The Galerie Chevalier, at the very heart of Paris, specialises in antique tapestries (from the 16th to the 18th century), modern tapestries (from 1920 to 1960) and contemporary tapestries (from 1970 to today). For over forty years, it has been a point of reference for textile and fibre art lovers, attended by international customers: collectors, enthusiasts, museum curators and interior designers in search of magnificent antique tapestries or rare pieces created by the leading names in 20th-century tapestry-making (Jean Lurçat, Mathieu Matégot, Pierre Daquin, Emile Gilioli, Robert Wogensk), or works by contemporary artists designed to take this ancient art into the 21st century (Jon Eric Riis, Françoise Paressant, Daniel Riberzani, Mathieu Ducournau or Victoria Tanto).
The Gallery, ‘daughter’ of the family-run business dating back to 1917, is run today by Céline Letessier and Amélie-Margot Chevalier. They share the same passion as their parents, Dominique Chevalier and Nicole de Pazzis Chevalier. Two inseparable sisters who have been working together for over fifteen years: Amélie-Margot is responsible for the Gallery’s artistic direction, and the research of the pieces, an expert in modern tapestries and contemporary textile art, a member of the Compagnie Nationale des Experts and the Syndicat National des Antiquaires; Céline is in charge of running the business and developing the contemporary carpet brand Parsua.
We asked them a few questions to discover the past, present and future of this historical Gallery.
When and how did the idea of a gallery specialized in tapestries, carpets and textile art come about?
It is a familly business for 4 generations now, it is in our blood, our DNA for decades. now I work with my sister Céline Letessier for more than 15 years and many more to come!
What is the gallery’s mission?
The Galerie Chevalier is specialized in antique tapestries (from the 16th to the 18th centuries), modern tapestries (from 1920 to 1960), contemporary tapestries (from 1970 to the present day) and contemporary fiber art. A must for textile lovers, the Galerie Chevalier receives an international clientele composed of private individuals, museum curators and interior designers.
In addition to the magnificent antique tapestries, one can admire the great names of the 20th century tapestry revival (Jean Lurçat, Mathieu Matégot, Pierre Daquin, Emile Gilioli, Robert Wogensky…) and the contemporary artists who use, decline or divert this medium in the 21st century (Jon Eric Riis, Françoise Paressant, Mathieu Ducournau or Victoria Tanto).
There are also antique oriental and European rugs and contemporary rugs from the Parsua brand, created and edited exclusively by the Galerie Chevalier. Finally, the Galerie Chevalier also offers expertise for individuals and professionals, a cleaning and restoration service of very high quality and the rental of tapestries and rugs.
How do you combine ancient and contemporary?
We love mixing Antique, Vintage and contemporary. Thanks to a theme or a color, we combine patterns and it works pretty well…
What is the common element that unites the works you propose?
High quality is the key!
What are the criteria by which you select the works and the artists?
We have our own “eyes”, our “taste” as antique dealers and we apply it to all periods we present at the gallery. But rarity, quality, conservation state are important criteria for us.
For 20th century artists, we like the “French touch”, that is to say the artists really involved in the revival of tapestry after Jean Lurçat. For current artists, it is first and foremost a human encounter. Then, the choice is made for artists whose technique is mastered, original or even unusual, but always around the thread. But for the designers with whom we collaborate for our Parsua Rugs, we like to share common values, concerning the importance of bringing into our interiors products that are part of a sustainable development approach, objects made thanks to the mastery of a know-how, often ancestral, or with sourced, renewable, natural materials ….
How do you judge the current situation of the art/textile art market from your point of view?
What is beautiful and rare always sells. But those objects are increasingly difficult to source. Our aim is to find objects that are new to the market . Many objects go through auction houses but for us they lose their flavour. We like to find objects and be the first to present them, to value them, but this is increasingly rare and complicated. Fortunately, we have a name since decades, a network also and a faithful clientele. We are always happy when customers or children of customers come back to us after 15, 20 or 30 years, offering us, as a priority, to take back pieces that our parents have sold. The bond of trust is important and very gratifying.
How has the audience of the gallery changed over time? And how has the taste of the public attending the gallery changed?
Taste evolves, fashions change!
Our parents sold about 10 antique tapestries per month when we sell 10 per year… we have to know how to adapt, to be a force of proposal. That’s why we have been offering for more than 10 years tapestries from the 20th and 21st centuries, contemporary textile art or our Parsua edition rugs which we just celebrated the 20th anniversary last October.
How did two years of the pandemic affect your work?
During these two years of Pandemic, we had the chance to work intensively on the preparation of the 20th anniversary of Parsua, our rug edition brand. They are hand-knotted in Iran, in a village, with local wool from the Shiraz valley. The wool is hand-spun and the dyes are exclusively natural. the patina is done with water and sun. it is a high quality craft. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, we asked 10 designers, sensitive to our eco-responsible approach, which is part of the DNA of our brand, to draw a “carte-blanche” rug and to choose a model from our catalogue and to revisit it. This very beautiful project, human first of all, carried us a lot and kept us busy for two years.
We have also completely redesigned our website, where all our collections and stock are now available online. As our customers travel less, it seemed obvious to us to reach out to them with this tool, while offering them thematic newsletters every month.
We work mainly with interior designers, so the projects have continued even when the gallery was closed due to the Covid. Finally, our strength is our responsiveness and our ability to adapt.
What advice would you give to someone approaching the world of tapestries and carpets for the first time?
Textiles are a very sensory and tactile universe. We are between the two dimensions and the third. There is something very enveloping, even sensual.
You have to let yourself be carried away by your curiosity, your eye, your taste, your instinct. The tapestry or the carpet have a very strong presence in an interior. You have to work at heart.
Afterwards, you have to be careful with the manufacturing technique, a hand-woven tapestry and a mechanical tapestry are not the same thing. The same goes for a rug, a hand-knotted rug and a tufted rug, either. The conservation, the state of the colours are to be taken into account because it influences the aesthetics of the piece and the price. we can clean a tapestry or a rug but if the colours are faded we can’t do anything. we can restore a rug or a tapestry but it represents a certain cost. People should keep this in mind because sometimes they think they are getting a good deal at an auction house or antique shop but the pieces need hours of restoration and this adds a significant additional cost sometimes even more expensive than the purchase price. This is why I would advise people to go to specialised dealers or recognised experts to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Projects and perspectives: what do you see (or imagine) in the future of the gallery?
We are participating in ART PARIS ART FAIR in April, at the Grand Palais Ephemere in Paris. We are going to show the work of Mathieu Ducournau, Françoise Paressant and Victoria Tanto, 3 contemporary artists.
We work on different projects of exhibitions for 2023-24. We have also on loom in Aubusson, France, some tapestries by Philippe Hiquily, a french sculptor and designer.There is also another tapestry on the loom from another artist but it is still a secret for the moment…it will be revealed in 2023. We have signed with two designers from the fashion world who are currently working on new designs for our Parsua rugs. Many exciting projects with amazing people, we are very lucky!