Design & Decoration S03 ep1 : Gisele Croes, Croes Asian Art, [Brussels]
Interview with Gisele Croes
"The Chinese art market is a $1 billion-a-year trade and it can be dangerous and frightening," she said. [...] She said her market was also long on cloak-and-dagger. "I've been accused of being everything from a smuggler to an agent for the Chinese secret police," Croes said. "The mystery of my reputation is only painful when it's a lie." Colin Sheaf, 53, deputy chairman of Bonhams auction house in London and the company's Chinese art specialist, spoke of Croes's reputation in the trade.... "Gisele is remarkable at finding treasure," Sheaf said. "She's part of the world's most elite group of dealers, handling a quality of Chinese merchandise that auction houses can only dream about."
My name is Gisele Cou… I’m a dealer in antiques and specifically in Chinese antiques.
I started 38 years ago with porcelain with small objects and as I was you know successful I started
to really, really study Chinese arts so finally I got interested in ritual art, very early art and what
they have developed as a culture and a civilisation and that’s what I’m doing.
I was working in China in ’62 for the Chinese government I was a journalist being in Beijing from
’62 to ’65 and I sort of acquired the taste of China and I came back in ’65 and I started to look
about antiques and then someone encouraged me to do something that I really like and as I liked
China, I liked Chinese art and I started like that.
People thought that I was crazy, totally …. With the art market it was true so they always referred
to my objects like … you know it was always sort of what are these things I know I love but the old
times was quite hard, it took a long time for people to understand that China is coming on the map,
that China is going to be a power so now of course everybody turns to me saying how could you
have done that for so long and we didn’t understand.
Of course there were dealers in mainly London, great dealers, people who taught me about this
profession, I was so fascinated by one dealer that for me he was a real true model that I had always
in mind like an example. So he was also the very first to do early Chinese art.
First of course it was … clients and then I went to Paris to the B… and there I started to have my
first international clients and then I did fairs all over the world in London, in America and now I
am sort of known worldwide so in China I had exhibitions too.
China was depossessed with their objects in the 19th Century and in the early 20th Century so there
is a lot of goods abroad so I am never bought anything in my life in China.
When you are very long time on the trade and people trust you, you have a network of people you
know and they call me and say look I have this or I have that, I need money or my father is dead
and I need to sent some objects so it’s a sort of network and that’s how you acquire pieces from all
over the world.
I bought this piece that is just next to me in a Portuguese collection but I knew that there was
somewhere a counterpart because those pieces never come alone, they are always in pairs. This is
an imperial piece that was certainly in the imperial palace, very near to the emperor’s throne so I
knew that somehow there must be a counterpart somewhere and yes, I have two one is on the other
side of this room, so this for me is a surprise, it’s maybe not a very funny story but someone
entered my gallery saw this, called me after a week and said look I know where the counterpart is,
and I went to see this person, he negotiated, we had nice dinner and I bought it.
These gold pieces that are in this cabinet I saw them when I was a lot younger, 25 years ago and
they were in a collection of a lady, and she said to me you know if you like to see I just bought
something absolutely gorgeous and she gets out one of these gold plaques and then she says but
you know it’s so expensive, so I ask her how much is that and of course I fall over my chair, it was
way unreachable, beyond what I can and I met her in London for a brief lunch and I mentioned her
the story saying you know I was fascinated by your collection 25 years ago and she said that’s very
funny I was going to the bank because I am going to sell them in Hong Kong, and I said no, no, no,
no, I’m buying, I’m buying. And I bought them.
I was … as a junk shop because I always as a child amassed everything I could I had old dresses of
my aunts, I had bits and pieces of all sorts of things that I was collecting so probably it’s in my
genes, I knew it when I began this business but as I was not very rich I needed to build up the
business in order to buy beautiful pieces so I did not really keep things at home, Chinese things …
but I have a home with lots of other things.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Gisele Croes, Croes Asian Art, Brussels