Tucked away just outside Dubai’s bustling Financial District is Sylvain Gaillard’s duplex apartment – a well-curated art haven. Gaillard always had an appreciation for visual arts and from a very young age, an interest in collecting pieces. Born and raised in Geneva, the collector then moved to Boston for his undergraduate and post graduate studies.
Post that, he spent his life as a private banker, working from Turkey, Geneva and Moscow. He started his collection small, with prints purchased during his early work travels.
Never having been to the city before, Gaillard and his wife, Valdeta Alija, made the decision to move to Dubai six years ago.
David Parise. B and K in NYC. 2013
“I like the visual aspect of things so if I like something, I usually buy it,” smiles Gaillard. He does add on that his recent purchases are a joint decision made by the couple. Gaillard compares an art collection to a personalised iTunes library; just as every song takes one back to a special space, every piece which adorns his walls carries a precious memory from the past.
“It takes us back to a moment in time; the people we were with, the year we purchased it and all the memories of the moment associated with it,” he expresses.
Upon entering the apartment, one sees a sea of art. A photograph entitled Art Dealer (2015) is especially of note. Gaillard fell in love with the piece and the title. The work is by French photographer Gérard Rancinan, and is displayed behind two of KAWS x Dior’s Plush Companions (2019), a limited edition set of 500 toys issued by the house of Christian Dior.
In the background: Gérard Rancinan. Art Dealer. 2015. Photography on dibond, edition of 8. On the front, two pieces from the KAWS for Dior Plush Companions collection. 2019. Plush toy figures, edition of 500
Although all are close to Gaillard’s heart, there is one special piece on the ground floor of the apartment by Sharjah-based painter Baseem Rayyes, which the collector particularly admires. It was his first purchase with his wife, just two months after settling in Dubai. Gaillard requested for the piece to be specially commissioned for their new home. “It just makes me happy," he says, of the work. "I love the energy, I love the texture. It is reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work."
Another piece by Rayyes hangs in Gaillard’s guest room, a special gift from the artist himself. The work depicts Gaillard’s strong bond with his brother.
The staircase leading to the room is Gaillard’s favourite part of the home; it’s where three of his favourite art pieces are placed. The first is from Russian calligrapher Pokras Lampas. Gaillard quickly states that he “loves the use of colour in this piece.”
A second Lampas painting is deliberately placed just outside the master bedroom, dedicated to Gaillard and his wife. This painting, a gift from Lampas, is very special to Gaillard as he saw the artist prepare the drawing from start to finish, and was “mind blown by the work put in.”
Lale Tara. Madona and child. 2011. Photograpy, edition of 3
The centrepiece on the staircase and also Gaillard’s second major art buy is by Turkish photographer, Lale Tara. Titled Shining Madonna with Child (2010), the human elements in this unique photograph are not real, but seem to be almost lifelike.
This piece was recommended to Gaillard by a gallery owner and he was quick to fall in love with it. He adds, “I love the composition, the dress and the setting. It’s all very romantic.”
Cause and Effect, My Love (2018) is another special work by Tunisia-born, Berlin-based young artist, Taher Jaoui. Jaoui is an abstract expressionist specialising in contemporary art based on cartoon and graffiti. “I can talk about this piece for hours,” admits Gaillard. “Because I see so many art references in it. It’s a super happy piece and works extremely well in front of the Pokras painting. I like his technique and his visual universe.”
Right under this piece are two black and white works by French street artist, Maye. Tas de Ferraille and Vapeures Toxiques (2019), are both print-on-paper works, which the collector acquired by sheer luck. He has been eager to buy a canvas from the same artist, but “it’s almost impossible to get a hold of [it],” he states. There is a three-year waiting period to buy Maye’s pieces, and everything in his collection is currently presold.
Mariam Makso. Teddy Bear. 2015. Wax fabric, unique
There is only one photograph each of Sylvain and Valdeta across the entire apartment. The photograph was taken by Dubai-based Latvian artist Marta Lamosvek. Her signature style comprises photo booth-styled pictures and her motivation stems from wanting to connect the subject of the photo to Middle Eastern culture.
Also featured within the home is a skateboard by Los Angeles-born artist, Retna. In collaboration with street and graffiti art exhibition, Beyond The Streets, the skateboard is entitled Retna x Beyond The Streets Skate Deck (2018) and Gaillard is a proud owner of one of the limited edition pieces from a series of a hundred.
Pokras Lampas. Untitled. 2016. Mixed média on canvas. Unique
Sylvain’s home is a wonderful world of art. Two new pieces will be added to his vast collection by the end of the year, by when he is hoping to have moved out to a bigger space.
“Art is very low on the hierarchy of needs,” says Gaillard. “No one really needs art; it’s not essential, yet it brings so much joy. And so, in the process of creating your collection, simply have fun. Enjoy what you see and enjoy what you buy. Whatever art adorns your space should bring you joy.”
All images by Aasiya Jagadeesh; ITP Images
From the spring 2020 issue of Harper's Bazaar Art