- Darmo Art is a gallery based in Paris that booked more than six figures in its latest show.
- Its young founders are looking to highlight up-and-coming creatives and build a welcoming environment for aspiring collectors.
- This is part of Insider’s series Star, Rising which highlights early-stage companies and entrepreneurs that are gaining popularity.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Age(s): 22, 23
Location: Paris, France
Business: The art world has a bad reputation among many young people. Some find it old and too exclusive for their generations, which value inclusivity.
Alexis de Bernede and Marius Jacob didn’t wait for the market to transform – instead, they innovated it themselves. In 2017, with $US2,000 ($AU2,716) saved, the duo launched Darmo Art, a gallery specializing in contemporary and modern artworks that also highlights up-and-coming artists.
Young artists have trouble finding support in the art world since many can’t estimate their overall value, de Bernede told Insider. The duo’s gallery aims to spotlight emerging artists and help them grab a piece of the $US50 ($AU68) billion market. Simultaneously, they hope to create a more welcoming environment for aspiring art patrons.
“We want to be the first dealers for our artists,” Jacob said.
Growth: Darmo Art started by hosting public exhibitions and sending cold invites to collectors, dealers, and journalists. Its first show, in 2017, booked nearly $US30,000 ($AU40,740) in sales. Today, Darmo Art’s shows occur in places like the high-end Salvatore Ferragamo store in Paris and typically net six figures per exhibition. What’s more, pieces sell for between $US1,200 ($AU1,630) and $US600,000 ($AU814,797), according to documents seen by Insider.
Darmo Art represents five artists – including Raf Reyes, 23,creative director of clothing brand Very Rare, and Pauline d’Andigné, 24, who is working on an exhibition at a hotel in Athens. Darmo Art also works with nearly 50 collectors, ranging from young patrons in their early 20s to established connoisseurs.
The cofounders are prepping for upcoming exhibitions in Paris and are broadening operations to the French Riveria and at the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm, an exclusive report in Germany. Additionally, Darmo Art is expanding into modern art by selling blue-chip names such as Henri Mattise, Paul Gauguin, César, and Marc Chagall.
Before Darmo Art: De Bernede received a Master’s in art history from the University of Oxford and worked as a special events intern at Christie’s auction house. Meanwhile, Jacob is still studying art at L’Ecole du Louvre in Paris.
Challenges: Making transactions in the art world is about building trust with potential buyers, but people were wary to trust de Bernede and Jacob because of their inexperience and young ages. To prove themselves, they started working on smaller projects before expanding into bigger collaborations.
“Studying art is also what made us trustworthy,” Jacob said. “People saw even if we were trying to elbow our way into the art world, we were still following the path of becoming art historians, not just business people who want to start a gallery.”
Business advice: “Always sell a work at a price you’d been willing to buy it back for,” de Bernede said. The art market can be uncertain and by ensuring customers that they can return their investments with zero losses helps establish trust between the gallery and its buyers, he said.
Business mentor: The duo leans on Jacob’s family, which owns a Parisian antique gallery that specializes in 17th- and 18th-century artwork, for mentorship. They taught the pair how to develop and maintain relationships with customers and collectors.
Why is now the best time to start a business? The pandemic revealed big companies are often slow to innovate themselves, de Bernede said. This leaves a white space in many industries that can be filled with entrepreneurship. “You can be an entrepreneur without necessarily changing the world,” he continued.
On hiring: Right now, de Bernede and Jacob run Darmo Art. However, they’re ready to build a team that they can trust and will tap talent from the networks they’ve established.
Managing burnout: The cofounders depend on each other to manage stress by making sure each is doing their equal parts in running the business. “Having a business partner you can trust and who can be there to motivate you is important,” de Bernede said. “Because having a business is an emotional rollercoaster.”