Welcome to the website of the New York based fine art gallery, Patrimoine Vivant LLC.

The French word “patrimoine” translates into English as “patrimony” or “heritage.” It refers to the cultural traditions as well as the precious objects that we inherit from our ancestors. However, Patrimoine Vivant does not promote great artists of the past; rather, we promote the great living artists of today. Patrimoine Vivant represents living patrimony, living heritage- those artists producing precious works right now, oil paintings on canvas, which will be passed down to and treasured by our own descendants.

What kind of artwork does Patrimoine Vivant promote?

Patrimoine Vivant promotes quality paintings executed by highly trained artists who take craftsmanship extremely seriously. This mission is simple and straightforward, but it is worth explaining in detail.

For the past half century, the art world has placed less and less of an emphasis on craftsmanship and traditional artistic skill, and has assigned greater and greater importance to art theories and ideas. The curator of a major New York art fair recently said that based upon the huge volume of work she sees being produced these days, her conclusion is that “aesthetics, as far as beauty goes, aren’t the standard for criterion anymore.” What occupies center stage now is not artistic craftsmanship, but rather the concept behind the artwork.

The fact is, this is not at all a new phenomenon. Over 35 years ago the chief New York Times art critic wrote that “given the nature of our intellectual commerce with works of art, to lack a persuasive theory is to lack something crucial- the means by which our experience of individual works is joined to our understanding of the values they signify.” In simpler terms, the critic was simply saying that the theory behind a piece of artwork is key. Today’s art critics and commentators no longer say that a work of art must reflect a particular “art theory” in order for that piece of artwork to be legitimate- however, the current approach is essentially the same. Just substitute the word “concept” for the term “art theory” and you’ll immediately see that most of the things that the art critics are saying these days have been said before, many times in fact. And the conceptual work that is being produced today has been done before, again and again and again. In a sense, the art world is stuck in a rut, from which it can’t seem to escape.

In 1917 – almost 100 years ago – the artist Marcel Duchamp submitted an object which he called a work of art to the Society of Independent Artists, for inclusion into a New York art exhibition. The object was a urinal which he had purchased from a urinal manufacturer, the exact same type of urinal that one would use in a public restroom. The Society of Independent Artists rejected his submission, calling it scandalous and absurd. This was 1917 – not 1967, not 2007.

Today, many art critics and art institutions approach art in the exact opposite way. That is, if a piece of artwork is not scandalous or silly or absurd, then it is suspect, and it is looked upon as perhaps not a work of art at all. And the more scandalous or silly or absurd a piece is, the better it is.

There is nothing wrong with applying abstract and intellectual criteria to judge a work of art, except when one focuses on the work’s concept to the exclusion of all else. Nothing can be fairly judged using just one standard of measure. Unfortunately, concepts have become so important in the contemporary art world that a painter who spends too much time focusing on color and composition will be overlooked; aesthetic quality and craftsmanship distract concept-oriented critics and viewers from the concept, art theory or idea behind the piece. In line with these trends, many art schools have diluted the traditional art training in their academic curricula. This sends the message to the next generation of artists that paintings are approaching obsolescence, or perhaps that painting is obsolete. This is a problem, because it is only a matter of time before things change. People will eventually tire of absurd sculptures and multimedia installations created simply to produce a laugh, or to generate scandal, and will soon return to quality paintings – paintings that we enjoy looking at and which add richness to our lives. There will always be some in the art world who will continue to yearn for ever more elaborate urinals, but the statement Marcel Duchamp made with his own urinal back in 1917 is approaching exhaustion.

The Economist
“The Art Market: How the bad boy of Brit-Art
grew rich at the expense of his investors”

To the right is a graph from The Economist which illustrates this point quantitatively. In late 2008, when the financial bubble burst, the value of subprime mortgage securities experienced a near vertical drop. The markets finally realized that the subprime securities had been highly overvalued, and that beneath the surface, the securities were fundamentally lacking in substance and quality.

However, the graph to the right does not chart the decline in value of subprime loans – rather, it shows the precipitous drop in demand for the urinals of contemporary art superstars Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.

The paintings of van Gogh maintain their value because the paintings of van Gogh embody fundamentally positive ideals that are respected and that matter, such as beauty, harmony, love, honesty, romance and truth. At the same time, van Gogh’s paintings show a simply extraordinary level of artistic craftsmanship; van Gogh, Picasso, the old masters – these men knew how to paint.

Cynical gimmicks and silly trends are a part of life and always will be, but all bubbles burst. People, on the whole, invariably return to what is honest, beautiful and true. This is the guiding principle behind Patrimoine Vivant. Patrimoine Vivant promotes artists who embrace the timeless and positive ideals, who are deeply committed to them, and who communicate these values with extraordinary artistic craftsmanship. The painters of Patrimoine Vivant are optimists. Each one believes that art truly matters, and that it should be respected and taken seriously.

Who is behind Patrimoine Vivant?

My name is Philippe Pakter; I am the founder of Patrimoine Vivant. I am an international businessman and attorney, and I also collect paintings. While living for several years in Paris I became good friends with an avid art collector named Francois. Francois is a seasoned collector who himself comes from a family of collectors. He purchased his first painting when he was 16 years old and he has been collecting ever since, for over 40 years now. Serious collectors in Paris, including two French billionaires possessing vast contemporary art holdings, know Francois to have an exceptionally good eye. He owns a large number of very valuable old works, enough to fill a museum- but his greatest passion, which he likens to “a hunt,” is identifying great living artists, and collecting their paintings before they are discovered.

Francois introduced me to his three favorite painters in Paris, artists that he considers to be genuine living masters. I began spending time with each of these three French painters. I visited their studios and studied their paintings. I asked them endless questions about their work. I went with them to galleries and museums. We discussed art, exchanged views, had many meals together, and became good friends.

In fact, my father, David Pakter, is himself an artist, one of the world’s foremost experts in the old master style- Old Master Portraits. David executes portraits of living subjects in the old master style, and produces replicas of existing masterpieces, for families and for institutions around the world. When I was growing up I was surrounded by old master paintings- in my father’s studio, at home, in his books, and in the museums, especially The Met and The Frick in New York City. Because of these experiences, spending time in Paris with Francois and with Francois’s favorite painters felt very familiar to me. The sights, the canvases, the smell of the paint and the turpentine, the unique personalities of the artists, and the delicate interplay between the painters, collectors and dealers- these were all things I remembered from when I was young.

Based upon my own strong interest in the arts, my friendship with Francois, and my strong belief in the work of the three painters I got to know in Paris, I decided in 2010 to launch the “Patrimoine Vivant” fine art gallery.

Our first exhibition was a show for Nicolas Foster, a three week solo exhibition sponsored by Veuve Clicquot, and held at Chashama’s space on East 42nd Street in New York City. Click here to view photos from the opening night.