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8 Female TEFAF Exhibitors And The Women That Inspire Them

From ancient art to design, eight women look back at their inspirations
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Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, a global initiative to focus on the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. From the many extraordinary women in our community, we are highlighting one exhibitor from every TEFAF Maastricht section. Find out why they pursued a career in the art world and which women—from historic figures to family members—have inspired them along the way.

NAME AN INSPIRING FEMALE FIGURE.

One of the most inspiring women is my mother. Fifty years ago, together with my late father, she founded our family business, A. Aardewerk. Equality between men and women in the art world has therefore never been an issue for me. She has always worked and strived for the best in terms of the highest quality and dedication. While charming and modest, she really stood her ground and was the best example I could get.

WHICH MOMENT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE ART?

Somewhere in the 80s I was given a calendar for my birthday in which a work of art was depicted for each month. I no longer have the calendar, but I remember I was mesmerized by the beauty and refinement of this Lalique comb. I cut it out and it hung on the wall above my bed for a long time.

NAME AN INSPIRING FEMALE ARTIST.

Beyond being a brilliant artist, Frida Kahlo is a model of commitment. She had always fought for the condition and emancipation of women, despite a life full of hardships.

WHO INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE ART?

I owe a lot to my parents. My mother, Huguette Berès, founded the Gallery in 1952 and my father, Pierre Berès, was a famous bookseller, collector and publisher. Becoming a gallery owner was quickly obvious to me even though I had to prove myself, faced with two such strong personalities!

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WANTED TO BECOME A JEWELRY DESIGNER?

When I was young, I aspired to be an architect like my grandfather. Later when I decided to study in New York, I wanted to study architecture as well. It was my mother who gave me a push then to use my creative talent into a profession that she found more feminine. So instead of stones and timber, I chose precious gemstones and metals.

Creating art jewels, for me, is a continuation of my family heritage. As a child, I was surrounded by creativity and most of my days were spent with two masters. My grandfather was a noted architect whose many works are now considered historical monuments. He always took me to the construction sites of his architecture, and therefore I was trained from a young age to see the world in a structural and spatial way. My father was a sculptor. He taught me to take into account each angle, form and expression of what I observe, and to transform observations into well-rounded creations.

NAME AN INSPIRING FEMALE FIGURE.

Maria Pergay, a French designer, who pioneered the use of stainless steel in furniture in late 1960s. Pergay’s usage of this material not only became her trademark but also changed the face of French decoration in the 1970s. All the while, furniture design remained a harshly male-dominated field which relegated design work by women to trite ‘decoration.‘

WHICH MOMENT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE ART?

I have always been collecting and selling antiques since my teenage years, but in my 20s, after I got my Master of Folk Art, I decided to be a full time dealer and to research and discover unknown designers.

NAME AN INSPIRING FEMALE FIGURE.

Queen Hatshepsut is an inspiration for gender equality. She gained unprecedented power for a woman, ruling as pharaoh of Egypt from 1473-1458 BC, and was the first woman in the history of mankind to gain such levels of authority. The art produced during her reign is of the finest quality to be found in the ancient world.

WHO INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE ART?

When I was 14 years old I travelled down the Nile with my grandmother. I became enraptured with the world of the ancient Egyptians and knew from that point on that I would do everything in my power to spend my life surrounded by the beauty of antiquity.

NAME AN INSPIRING FEMALE ARTIST.

Louise Bourgeois! When I visited her for the first time in her studio, I was in awe of her presence. She was perched upon her drawing table in a powerful, yet casual way. She asked me if I wanted a cup of tea or whisky. She had this energy, this heavy gravitas that pulled me into her orbit. Throughout the years, I have had great respect for her: as a woman, mother, and of course, as one of the greatest artists of this century.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ART DEALER?

I was raised in a powerful art dealer’s house. My mother is one of the leading gallerists with a huge influence in Asia. Ever since I was young, my mother always had me by her side during studio visits. I think one of the key strengths one can have as a gallerist is being able to engage with artists on a critical and personal level. Working closely with artists has always been the most rewarding part of my job.

NAME AN INSPIRING FEMALE FIGURE.

Nancy Cunard: a poet, journalist, political activist, editor… She was a free spirit, and a free woman. She fought against racism, facism, was anticolonialist, collected non-occidental art and edited one of the most important encyclopaedia of Black African and diaspora modernity.

WHICH MOMENT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE ART?

I remember the aesthetic shock the first time I was face to face with Queen Bangwa at the Dapper Museum in Paris. The aesthetic beauty of this sculpture. The representation of the female body… Man Ray was seduced and made a magnificent photograph of it in 1934, confronting the beauty of wood with that of the flesh.

NAME AN INSPIRING FEMALE ARTIST.

We can only guess how many more significant woman artists we would know today, had the societal norms been different in the 19th century. The woman artist I admire the most is the late 19th century Finnish painter, Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946). She started off as a traditional painter but evolved into a modernist of her own making and maintained an avant-garde originality in her work at a time when modern art was being crystallized.

WHICH MOMENT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE ART?

At age 13, I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and I fell in love with Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’. From then on, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the fine arts. After several decades of working in the field, Eric Weider and I founded Gallery 19C in 2016.

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