculpture, street art or more classical paintings. I think through this mix, anyone can come into the gallery and discover something that they like.

Carré d’artistes works with more than 600 different artists. Do you have favourites?

I do have a couple of favourites—and it’s funny because they’re very different. I can go very classic and go for Dominique Gaultier or go more for street art, like Sophie Costa, who plays with cans.

Looking at Sophie Costa’s work, you’d think it’s a young street artist making it, but it’s actually a mature lady who is very modern in the way that she interprets the world.

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Have you been involved in selecting the artists represented by Carré d’artistes?

I haven’t been involved yet, but we are starting to get involved because Carré d’artistes really want us to bring Hong Kong artists and Asian artists into the portfolio.

We’re not just here to push people that are already famous, but also push people who reflect the context in which we are right now and reflect the local experience that we’re all living in here in Hong Kong.

When did you start collecting art?

My first purchase was a Zao Wou-ki painting, which I bought in 2012. He was a family friend, so I’ve got this emotional attachment to it and also a capacity to understand who he was. I think with amazing artists like Zao Wou-ki, you can look at the painting every day and it can bring you something different.

When you understand where he comes from and what he’s trying to do, and his capacity to bring together different cultures and backgrounds—whether it’s his Chinese culture or European influence over the years—it’s a constant inspiration.

Carré d’artistes will open to the public on Tuesday, June 26 at Art de Vivre House, 53-55 Hollywood Road, Central,

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