Design & Decoration S03 ep18 : Jean Luca, Baroni Gallery, [UK]
Interview with Jean Luca
Jean-Luc Baroni belongs to the third generation of a family of connoisseur art dealers. The family business first opened in Paris in 1919, and moved to Florence in 1967. In 1982, Mr. Baroni went into a 20 years long partnership with the eminent British firm Colnaghi. He now works with his daughter, Novella Baroni, from his gallery in St. James's, London. Mr. Baroni has long been established as a specialist in fine paintings and drawings by Old and Modern Masters. The gallery holds regular exhibitions, produces substantial catalogues that are fully researched and illustrated and participates in a number of International Art Fairs such as the Salon du Dessin and the Master Drawings Week in London and in New York. Alexandra Chaldecott, who worked in the Old Master Drawings Department at Sotheby's for more than a decade, contributes to the team. As part of the service offered by the gallery, Jean-Luc Baroni uses his extensive experience to advise clients on establishing, augmenting and maintaining their private collections.
I started university and I got really bored, art history. I needed the action and my grandfather was a
dealer and my father was a dealer so eventually you know it just happened.
The business was started by my grandfather in Paris in 1919 and he died in 1951 and my father
took over the business in Paris and moved back to Florence in 1967 and in ’72 I joined the
company and I became more involved in drawings rather than paintings at the beginning, again
more because of a financial issue.
But I do like very spontaneous art and very strong art and of course in a painting, unless it’s a study
or a sketch, it very often the end result which means that the spontaneity and the strength you
know the force, the boldness that you get in a drawing sometimes is diluted.
I tend to be more attracted to something that has an expression like you know a head, I love heads
and I very rarely have landscapes. I don’t react to them in the same way. I think maybe I’m not
intellectual enough you know to understand the poetry, I like movement, I like action and I mean
you know I never stand still.
The artist puts a lot of about himself into the pictures. If you look at drawings by Ang if you look
at the formal portraits they tend to be rather cold and a little bit expressionless, when you find a
portrait by Ang which is full of expression is because then you read about it and you find out that
he knew the person intimately. Even artists who I consider more frivolous, Baldini, the great b…
now in the very formal huge portrait he can be really boring and kitsch but in the ones he really
liked he loved women so in a woman he really felt for you can guess it immediately you know and
that’s where the difference is.
I had three drawings exhibition in London on my own and then I was head hunted so to speak by
the then director of Co…whom I had a meeting with he said look, what we are interested now is
finding a young dealer who really has a passion and can be his own master, we want a partner we
don’t want an employee, and he said you can take whatever share in the new company of drawings
that you want and as a matter of fact I took 51% but it went perfectly for 20 years.
I’ve always bought what I liked and I’ve continued to do that and my taste of course over the years
is changed a bit, I tend to buy too many pictures that nobody wants but I can’t resist them you
know when they’re good quality I mean T.. nobody understands then what can I do, but I love
I’m presently and I’ve been for the past 10 years forming a rather important collection of exactly
what I like, master paintings and drawings of between the 15th Century to the very early 20th
It started with being financed for deals I couldn’t afford myself by somebody and for it last for
about five years and after five years I realised that there was something which wasn’t quite the way
it should be. When we started buying these paintings which, and drawings, which I couldn’t afford
myself we actually invariably although we paid big prices, we sold them absolutely every time and
so you went incredibly well although for me it was sort of a new field you know when you, you
know when you’re used to buying something for 100,000 all of a sudden you buy it for a million,
so it’s the clientele I didn’t know at the time, and it worked and I was amazed because I would
never have had the guts to do it with my own money.
After a few years I realised that this guy was extremely happy with it but at the same time he
looked a bit sad you know I said look, what’s going on, we work and we think in the same way so
it’s a fantastic almost symbiosis you know and I said but what is it, are you telling me that you’d
rather keep them. He said well as a matter of fact, yes. I said well wait a minute let’s change the
whole thing, we’re going to form a collection and that’s how it started. He said fine, so everything
we were buying to sell, then we started buying them to keep them.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Jean Luca, Baroni Gallery, UK