Passing of Patrice Bellanger

Patrice Bellanger

14/2/14 - Obituary - Patrice Bellanger, who died on 13 February after a long illness at the age of 69, was one of the very few dealers specialized in sculpture (from the Renaissance to Neo-classicism) and certainly one of the most knowledgeable in his field.
Born into a family of antique dealers, he first set up shop on the rue de la Chaise, then moved to the Boulevard Saint Germain before taking over the premises of the former Cailleux gallery, Faubourg Saint Honoré, a perfect setting for presenting sculptures.

Patrice Bellanger was fond of terracotta and plaster, preferring them to marble and especially bronze as he readily admitted that he preferred original works to multiples, the direct work of the artist in the matter rather than the contribution of assistants. He excelled at discovering works, thus saving them from oblivion and reinserting them in their place in art history. Many of the sculptures acquired by the world’s most important museums passed through his gallery and we often discussed them here.

Patrice Bellanger also organized several exhibitions among which we would point out notably the one highlighting architectural drawings in 1985 at his first gallery, before specializing definitively in sculpture.
At the Boulevard Saint Germain, in 1992, he presented a monographic exhibition on Joseph Charles Marin. He also played an essential role in rediscovering many artists, foremost of which was Jean Carriès, at the time almost entirely forgotten, staging a memorable retrospective and catalogue in 1996. Since then, various American museums have acquired works by Carriès. Thanks to the ties he established with American curators (Peter Fusco at the Getty, Olga Raggio at the Metropolitan, Anne Poulet in Boston, David Brenneman at the High Museum in Atlanta, etc.), Patrice Bellanger contributed considerably to spreading knowledge of French sculpture on the other side of the Atlantic. His gallery was also visited by French art historians and curators (at the Musée d’Orsay Anne Pingeot then Catherine Chevillot who is today head of the Musée Rodin, Amélie Simier at the Petit Palais then the Musée Bourdelle, Guilhem Scherf at the Musée du Louvre...) as well as English ones (Jennifer Montagu...).

Patrice Bellanger was a firm believer in the role of museums and was always pleased when his works joined public collections. Not many people are aware of his influence, as an expert, in the donation through Acceptance in lieu by the Wildenstein family of the Pierre Julien marbles (produced around 1785 for the Laiterie de la Reine [the Queen’s dairy] in Rambouillet) by convincing the French government to recover this exceptional ensemble which had left France in the 19th century.
Patrice Bellanger also knew how to communicate his passion for sculpture to all those who ventured into his gallery, whether or not they could afford a purchase there. One of his friends and clients, Laurent Ménière [1], told us how the first time he visited the gallery (at the time on the Boulevard Saint Germain), still a novice collector, Patrice Bellanger had spent two hours giving him bibliographical guidelines and teaching him how to look at a sculpture.

He was instrumental in helping to create many collections : notably in 2003 with his exhibition of a private collection of terracottas, all of which came from his gallery and which we reviewed here.
We would also like to remind our readers that along with his loyal collaborator of thirty years, Catherine Dolin Dolcy, Patrice Bellanger had helped us in publishing here on this site the monograph on Philippe de Buyster which Françoise de la Moureyre had written, a complex task from an editorial viewpoint.

Patrice Bellanger continued to work passionately until the end. His last exhibition was organized in association with Eric Coatalem in April 2013, reviewed here. At a time when sculpture remains a difficult art form, often neglected or attracting little interest, his passing marks a serious blow to art history, museums and French heritage.

Version française

Didier Rykner, vendredi 14 février 2014


[1] Whom we would like to thank for his generous help in writing this article.

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