Studio International

Published 07/04/2016

Bernard Jacobson: ‘I want to bring people back to art’

The art dealer talks about his current exhibition, Bonheur de Vivre, which he considers ‘a precis of 20th-century beauty’, a return to art that focuses on passion, joy, happiness, light and colour

Art dealer Bernard Jacobson has been looking at art for 60 years and selling it for 45. But he is becoming increasingly disillusioned. “I think it’s the end of an era,” he says, going on to lament the loss of generous spirit and the increase in megalomania and consumerist drive among contemporary artists. In fact, he doesn’t call them artists. “I call them businessmen,” he laughs wryly.

As an antidote to this despair, Jacobson has mounted a splendidly colourful and vibrant exhibition, featuring works by Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell and Sam Francis, who, to him, epitomise the “bonheur de vivre” of the 20th century.  Matisse is quoted as saying: “Colour above all, and perhaps even more than drawing, is a means of liberation,” and it is certainly the key element in this joyous show.

Although never having worked with Matisse or Miró before, Jacobson is a staunch supporter of Motherwell, was a close friend of Francis, and met and was befriended by Calder as a young man. He spoke to Studio International about some of his memories, as well as some of his opinions on the state of the art world and his hopes for the future.

Bonheur de Vivre
Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London
18 March – 27 May 2016

Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY