Patricia Kishishian and Jean-Claude Ghenassia, the couple behind sobering galerie in Paris, share a passion for supporting and identifying emerging artists. Their journey began in 2002 with the creation of Annual magazine, which became a platform for fostering dialogues between established and emerging artists.
Kishishian’s unconventional path into the art world, with her background in law, combined with Ghenassia’s experience in publishing and art collecting, brought a refreshing perspective. Driven by their love of presenting young artists, the couple exhibited work in their apartment across the street from the Musee de Rodin on Rue de Varennes. Here, the two had the idea to open a gallery space, and the project set the stage for the 2013 opening of sobering. Located in the bustling Le Marais neighborhood, the gallery continues to champion the works of budding artists alongside renowned masters.
These early exhibitions, inspired by their love for art, were also fueled by practical considerations. “We love art—that’s the first—but also we need to eat. That’s life,” said Kishishian. This encapsulates the ethos underpinning sobering’s success: a commitment to not just showcasing but also supporting the careers of its artists. Most recently, sobering presented work from several ultra-contemporary artists at Luxembourg Art Week, including Ivan Arlaud and Adrien Fricheteau.
“We present many young people, and these people are waiting for us to sell because they need to gain their life,” Kishishian told Artsy. “We take care of each of [our artists].”
Meanwhile, another defining characteristic of sobering’s portfolio is its emphasis on emerging Chilean artists, whom Kinishian has developed close relationships with. Of the 21 artists represented by the gallery, five hail from Chile: José Cori, Rodrigo Arteaga, Andrea Breinbauer, Benjamín Ossa, and Elisa Alcalde. These artists see Kinishian and Ghenassia’s work as an opportunity for growth.
“We began to defend many Chilean artists from the beginning…it became as if I was representing the Chilean artists in Paris,” said Kinishian. “We became a reference for the Chilean [artist community] in Paris.”
One such artist is Andrea Breinbauer, a Chilean talent who recently presented a solo exhibition, “New Clouds,” at sobering. Initially, Breinbauer approached Kishishian with a catalog of her works painted on wood. Kishishian, recognizing her potential, encouraged Breinbauer to explore painting on canvas after the gallery unsuccessfully attempted to sell her works on wood.
“She began to produce one, two, three, four, five pieces, and each time we added a piece, we sold it,” Kishishian said of the collaboration. “People loved the way she painted the subject, the archive she used…I’m very happy with her work.”
This shift marked a significant development in the artist’s career as her new paintings sold one by one, leading up to her first solo exhibition with the gallery. Consequently, sobering’s approach goes beyond mere exhibition. It’s about building relationships with artists, understanding their vision, and providing a platform where their art can reach wider audiences.
Additionally, Kishishian creates these close relationships with her collectors, who, according to her, are often surprised to love every artist in their diverse roster. At sobering, the exhibitions draw inspiration from their inaugural apartment showcases, meaning they present work that would add beauty to the homes of their collectors. This philosophy shapes the gallery’s aesthetic, favoring works that resonate with beauty, positivity, and are, ultimately, thought-provoking. It’s even in the name, defined by the gallery as “tending to make one thoughtful.”
“There is something positive in what we present; we don’t want to have torn bodies and things like that,” she said. “All the pieces that we have, we could have at home.…There is something about the beauty of life. We are on a certain line of happiness.”
Before everything, Kishishian and Ghenassia share a dedication to investing in the talent they encounter. The same is true for Baptiste Léger, the gallery’s assistant, to whom Ghenassia entrusted the keys on his very first day. Although Léger never sold art before, Ghenassia hired him as an intern on the same day they met two years ago. Since then, he has become an integral part of the sobering team, all credited to the trust put in him on the very first day.
“Jean-Claude and Patricia are two people who really trust other people,” Léger said. “Me, but also artists, and that’s also one of the reasons we have young emerging artists because they see potential in them. They can evolve, and [Jean-Claude and Patricia] have this very incredible gaze on the art world.”