Industry: Christophe Guye

While the debate of whether photography should be considered ‘fine art’ by some continues, no such ambiguity exists for Zurich based Christophe Guye. The gallerist behind his eponymously named space began his career in the marketing and film industries, which would form the basis for his particularly developed taste in photography. This instinct for great photography would develop greatly whilst running a creative agency, after commissioning a vast number of successful photographic campaigns for commercial clients. 

Following his departure from commercial communication, Christophe’s interest in art and collecting began to flourish, with his initial taste leaning towards the Concrete art movement. It wasn’t until he discovered the work of Balthasar Burkhard that his taste dramatically shifted in favour of fine art photography. This interest was so consuming, that he decided he wanted to open a gallery in Los Angeles, specialising in photography. After the success and lessons learned during this LA co-venture, he founded his own gallery which he continues to run in Zurich, Switzerland. 

“My first professional ambition was to become a movie producer, so I applied for a job at Condor Films but they only had a part time role to offer me. Needing to fill the other half of my working week, I also applied for a role in marketing because I had done a post-degree on the subject. As it would turn out, I was unexpectedly far more interested in marketing than I was the film industry. We made many marketing concepts for companies over a couple of years and were repeatedly shocked at how badly they were interpreted and executed creatively.”

“After a couple of years I decided that I needed to be involved with the execution of these concepts, to ensure that they were made correctly; or as intended. I was then hired by Young & Rubicam and it became quickly clear that it didn’t work the way I wanted it to [laughs], so I decided the only way was to start my own agency. It’s funny, because ultimately, they would buy my agency from me later down the line. During this time I became interested in art through two of my close friends in that world, and I started to collect on a small level.”

“Following the sale of my agency, I really progressed with my collecting with a bit of a focus on the Concrete Art movement, like Max Bill and reduced forms, colours. The eye opening moment which began my interest in photography happened when I was at Art Basel and saw the work of Balthasar Burkhard. In the past, photography for me was a commercial art-form, not a fine-art-form and through these works by Balthasar, I realised there actually is a fine-art photography form. After close to 20 years in advertising, with countless photographic campaigns, I grew an eye for what great photography was in terms of commercial application. I felt very confident with this experience to define what I think is great art in photography.” 

“It’s difficult to draw the line between what is photography and what is art, because anything you consider art is art. But it’s the conceptual approach which defines it; the means of expression doesn’t matter because it could be painting, sculpture or photography; it’s just one way of expressing a conceptual thought. In great marketing it’s a combination of a great idea and great execution, and I think the principle is the same for great photography or art. It’s a blending of a great concept and great execution and to me it’s extremely interesting that you can recognise an artists style using photography. It’s much more difficult for a photographer to define their own fingerprint because they have to deal with what’s actually there.” 

“Back then there was only really Walter Keller showing photography in his gallery Scalo, and I met with him to tell him that I wanted to open a gallery in Los Angeles. Two or three lunches later, we had found an agreement that I would open a space in L.A. under the Scalo name (Scalo / Guye). It was a big challenge, a new city, a new job. I had many many questions and would have a call once a week with all of my beginner questions [laughs]. Luckily it’s not rocket science, you just need great artists on one side with great collectors on the other. Later down the line I opened the gallery in Zurich under my name which I still run today” 

christophe guye gallery
“When approaching galleries, you shouldn’t approach every single gallery with the same email regardless. You should really check and understand the focus of the artists at the gallery and think if your work is actually conceptually suitable for their roster. We get painters and sculptors sending their work, not even checking that we are focussed on photography [laughs]. But the main thing is that you cannot force yourself to be an artist; either you have this immense desire to communicate an idea or you don’t. You have to be totally dedicated to creating that work. I would be an artist if I had this desire, but I just don’t.” 

christophe guy gallery 

Portraits shot on LEICA R7 / Leitz 50mm f2 Summicron by Jonnie Craig

To visit the Christophe Guye Gallery website, please click here.