A Chat about Art with Collector Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre
Explorations of AI Art — Episode 10
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” ― Émile Zola
During 2019, the interest in digital art has increasingly seen the involvement of museums and galleries, showing that there is a good chance of growth, although the digital art market is still in its infancy. All of this went hand in hand with the questioning of concepts such as the value of art, the role of the artist and the real meaning of creativity.
Reasoning on some of these issues, for an opinion I thought to reach out to an expert in the art world. So I contacted Paris-based French collector Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre, director of ICART (L’école du management de la culture et du marché de l’art), founding president of the Artistik Rezo association and artistic director of Fluctuart— Centre d’art urbain.
Originally from the south of France (Antibes and Marseille), he joined Espace Cardin in 1997 as press officer. Pierre Cardin, the Italian fashion designer naturalized French and known for his avant-garde style and his Space Age designs, entrusted him with the management from 2006 to 2015. In 1999, he created the cultural media Artistik Rezo of which he is the current president. Since 2014, he has been a member of the board of directors of the ADIAF (Association for the international dissemination of French art) and president of the Association of directors and producers of private theater. In November 2015, he joined the EDH group and became the director of ICART. 
Looking at Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre’s résumé it does not go unnoticed that he is also a collector of urban art (i.e., combination of street art and graffiti), owning works by Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Swoon and Invader. This passion started about twenty years ago, when he was living in Paris’ 13th arrondissement, a very lively area from an artistic point of view.  During his stay, he discovered many artists on the streets of “La Butte-aux-Cailles”. He became aware that this kind of art carries a universal message and poses important questions about the society we live in. This idea has been at the core of his project called Art42 — Urban Art Collection, a space created to allow anyone to discover urban art. Located in a computer school in the 17th arrondissement, Art 42 is the first street art and post-graffiti museum in France. It occupies 4,000 m², featuring 150 works (such as frescoes, sculptures, stencils, collages, engravings, etc.) of major urban art artists and is open to the public. 
Our chat about art starts here.
Beth Jochim: Nicolas, could you tell me three reasons why art is important in your life?
Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre: Art is important in my life because I live with it. It makes part of my everyday, of my environment. For me artists bring a different vision of life and of the world.
Beth J.: What is the most exciting or rewarding project you have participated in so far?
N.L.L.: The creation of ART42, the first urban art museum in France. And FLUCTUART, an urban art center at the foot of the Pont des Invalides, in the center of Paris.
Beth J.: Living in Paris, we could say that art is everywhere. What is the value of art for a community?
N.L.L.: Art is one of the most important vehicles, which exists to bring the most important value of humanity. Art is essential for people and civilization.
Beth J.: The end of 2018 has seen Christie’s becoming the first auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm at the unexpected price of $432,500. This has shocked the industry. Now, if we think of Artificial Intelligence-based art as a new avant-garde, was that positive or has it set expectations too high for both buyers and artists?
N.L.L.: No one had anticipated such a record. It was a surprise for all and particularly for the collective OBVIOUS. This record does not make much sense, but it does mark the arrival of AI in the market. It has, at least, made possible to put a spotlight on these new forms of creations.
Beth J.: What does collecting art mean to you? Is it an asset, an investment or a personal need? Do you feel in some way responsible towards the artists and the community?
N.L.L.: Art is universal and gives a sense to society. It gives a sense to me too and to my life. Of course I feel a responsibility and I try to share my collection with the largest number of people.
Beth J.: Being in contact with artists, you know that often making a living is difficult. This can be said also for digital artists that would be keen to devote all their time and energy to their practice, but that can not afford to do so. Could you offer a suggestion to overcome somehow this impasse?
N.L.L.: Unfortunately I don't see many solutions. The only possibility for artists to live is that their market develops.We need to share more of this kind of art and encourage the creation and development of new art galleries specializing in digital art.
Beth J.: The relationship between collectors and artists could sometimes be imbalanced, especially for artists at the beginning of their career. How could we more effectively improve their exposure and make it easier for them to find collectors?
N.L.L.: This is exactly the job for young galleries. They are precisely an instrument for the development of young artists. It is not easy for them, but essential for the artist. The public art centers have less and less money and are very often too elitist.
Beth J.: Would you like to share any special project for the future?
N.L.L.: I would like to facilitate more the access to art for children. It’s never too early. We need to bring art everywhere and particularly to schools.
Art is a necessity — an essential part of our enlightenment process. We cannot, as a civilized society, regard ourselves as being enlightened without the arts. — Ken Danby
Despite being a collector and a director, Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre focuses on the implementation of projects that aim to make art more accessible, less elitist and enjoyable by a larger audience. In other words, he pushes the democratization of (urban) art, its value and message as a fundamental part of the urban scene and our society. As he says: “Street artists share their personal views of society, of today’s world and for this reason it always seems relevant. I try to focus on their singularity, and to promote a variety of messages.” 
I feel this can be said about digital art too. Although in its infancy, digital art reflects our times in a unique way, posing questions about technology, what it means to be human in the digital era, politics, beliefs, values, and much more. It presents a great variety of technique, aesthetics and narrative, conveying the artist’s ideas and pushing the public to reflect on what is happening around us, giving an instrument to design the future.
Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre’s projects are a very good example of involvement in a community, first of all at the local level, where art can grow together with the people who live and experience the city. Our hope as a gallery specialized in AI-based Art is to create more and more opportunities, collaborations and partnerships with artists, collectors, brands and the local environment. Acting at a micro level, where creatives can meet and experience digital art, we think there is a good chance to build an ecosystem able to digest this genre, and then spread the word.
I want to thank Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre for this chat and his kind availability.∎Resources and References
About the author: Beth Jochim is the Creative AI Lead at Libre AI, and Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. She works at the intersection of technology and arts. She is actively involved in different activities that aim to democratize the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, bringing the benefits of AI/ML to a larger audience. Connect whit Beth in LinkedIn or Twitter.
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