When one evening, one morning, whatever the time, when Anne Laure Lestage talks about art and crafts, we glimpse the obvious. Of those who move us without being able to describe them. She speaks to us about sensitive and forms, thoughts and know-how. Also from the Basque Country, one that resonates with our time, infinitely rich and inspiring.
Based in Biarritz since 2019, she imagined the gallery a mano studio. Through her proposal of works and works of art, she invites dialogue between artistic approach and crafts.
Anne Laure, can you describe your journey in a few words?
A graduate of the Ecole du Louvre, I worked for 12 years in Paris in cultural institutions and for luxury houses – Hermès, Galeries Lafayette, Balenciaga – to advise and develop artistic projects with international artists and designers in Asia, Europe and America. I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot and to meet artists and designers from various cultures with personal connections to the world and far from fashion. It counted a lot in my journey and built my relationship with creation. Today I am a gallery owner and independent curator between Biarritz and Paris.
Why did you choose to live in Biarritz?
Initially, from the South West, I needed to reconnect with a healthier lifestyle, closer to nature and to live in a city on a human scale. The location of Biarritz, between Bordeaux and Bilbao, also opens up many new dynamics.
Tell us about a mano studio, what is your approach?
a mano studio was born precisely from this desire to reconnect with a form of simplicity and humanity. It is a gallery which offers a selection of works and works of art made, entirely by hand, by artists, designers and artisans, in unique pieces and in tiny quantities, which are out of time standardized and industrial creations. “A mano” actually means handmade in Spanish. I like the idea that everyone can acquire a piece of the soul by purchasing a craft or artist’s piece. More than just a play, these are real stories of men and women with strong and touching sensitivities, who are exposed. When someone comes to see me, I try to convey that, simply with my words.
Through a mano studio you offer more than a gallery but also an artistic direction service, can you tell us more?
Absolutely, through a mano studio I offer an artistic direction service to imagine projects with artists and designers, museums, hotels, companies. I accompany teams to tell a story through a selection of works and objects and develop commissioned works. Artists and designers have an incredible ability to re-invent things with simplicity. I am fortunate to have this ability to connect the right people to design different projects and adapted to each structure.
You started your project almost a year ago, how is it going, are the locals receptive to your proposal?
From the first days of opening, I received a lot of encouragement. I was surprised by the curiosity of people! However, even if the city remains dynamic, we are far from the emulation that a big city offers … But I have a lot of hope to see that change in the years to come.
What is your vision of the local culture and art landscape?
The local art is vibrant with many skills. Whether for working the soil, wood, textiles. There are wonderful workshops and others a little dormant just waiting to be woken up. I also work hand in hand with local associations such as “la réciproque” and “COOP” which work to energize the territory through contemporary creation and support local crafts. The “reciprocal” association also invited me to imagine a collaboration between a contemporary artist who lives in Bayonne and a Spanish Basque ceramic craftsman. I am involved in this project as an exhibition curator. The project will see the light of day at the start of the school year, and there will soon be more information on our sites.
You, who have lived for ten years in Paris and worked in major art centres, how do you find your balance in the Basque Country after so much urban cultural excitement?
Unlike big cities, exhibitions, meetings, culture come less quickly to us. In Paris, you can soak up a large part of cultural news just by walking in the corridors of the metro. Here it’s different… You have to get the information. When I’m in a culture crunch, I go to Bilbao, I go back and forth to Paris, and I buy more magazines to keep myself informed. I try to stay on permanent standby.
You just launched your new collection, can you describe it?
A new selection of sensitive works of art with a wide range of ceramics made by emerging artists and designers, lively body paintings by a Brazilian artist, hand-crafted wooden objects and an excellent selection works of art for the table…
Regularly I present new things, and as everything is unique, I do not have stock.
Can you tell us about “Cliché Basque”, your new edition?
In parallel with the current “Antique-Rustique” exhibition at Mano Studio, five artists, designers and craftspeople have been invited to reflect on the question of the Basque cliché and suggest that they imagine a souvenir object linked to the Basque Country in the form of an edition. Bella Hunt & DDC, MANO MANI, Raphaël Larre, Victor Levai, Marion Benoît then revisited postcards, lucky charms and other vacation memories to bring back this summer.
For example, MANO MANI, a ceramist based in the Basque Country, has worked around Basque mythology and symbolic beliefs. This is how the “Kutun”, or “amulet” in the Basque language were born. To hang on the doorstep or to keep with you to chase the “Begizko”, or evil eye, these fetishes take turns in the form of simple masks, first venus or protective votive offerings.
Raphaël Larre, drawing artist, also worked around scenes from Basque cultural life to imagine a series of drawn postcards. For this, he was inspired by the paintings of the famous Basque painter Ramiro Arrue and replaced the faces of the main characters with his self-portrait. A nod to his Basque origins, the artist stages himself in a series of 10 postcards, to collect or post.
This period of confinement should not have been evident for your young company, how do you deal with this situation?
I took the opportunity to develop the online gallery and to advance on projects of exhibitions, commissions and editions of artists specially designed for Biarritz … to follow soon!
Do you have new projects in progress?
A new exhibition that recreates a living room inspired by the art of living in the Basque Country. This has been imagined by a duo of Franco-American artists, based in Marseille, Bella Hunt & DDC, which will begin on June 12. An ultra interesting work that revives the so-called minor arts such as ceramics and cut stone, and above all that is inspired by traditional popular culture with a tribute to the potters of Ciboure. Come to visit!
Infos a mano studio :
Galerie a mano studio
13, rue du Helder
Tuesday to Saturday
From 11am to 7pm
Online Gallery / Delivery in France and wordwide
Details for infos and project
+00 33 (0)6 71 06 25 82
from 12.06.20 to 31.10.20