Greenwich’s new downtown art gallery intentionally doesn’t fit the typical New England style.
Street, pop and contemporary art fill the small Gilles Clement Gallery on East Putnam Avenue that opened last month. Owner and interior designer Gilles Clement hopes to bring his European artisanal tastes to Connecticut clients.
“I come with a very Parisian sensibility that’s not really Fairfield County style,” Clement said. “You usually never find a gallery like this outside of major metropolitan cities.”
Clement began his interior design career in Westport and added an art gallery nearby several years ago. Last fall, he announced plans to move his flagship design store to Greenwich with a nearby art gallery — essentially replicating his successful blueprint from Westport. The stores remain separate because many artists don’t like their work hanging in design stores, he said, but Clement likes the proximity.
His new store on East Putnam Avenue is to open in February, while the art gallery celebrated a pre-holiday opening in December.
The event elicited enthusiasm from the community, Clement said, adding it even prompted a few unexpected sales. “When something is of quality and outside the box, people react well,” he said.
Clement’s attraction to contemporary art formed at an early age. His parents were figurative artists who raised him visiting Europe’s many museums and urban areas that made graffiti “a legitimate movement,” he said.
“You couldn’t be in metropolitan places like Amsterdam or Paris without seeing tagging,” Clement said. “I was always fascinated with depressing, gray areas and seeing someone take a spray can and make murals.”
That vibrant art culture fills his collections today. The majority of artists whose work he carries are up and coming with a few more senior artists sprinkled in, he said, but more importantly, they all appeal to his tastes. “I always exhibit what I love,” he said. “I take people who vibrate me when I look at their work. My motivation is pure — it’s not about money or if the artists are well known.”
One such well-known artist featured in Clement’s gallery is David Datuna — whose signature is the use of glasses, drawing from his previous career in an optical store. Clement is the only Connecticut gallery to carry Datuna’s work, which has appeared in a number of highly trafficked areas including a Smithsonian exhibit.
One of Datuna’s most famous pieces, “Portrait of America” combines art and technology as the world’s first integration of public artwork and Google Glass. The 2013-debuted work features 2,000 lenses across a 12-foot American flag. Viewers wearing Google Glass see more.
Portraits of great American innovators laid beneath the artwork’s glasses come to life using GPS locators, so viewers can play a video clip related to the portion of the piece they are looking at. The viewers’ reactions were then recorded and shared on Datuna’s website.
During a tour of the East Putnam Avenue gallery, Clement proudly pointed out a smaller, similar version of the piece he now carries.
Pop art may not be what most Fairfield County residents look for when designing their spaces, but Clement enjoys bringing the unfamiliar, he said. It’s not a style for everyone.
Many clients assume they should design their houses in the traditional New England, coastal style, Clement said, but he emphasizes that geography shouldn’t define style.
“Your house has to look like you, not the place you live,” Clement said he tells clients. “What defines you are your tastes.”
The gallery features the work of 13 artists, which Clement said he will rotate constantly. Two or three one-man shows will also take place every year. One of the first will be Datuna’s that will last from mid-March through mid-April.
The Gilles Clement Gallery is located at 45 E. Putnam Ave, while the upcoming flagship design showroom will open later this spring at 120 E. Putnam Ave.
Contact the writer at MBennett@hearstmediact.com, 203-625-4411; Twitter @Macaela_