Laura, you run an unusual place in the heart of the Cher, the romantic land of Alain Fournier's novels, could you tell us about it?
The history of the place is rather incredible and was initiated by my father, Gerard Capazza in the 70s. Motivated by a deep conviction of the power of art as an engine of social progress, he left the institutional environment to embark on the creation of a space dedicated to art. Alone and without financial means, but inhabited by a fabulous energy, he first settles next to Vierzon (Cher) in a hovel at the end of a dead-end road. His enthusiasm being his only weapon of persuasion, he struggles to convince artists to choose his atelier to create. Among the utopians believing in the power of ateliers outside Paris, a jewellery designer decides to follow him. And it is by visiting the place with his little sister, Sophie, that the story really begins, since I am the direct result of this meeting. Sophie - my mother - will support my father's project and, together, they will make the space evolve at the time called "Grenier de Villâtre". One thing leading to another, encounters and destiny lead them to acquire a house in Nancay where they surround themselves with art and culture enthusiasts. Among the members of this community, there is the daughter of the village's chief who is looking for people to help them restore a house that has fallen into ruin. My father, even if tempted, does not dare, it is my mother, who, surely in the ardour of youth - she is ten years younger - pushes him to take up the challenge! That's how the "second attic of Villâtre" became the "Capazza Gallery". Bound by a taste for art and creative commitment, they inaugurated the place with their artists in 1981. The Capazza Gallery is more than a space, it's a history, encounters... it's a state of mind! For us, that is to say the big family that we form with the artists, this gallery only makes sense because it is open to all and that for more than 40 years, it gathers thanks to the universal language that is art.
And you, Laura, in this family business...
I joined this story in 2009 with my husband, Denis Durand. In 2015, I take over the presidency of the gallery and we continue to exhibit the artists with whom my parents bonded and who watched me grow up. We try to create an environment that encourages encounters, contemplation, exchange... We want everyone who walks through our doors to feel at home.
For the artists exhibiting in the venues, how does it work?
I remember at the beginning, convincing 1 artist was already a real challenge, today we have 90 permanent artists. Our reception capacity remains low since we maintain the relations undertaken by my father, nevertheless, we regularly welcome new artists, mainly European. There is a committed character in our approach, it's a credo. Each artist presented at the gallery has the same spirit. We believe in them and in the strength of their work, no matter what their level of recognition.
Could you tell me about the events at the gallery:
We only open on weekends so that we can devote ourselves fully to supporting our artists and our relationships with collectors the rest of the time. After the annual closure between January and March, we bring the place back to life with a thematic exhibition. This year, for example, in collaboration with the Rodin Museum, we invite our artists to produce works related to the sculptor's work.
Could you tell me about a particular artist you represent?
We have been supporting the work of the Georgian-born goldsmith Guji since 1977, his works are permanently present at the gallery. Attaching great importance to the uniqueness of his pieces, he combines the technique of copperware with the inlaying of hard stones in the metal, an innovation that he developed alone.
What are the values you are trying to convey?
Since the beginning, the educational character and the effort invested in sharing our values have been at the heart of the project. The specificity of our gallery makes it a place of initiation to the ideal art where the individual is led to live an almost transcendental experience through artistic discovery. As in the Lascaux cave, there is within these walls a kind of mystical approach to artistic creation.
What are your biggest challenges today?
There are several. For example, making history evolve by continuing to bring the work of a deceased artist to life. There is also the economic issue: bringing the public to an isolated place is not always easy. Of course, we are supported by many collectors who come mainly from France and Belgium but also from Europe to visit the place. Cultivating institutional recognition and developing our international presence are also part of our objectives. On the other hand, in a critical case such as the present one, isolation can be distressing for some and at the same time promising since the attraction for the domestic/local acquisitions will surely encourage French collectors to get closer to their countries.