Flak Gallery in alignment with the stars

Paris, 7 May 2019

Julien Flak

Opened in 1990 at 8 rue des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Flak Gallery has become one of the major Parisian players in the field of tribal art since the early 2000s. The latest exhibition, dedicated to navigator and long-distance discoverer James Cook, highlights the gallery’s expertise through their aesthetical and historical choices.

Edith and Roland Flak, the gallery’s founders and modern art collectors turned naturally to African art, more precisely Dogon, as their collection grew. A first exhibition in the late 90’s of “ere ibeji” twin figures which are associated with the Yoruba culture, now mainly found in Nigeria –, foreshadowed the direction of the family gallery.

“When you’re interested in modern art, it is hard to miss African art,” says Julien Flak, who joined his parents in 2002, after a career in advertising. Under his influence, primitive arts quickly took a prominent place in the gallery, eventually occupying both exhibition spaces entirely.

Kachina figure, Hopi, Arizona, Carved by Hopi Chief Wilson Tawaquaptewa, Oraibi (1873-1960) Carved wood (cottonwood), natural pigments and feathers Circa 1930, Height: 14 3⁄4 in. (37.5 cm) © Galerie Flak

If he was too young to attend the “Privitivism” show organised at MoMA in 1984, the 45-year-old gallery owner recalls the presentation of Eskimo masks alongside Henri Matisse’s drawings at the Fondation Cartier when he was a teenager. “I have always kept these images in a corner of my head,” says the art dealer, who also acknowledges his choice of career having benefited from an extraordinary alignment of the planets; the Goldet sale in 2001, the Breton sale in 2003 and the implementation of a museum of arts and civilisations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas at Quai Branly. “For the Parisian market, the 2000s were really a turning point, the entry into a new era, with important sales and constantly rising prices,” he stated.

Seated figure Senufo, Ivory Coast, Carved wood, Early 20th century, Height: 15 in. (38 cm), Ex collection Roger Bédiat (1907-1958) Ex collection Lucien Van de Velde, Antwerp Ex collection Didier Claes, Brussels Ex private collection, Paris, Exhibition: « Grands antiquaires et libraires », Claes, Brussels, 2007, Publication: « Empreintes d’Afrique », 5 continents, 2011, plate 87 page 276 © Galerie Flak, Photo : © Hughes Dubois

Nourished in his youth by books of abstract artists of the 1950s and surrealists, Julien Flak completed his knowledge in the field of the arts, and in particular primitive arts, at the École du Louvre. After his first major exhibition, and the publication of a reference book in 2003 devoted to the kachinas; mythological spirits revered by several Amerindian tribes; the Parisian gallery owner continues to specialise in the arts of North America and Oceania; fields for which he is accredited by the European Chamber of Expert-Advisors in Fine Art (CECOA). “We also learn a lot from collectors themselves, it is a passionate environment, a niche where, even if it is difficult to establish a standard profile, the speculative buyer is much less represented than in contemporary art,” confirms the expert.

He regularly travels throughout Europe, the United States, and as far as Australia to meet his clients, searching beyond aesthetics for historical authenticity heralding back to the roots to find that certain magical dimension, as tribal works of art are often linked to secular or millenary religious practices…”Holding the piece in your hands and taking in its three dimensions is also fundamental,” insists the gallery owner who, while buying and selling, admits to having a “soft spot in his heart” for objects that belonged to André Breton.

Wahaika hand club Maori, New Zealand, Polynesia Late 18th century, Height: 17 1⁄2 in, Ex collection James Hooper (#H. 222) Ex Christie's, London 1977, Lot 77 Ex collection Leo and Lillian Fortess, Honolulu By descent, Published: Art and Artefacts of the Pacific, the James Hooper collection, Stephen Phelps, page 56 # 222, Hutchinson, London 1975 © Galerie Flak, Photo : © D. Voirin

After the Madison Ancient and Tribal Art (MATA) in New York in early May, the Bourgogne Tribal Show near Cluny at the end of the month, and a “Jeudi des Beaux-Arts” dedicated to African art on 6 June in Paris; Julien Flak will embark on a refreshing summer holiday in the Pacific. Following in Cook’s footsteps, he ultimately will reach Easter Island. A pleasure trip, in which immersion should still be part of the fun!

Flak Gallery8 Rue des Beaux Arts, 75006 Paris