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Collaborator's Corner: A Q&A with Marie Gomis-Trezise


In 2020 Marie Gomis-Trezise teamed up with David Uzochukwu to curate an edition of our Guest Room. Marie Gomis-Trezise, a groundbreaking creative force, is renowned for her adeptness in scouting exceptional talents. Initially founding GALERIE NUMBER 8, with a focus on photographers predominantly from the African diaspora and global south, GALERIE NUMBER 8 championed artists who confront cultural barriers and societal norms head-on. Established in 2016, the gallery's influence on popular culture has been profound. It played an instrumental role in spotlighting now-renowned photographers like Campbell Addy and facilitated the representation of sought-after names including David Uzochukwu, Djeneba Aduayom, and Mous Lamrabat.

Now Gomis-Trezise is starting a new chapter with the renaming of her gallery to Galerie Gomis and its inaugural exhibit "Intersections of African Youth," featuring the works of Sanlé Sory and Kyle Weeks, in collaboration with David Hill Gallery London. We caught up with Marie ahead of the opening on September 7th in Brussels at Rue Lebeau 25. The exhibition will run until the 28th of October 2023.

Der Greif: Could you reflect on what it was like being a Guest Room guest curator? What did you take away from the process and our collaboration?

Oh, I absolutely loved it! It was great to collaborate with David Ụzọchukwu whom I represent. This project had nothing to do with his work and/or Galerie Number 8. It was purely about our shared passion for photography and how we would connect with a global community of photography lovers during these strange Covid times… It was a pure joy to discover the creative responses to the theme from the 4 corners of the world.

Der Greif: The theme of your Guest Room for Der Greif in 2020 was "The night doesn't swallow us, it lets us stumble." This theme might read very differently now. Do you think your approach to this theme would be different if you were to curate around it now?

Well, David Ụzọchukwu picked the theme, I think that was your formula at the time, so he might have chosen a different quote today. But at the time his idea behind the quote was that he wanted to acknowledge that the times felt very dramatic while some sort of hope in the dark….

Has the world changed today? I don't think so… times are still challenging in many aspects for most people. My bet is that we would have had very similar submissions, which by the way were not so dramatic. I was drawn by the beautiful representations of humanity in the dark: the stillness of nature, the feelings of love, loneliness, courage… the mischievous escapes/things one engages in during the night… I would curate with the same approach.

Der Greif: How has your career developed since Guest Room? Can you tell us more about your journey from being a creative director to establishing Galerie Number 8 and now transitioning to Galerie Gomis?

My creative journey started in the music industry in Paris. I was the first black artist director in a major company, during the golden age of hip-hop in the 90s. I then moved to London, worked in music publishing, and then assisted my husband who was a music manager for a little while but I got bored of this business which was in meltdown at the time.So I decided it was time for me to focus on my passion for art, and particularly photography. I was encouraged because people could see I had a good eye, and I realized I had one!

I wanted to create something from my heart, something that represented where I come from and people like me and that’s what I did with Galerie Number 8 which launched in 2016. I am so grateful for the incredible talent I have met, individuals who have contributed to the success of the gallery. This opened doors to work on the commercial side of photography and it is through an editorial project that I’ve met the team at Nataal and became their Creative Director in 2020.

After six years online, I really wanted to launch a physical gallery of my own. I loved putting on great presentations for pop-ups and art fairs but I wanted to have a home to do shows, and interact with the audience on a more regular basis. Also I think that with this space I wanted to own my vision, as one of the few black women gallerists in the business. It had to be on my name. It’s important to have a space to welcome and inspire others, to show them that they can do it.

Der Greif: Galerie Gomis is set to open with the exhibition "Intersections of African Youth," featuring the works of Sanlé Sory and Kyle Weeks. How did you come to choose these artists and what do you hope to convey through this juxtaposition of perspectives?

For my first show I wanted to have a representation from the past and the present and it was important to find someone that represented the past in a very eloquent way. Obviously Sory does that brilliantly and the person who works with him and shows his work is also a longtime friend: David Hill. I have been following David for a long time and met him via my husband during my music business days… I won't bore you with that.. but that’s the reality. Dave is an aesthete and how he has curated and grown his gallery in Ladbroke Grove, is super dynamic and very inspiring! On my end, my work has always been about nurturing the new, the present. I am all about celebrating the new voices and what they are going to do in the future. So I really wanted to represent both sides for the opening exhibition, and I think we’ve done it very well.

Der Greif: The name change from Galerie Number 8 to Galerie Gomis signifies a new chapter. Could you explain the significance of the color purple in relation to the gallery's vision?

To be honest, the choice of the color came from my brilliant friend P!f (Pierre-François Letué) who has developed the new visual identity for the gallery. We’ve known each other for years, he suggested color to connect with the vibrancy of the gallery roster. He also knows that I am a huge Prince fan. So the color purple is a “clin d’oeil”. Musically and visually Prince rethought social patterns: gender, sexuality, and race. He championed openness, authenticity and individuality and this is also the gallery's mission.

Der Greif: In your statement, you mention that our individuality transcends labels such as race, sexual orientation, or socio-economic background. How does Galerie Gomis aim to embrace and celebrate these differences, and what role do you believe art plays in fostering understanding and inclusivity?

Since the beginnings of Galerie Number 8, I‘ve always promoted individuals with a strong and authentic point of view and I aim to continue to do this today but the physical space is giving me/the artists, the opportunity to experiment (maybe also through other mediums) and to have a deep engagement with the audience. I am hoping that our program will inspire conversations that celebrate our differences while recognizing our shared humanity. I think that’s what art is all about.

Der Greif: Collaboration seems to be an important aspect of Galerie Gomis, as seen with the partnership with David Hill Gallery for the upcoming exhibition. How do you approach collaborations and what do you think they bring to the artistic landscape?

I love collaborations! I think they give more possibilities. Together we are stronger with the message we want to deliver, the visibility we can gain by joining forces. Collaborations are always worth a try, it helps one grow.

Der Greif: Could you share some insights into your curatorial process? How do you select artists and artworks for your exhibitions, and what criteria do you consider when shaping the narrative and themes of each show?

It’s all about intuition. It’s just about having a feeling for the art and the person, having that connection. Essentially, I follow my instincts and focus on the people that I find special. Same with the theme of a show, there’s no rules. Sometimes it’s a creative response to the world's current affairs, other times the space or the context will influence the creative direction.

Der Greif: Lastly, with the increasing globalization of the art world, how do you see the representation of artists from the African diaspora and the global South evolving? What challenges and opportunities do you anticipate in the coming years?

Art dealers around the world have awoken to the incredible talents emerging from the African diaspora and the global South. The momentum is unlikely to fade, there’s so much talent out there. My wish for the future is to see more individuals like myself play a part as gallery owners, establishing spaces that amplify these diverse voices. I wish for a landscape of curators representing various backgrounds and perspectives, authentically contributing to the art world beyond the art market and the money.