Jean and Austin Gauchet: Art Dealers

  • Names: Jean and Austin Gauchet
  • Ages: 28 and 27
  • Job Titles: Founders and Directors of Gauchet Asian Art
  • Location: Nice, France

Tell me about the path that led you to where you are today.

A: For me it started when I took my first art history class at Columbia University. I was going to study psychology but after taking that art history class, I realized there is a great relationship between psychology and art so I continued on that path.

J: My family has been involved with art since I was very young so I have always been interested in it. The Asian part particularly because of my trip to China in 2006 — after living there for a year it really made me want to learn more about that type of art.

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You specialize in Asian art?

A: Yes, I am managing our modern to contemporary Asian art and he manages the Asian antiquities.

J: Most of the business right now involves working within the Chinese market to get their art back. During the wars and colonization, the French, British, and Italians took a lot of Chinese art. And now that China is a force in the world again, they want their art back. That is basically how we are operating – we buy pieces that were taken and sell them back to Asia.

Was it more of an area of interest after your trip or an untapped market opportunity?

J: Interest. The time I spent in China really shaped my taste for Asian art. And then when I got back to Europe, I realized there was so much Asian art here. More than the money can bring, it brings a pride to be able to get a piece from a small auction in Europe to a huge collection or great museum in Asia where it originated.

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Where does one begin to acquire expert knowledge of such a niche market?

J: My advice is to not listen to anyone else’s opinion too much — make your own instead. No matter how big or small your budget is, try to acquire pieces and study them. Go to museums, make friends with art dealers, and read a lot of books.

A: I agree. You need to formulate your own taste because art is so subjective.

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How do you determine the value and legitimacy of the art?

J: Well in China they produce a lot of fakes. My whole job is to be able to tell a true piece from a fake one. You learn mostly by acquiring them, looking at them, having them in your hands, and maybe losing money by making mistakes. You have to go to museums, read a lot of books, and just talk to people who have that expert knowledge.

A: It’s knowledge you acquire from hours of research and study. Also the fact that Jean speaks Chinese really helps because he can read the marks and the signatures that a lot of other European art dealers can’t.

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How does the dealing process work?

A: It varies. Because we are near Monaco and Cannes, we can find pieces at estate sales or families who want to sell off pieces that have been handed down to them. And then there are also fairs we go to in Italy, France, and England. Other than that, it is between other dealers who have pieces, as well as auction houses. You really need to have your eye all over the market.

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Do you ever have a client come to you and say, “I want this exact piece go find It.”?

J: Yes is does happen. You have collectors of very special particular things so whenever you come across something specific, you think of your client. You buy it with them in mind. But I buy mostly because I know it’s really sought after by most of the collectors.

A: He studies the trends and sees what is selling well at the moment.

How did you two meet?

A: We met at the Palm Beach Art Fair and it was love at first sight. I was there for a job interview and Jean was helping his sister with her booth. We ended up talking and after three days he asked me to come to Italy with him for another art fair. That quick trip turned into a month and a half, which then turned into me moving to Europe with him.

Tell me about the different skill sets that you contribute to make the business partnership work.

A: Jean is the expert. He speaks Chinese. He spent time in Asia. He is the expert in terms of Asian antiquities. He chooses the objects, decides the value, does the market research — his strength is in his knowledge. I manage the modern to contemporary art, as well as sales and PR.

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What is the hardest part of operating a business together?

J: It’s difficult and amazing at the same time. The hardest part is defining each other’s roles and respecting each other’s work. I think our interests are different. I’m really interested in the pieces and understanding the art and Austin wants to understand the people. We each have our own area that makes the business whole.

Tell me about your daily routine? 

A: The daily routine is not having any routine. A lot of times we wake up and head downstairs to the gallery (we live above it) and we deal with daily tasks like shipping, answering emails, determining prices, making inventory lists, etc. If a fair or auction is coming up then we will set up a photoshoot. Right now we are working on the website which is in three different languages — that takes up a lot of time because we are writing all the content. We also just got married so that was a lot of planning at once. And because we are still new business, we are working a lot on branding. But it’s not something set each day where we have a task to do every hour.

J: You also need to be ready and available at all times. If a colleague calls and says a new piece just arrived then you need to be able to go look at it right away.

What is the ultimate goal with your business?

J: I would like to sell pieces to the top collectors and museums. I would be very satisfied with my career if the Louvre or Met were to ask my opinion when considering a specific piece.

A: Success for me would be creating a dialogue where people can learn and appreciate different cultures and history through art. I would love to be able to create more of a tolerance for other cultures through art.

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What is the most frustrating part of your job?

J: The accounting.

A: My lack of business vocabulary in French.

Question from the last interviewee. If you weren’t pursuing the career that you’re in, what other job could you see yourself doing and doing well?

J: Well after talking to my mother-in-law who works in real estate, I think that could work well for me because in a way, it’s also a chase for a deal. You are looking for an opportunity that others don’t see.

A: The aspect that I love about art is how it connects people and cultures. I would love to work with the UN or UNESCO where you’re uniting people on a global scale.

What one question do you want the next interviewee on People With Cool Jobs to answer? (You can ask anything!)

At what age did you realize you wanted to pursue the career you are in now?

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