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Text by Nasrin Modak
Published: Volume 19, Issue 5, May, 2011

They say what Matthieu Foss doesnít know about photography is probably not worth knowing. The pragmatic owner of Matthieu Foss Gallery shares his India experience with Verve

On his love for India
I had been coming to India for many years with my wife, Marielou who was born and raised in Mumbai. We noticed that so many things were changing and that the art market was going through a fascinating transition. In France, I had worked for several galleries and had participated in large projects involving photography and design. I wanted to open my own photo gallery and Mumbai seemed to be a challenging and exciting city to start with.

On Mumbai
Itís a seductive metropolis, in a scary way. Although I will never get fully accustomed to the noise level, I have fallen in love with this city. I find its chaos has a certain charm.

Missing Paris
I do miss some aspects of living in France, from the diversity of cultural events that take place at all times, to simple things like quietly walking down the street. However living in Mumbai is a choice I have made and it has been an adventure I never regret.

Photography is...
A visual language that lends itself better than any other to reflecting the poetry of reality.

A good photograph will...
Teach me things, make me doubt, surprise me over and over, have many facets.

The benchmark
Itís never about one photo. During an exhibition, a photograph is a part of a body of work, a series and there are threads that link one with another. We discuss with the photographer as to what works and what doesnít, which photos will work in which part of the gallery and other such details. There are times when they insist on a particular photo to be showcased but we donít agree if it doesnít fit within that particular exhibition. It depends on a lot of things. Sometimes on mood too.
For example, at the current show Ė Vidisha Sainiís first solo show (Pratibimb and Showtime) Ė we are showing only 18 images of 60. Showtime is a set of portraits of circus artistes made a few minutes before or after their acts. I didnít want to showcase the one with the Joker holding a doll. Unhappy jokers give me the creeps but it was important for the photographer so we displayed it nonetheless. Itís an interesting debate.

On photographs as an investment
Compared to other countries, there are still very few collectors of photography in India but the ones who have taken that step quickly find out that it is a rewarding decision. There are many talented artists using photography as a medium to create works of art. This is one of the many reasons to start collecting photographs. There are plenty of choices in a few select galleries and the prices are still relatively low. Because they are limited editions, photographs are more affordable than other media and are the ideal way for young collectors to acquire works of art.

On the Indian buyer
Since 2006, I have been renting spaces at other galleries. Over these five years, people havenít changed. Photography is a fairly new medium and the collectors are mostly young. While they do not hesitate to buy newer artists, they limit themselves to buying works of India artists. This reflects the pride Indians take in their culture.
It rarely happens in France; the French arenít consciously supportive of their art, they buy what they like, immaterial of the artistís nationality. Also, Indians live with their art Ė they hang it on their walls, keep it in their living room or bedroom. The French buy and keep art as a collection or lend pieces to galleries.

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