In 2019, Le Petit Journal NY decided to pay tribute to French women of New York by launching the "Woman's Month".
This initiative continues this year and Gallery 32 Fine Arts' Director, Brigitte Saint-Ouen, is one of them.
Original article (in French):
"NY m'a donné l'opportunité d'être moi-même"
"NY gave me the opportunity to be myself"
In 2019, Le Petit Journal New York decided to pay tribute to French-speaking women in New York by launching the "Woman's Month". Because a year later women are still underrepresented in medias, we are continuing our project by publishing, every day of March 2020, the portrait of a French-speaking woman in the city. Today, we have an appointment with Brigitte Saint-Ouen, a well-known face of the French community in New York, the gallery owner’s one but also of the founder of Bleu Blanc Rouge NY.
From Wally Findlay to 32 Fine Arts
Parisian by birth, Brigitte Saint-Ouen did all her schooling there. First with "the sisters", then in a business school and finally at the Louvre School. In the meantime, she came to Texas for 18 months to perfect her English. It was "A real revelation". She added "When you are blonde with blue eyes in Texas it helps". Indeed... Passionate about horses, she gets an idea of America based on her Texan experience.
Back in France, she entered the American gallery Wally Findlay at Avenue Matignon and definitely set foot in the world of art that she now never leaves. However, she keeps an idea in mind: go back to the United States. The dream quickly becomes reality when she is sent to the Wally Findlay’s gallery of New York. "I wasn’t necessarily happy at first because it wasn’t the New York I dreamed of." After fifteen years of collaboration with the famous gallery, the adventure stopped when the founder, Wally Findlay, died. “He left his fortune to his employees. A cleaning lady who had worked for more than thirty years for the gallery touched millions” tells, amused, Brigitte Saint-Ouen. For her part, she left with a little gain "once the many taxes deducted".
After these Wally Findlay years which gave her both the basics and the knowledge of the profession of gallery owner, Brigitte launched out and created her own gallery: Gallery 32 Fine Arts. It celebrates its 18 years this year. "The first years, I organized one exhibition per month then, with the arrival of my twins, I calmed down" explains the gallery owner.
Braque, Dubuffet, Guillaumin, Domergue, Le Pho or André Hambourg, artworks that pass through the Gallery 32 Fine Arts do not leave indifferent. Brigitte Saint-Ouen is sensitive to figurative and brut art.
She organizes pop-ups with Jean-Pol Franqueuil or even Peter Guttman. For the famous photographer, it’s downright at Sotheby’s that she puts up the pop up. “We make pop-ups ranging from 3 days to 3 months. I even made one in partnership with Louis XIII cognac. " She is like that, Brigitte Saint Ouen, full of resources and imagination.
If Brigitte sells artworks, she also acts as an intermediary for the sale of precious goods. Even if it means sometimes finding yourself in very funny situations such as when selling all of the goods of one of her clients, whose name she kept silent, tried and imprisoned. Or again, this client, a dealer in paintings, deceased, whose heritage had to be identified, then sold. For this, it can count on its network of merchants based around the world.
To celebrate the 18 years of adventures of her own gallery, Brigitte has renewed her website, and it breaks the art world’s codes: "Now, works’ prices are displayed and customers can buy online." This is not common, even though more and more galleries are experiencing this desire of transparency and accessibility. Another novelty is the online exhibitions she is launching very soon and new artists who are joining the Gallery 32 Fine Art, which are always more numerous.
Art and French
There is a lot of art in Brigitte Saint-Ouen's life but there are also her twins. At their birth, she wondered about bilingualism because she speaks French but also English with her companion. Enterprising and entrepreneurial, she decided to create a Summer camp program all in French. “It was launched 8 years ago, my twins were then 3 years old. It all started thanks to them, so that they could speak French. With my husband, who is an English-speaker, we decided that they would go to American schools. When summer arrived, I realized that everyone in New York enroll their children in camps. A mom suggested that I could do a bilingual camp, which was unusual at the time. Bleu Blanc Rouge NY welcomes children from 3 to 11 years old every summer. The main goal is to make them practice French while using art and doing a lot of diverse activities. It's very international: we mainly receive children from New York but we also received children from Hong Kong or Egypt, who came to spend the summer with their grandparents here in New York. The idea is to initiate or advance them in French, mainly through art. "
For Summer 2020, Brigitte will even offer children not taking part in the summer camp one hour of French class. "We have to offer activities to children who stay in New York," she explains.
After 30 years spent - so quickly - in New York, Brigitte Saint-Ouen does not budge "it is a city where everything is possible, where a situation can turn into a profitable business". But beyond an American dream or even a New Yorker dream, there is always this wonderful little “je ne sais quoi” that drives Brigitte: "I am always there to get excited about a pink sky or a view of the city, even after 30 years ”. A bit like a love story between the gallery owner and her adopted city. The city that gave her the opportunity to be herself.