Early autumn light is stunning. And all the more so when we step over the threshold of Fanny Saulay and Thomas Seydoux’s home. Bathed in the warmest golden rays, the light sweeps across the Hungarian-style dotted parquet floor of their apartment in l’île de la Cité. An enveloping presence that follows us throughout the shoot, enhanced by our hosts’ sunny mood. Co-founder of Wilo & Grove – the new generation art gallery – Fanny is far from a stranger to The Socialite Family. We met her during a previous interview, where, accompanied by her partner Olivia de Fayet, she gave us a tour of Wiloft’s interior. A former printing house in which, alongside their teams, they worked, stored their precious treasures, and above all, welcomed their artists and their clients. Multi-talented “Wilovers” who for the past two years have been featured in our shop at 12 rue Saint-Fiacre (Paris IIᵉ). Selected and then renewed each season with Constance Gennari – our brand’s founder and artistic director – these signature pieces comprise a variety of disciplines, ranging from plaster sculpture to photography including kirigami. These two energetic experts in modern art could have stopped there, if it weren’t for their devouring passion for their profession. After creating several successful pop-ups and a Wiloft that has become a go-to art gallery for collectors, this unfailing passion coupled with extraordinary energy has led them to open their very first permanent gallery in Paris’s Sentier district. A real showcase that no longer requires making appointments – except for Mondays – designed to sell art produced by the 50 artists featured in their catalogue. Our meeting takes place amidst the busy preparations that a newly-opened gallery requires. But Fanny doesn’t hold back and is more playful than ever. Always available and generous in spirit, we find her with her husband and her golden retriever, Latte, as she introduces us to the world of Wilo & Grove. Her world. A world filled with collector items, fascinating finds and art books – as can only be expected.
Fanny, can you introduce yourself, please?
I was born in Paris and have been living on the Île Saint-Louis for a year with my husband Thomas and our faithful golden-retriever, Latte. In 2017, I founded the new generation Wilo & Grove Art Gallery with my partner Olivia de Fayet.
What was your background before you and Olivia de Fayet established Wilo & Grove?
When I had completed my studies at ESSEC and the École du Louvre, I worked for about ten years at Christie’s, in London, New York and Paris, in the Department of Impressionist and Modern Art. That’s where we met, along with Olivia. After seven years in the same team, we decided to embark on the Wilo & Grove adventure together. Our idea was to share our passion with a new audience: people who are not always at ease with the art world, by breaking with some of the traditional conventions and introducing them to the work of our favourite artists.
How has your gallery evolved since you established it in 2017?
Our team has grown with each of the seven pop-up galleries we have organised in different places and districts of Paris. We now have 40 incredibly talented artists and three recruits who are essential to keep the shop running! Because between the two or three pop-up galleries each year, the Wiloft in the 9th arrondissement all year round and the e-commerce site, we have quite enough to do!
Some of your works can be found in our shop at 12, Rue Saint-Fiacre. Can you tell us more about them?
We’re huge fans of the spirit behind The Socialite Family and the vision of Constance Gennari, and are very happy to present a selection of our works in your beautiful shop at 12, Rue Saint-Fiacre. It’s a place where a collection of furniture, lighting and decorative accessories is gathered together with unique vintage objects, and they fit in perfectly. Your founder and artistic director’s willingness to arrange the space as an apartment with a strong and very personal identity resonates completely with our concept.
For you, The Socialite Family is…?
A hugely inspiring window on the thousand and one ways you can make your interior unique and entirely your own. A glimpse into the infinite styles, tastes and possibilities reflected by the different individuals who inhabit its interiors.
Tell us about the pieces of art (and design) that we find in your home. Where did you buy or find them? Which is your favourite?
There are a number of works by artists from the gallery on our walls – our selection criteria, with Olivia, being based on the desire to hang an artist’s work here, that’s quite logical! We launched the gallery by offering artists whose works one or other of us already owned the opportunity to join us in the adventure. Since then, we have continued to add other pieces as a result of meetings and visits to workshops, but also sometimes by buying at auction. As for furniture, we mixed vintage items we purchased at the Saint-Ouen flea markets, on eBay (and more generally online) or at public sales, with more contemporary pieces, things brought back from our travels or family items. The most important thing is to fall in love with the individual item at first sight. It’s only after that that we find a place for it among the rest! This makes the question of the favourite piece impossible to answer, because choosing one piece means renouncing another, and each one really has its own history and raison d’être.
Where does your love of art come from?
From my family. Art has always been part of family life, not specifically through paintings on the walls but in a more immaterial and diffuse way. My brother and I, for example, have toured churches and museums in many cities with our parents (sometimes dragging our feet a bit…), and have always been aware of art: it’s important! It’s essential, fundamental even. The testimony of all that has been made beautiful by humankind, generation after generation!
Is there any one discipline you prefer?
Not particularly, because I prefer not to reduce the possibilities by limiting myself to one medium or a technique. This is also how we work at Wilo & Grove with Olivia: no predefined criteria, no preconceived ideas of what we are looking for. In my opinion, that’s how we can make the most beautiful discoveries.
How about a current favourite material, both in art and decoration?
As you can see in the apartment, we have a rather serious addiction to Kilims, as does Thomas. The geometric, colourful design and timeless character of these old pieces speak to me. These are characteristics that also attract me a lot in art.
What will we see from Wilo & Grove’s in the coming months?
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily