Daily Management Review

Oscar Graf: A Gallery Owner with a Fin de Siècle Spirit


A keen promoter of the wide-ranging Arts & Crafts movement, the son of designer François-Joseph Graf is poised to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his gallery with a new venue in Paris.

by Jean-Louis Gaillemin

© Louis Delbaere
© Louis Delbaere

With an antique dealer grandmother and an interior designer father, you are a chip off the old block! Was this helpful?

My first contact with the art world obviously goes back to seeing my father's projects and his stands at trade shows. At the Carrousel du Louvre, starting in 1994 when I was 7, I particularly remember his 18th-century stands for the Perrins and Maurice Ségoura, a dark, mysterious stand for Gallery Mermoz and the ones for the Vallois and Rateau galleries, which really impressed me. I never actually saw the legendary stand for Eileen Gray, but I've seen all the photos, of course. I was also struck by an African stand, where Philippe Raton's objects were on display next to Laroque's Rouaults.

You started in the business at the Paris Biennale …

I was 17, fresh out of high school and my father, who had convinced François Fabius— a major French antique dealer—to exhibit again at the Biennale, said "Come and work on François's stand!" It was full of Napoleon III works, with pieces by Carpeaux, bronzes by Barye (his specialty), vases by Deck  and a chandelier by Froment-Meurice. It was also an amazing opportunity to discover one of the oldest galleries in Paris. I was the boy who was there thanks to his father; I did the daily chores and went out to buy coffee and newspapers, but François Fabius made every effort to introduce me to the trade. He was an amazing person: highly cultivated and open-minded, and very willing to pass on his knowledge. Sadly, he died shortly afterward. At the next Biennale, I worked for Santo Micali of the Mermoz Gallery, where I learned about how a gallery works, the relationship with customers, the importance of museums and what is involved in preparing an exhibition.

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