Light is in short supply in this early part of winter. However, there is no shortage of it when we knock on Fanny Saulay and Thomas Seydoux’s door. Bursting with its warmest golden rays, it sweeps across the herringbone pattern on the parquet floor of their apartment on the Ile de la Cité. It is an all-encompassing presence that will follow us throughout the photoshoot, and that will only get stronger thanks to the good humour of today’s guests. Co-founder of Wilo & Grove – the new generation art gallery – Fanny is far from being an unknown to The Socialite Family. We had already met her for a previous article, where, with her sidekick Olivia de Fayet, she introduced us to the story behind the Wiloft. A former printing works where, together with their teams, they work, store their precious treasures, and, most importantly, receive their artists and clients. The “Wilovers” who, for the past six months, have been able to find the multiple talents of their stable of artists within the walls of our shop, at 12 Rue Saint-Fiacre (Paris 2nd). Selected and then renewed each season in collaboration with Constance Gennari – founder and artistic director of our brand – these artists are active in a wide range of disciplines, from plaster sculpture to photography and kirigami. The two hyperactive modern art experts could have stopped there. But that doesn’t take account of their all-consuming passion for their work. An unwavering love, coupled with extraordinary energy, that has led them to open yet another pop-up at 14, rue d’Uzès, in the capital’s 2nd arrondissement, especially for the festive season. Open until December 23rd, this new project comes on top of a myriad of surprises that the young women have in store for us at the beginning of 2021. So our meeting took place between the thousand and one preparations inherent in the opening of a new venue. But Fanny had the elegance not to let anything show and was more upbeat than ever. She generously took the time to open up a part of Wilo & Grove’s world to us with her husband and her golden-retriever Latte. Her own world. Between collector’s items, found treasures and art books, it has to be.
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.
How are you preparing for the festive season?
Seven days a week with our pop-up until December 23rd! This year, I’ll probably be preparing at home at the last minute! But I absolutely want the tree and to decorate the house. I’m not really a big fan of winter, so the spirit of Christmas helps to cheer me up. As well as the prospect of the Christmas meal, I must admit (Laughs).
What are your go-to addresses for a successful Christmas and new year?
I almost always spend the holidays with my family near Paris in a very small village, with a local feast and DIY decoration. This year, I’m breaking the general rule: it will be at home in Paris! I’ll be able to tell you more about the good places I discovered next year. As for gifts and decoration, I’ll be visiting The Socialite Family shop, because I’ve spotted your collection of Domino ceramic pots. They caught my eye!
What will be happening at Wilo & Grove for the end of this year (and the beginning of the year ahead)?
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily