Safia El Malqui, a passionate and savvy collector: «I dream of a Foundation»

Safia El Malqui has become a charming ambassador of the artmonte-carlo salon thanks to her meeting with artgenève’s director, Thomas Hug. These two art fairs share the same open spirit and rigorous quality standards. Five years later, she still remembers the artmonte-carlo’s first edition: «It was a little jewel … It gave me thrills, making me invest myself in it body and soul».

She is elegant and sporty, both in appearance and her ways. Safia El Malqui has organized some impressive exhibitions at her Sem’Art gallery in the Principality. Nowadays she is still a regular at art fairs, enriching her collections. We’ve met her on her way back from Milan just before a takeoff for Madrid. Her apartment overlooking the Principality and facing the Princely Rock is nothing short of a museum.

Safia El Malqui
Safia El Malqui. Photo by Jean Ronin

HelloMonaco: What do you think of this art fair’s evolution which is now celebrating its 5th anniversary?

Safia El Malqui: In spite of its success, we managed to maintain the quality that has been its absolute must from the very start. We have grown favouring its intimate spirit, gradually introducing some larger galleries. All this happened in the wake and in synergy with artgenève. The NMNM Director, Marie-Claude Beaud, has graciously introduced me to art-montecarlo’s director, Thomas Hug… we have thus been working together.

Safia El Malqui
A view of the living room. Photo by Jean Ronin
Safia El Malqui
A special detail from a work by the Campana Brothers with a piece by André Barelier in the background. Photo by Jean Ronin

HM: You are an experienced collector. How many works of art do you own and what are your latest favourites?

Safia El Malqui: My collection counts 780 pieces. Every two years I am replacing the art displayed in my frames. One of these walls actually reflects my double origin. My mother is Belgian, my father — Algerian. A mirror and cardboard collage by an Algerian plastic artist Kader Attia is thus rubbing shoulders with a superb polyvinyl composition by a Belgian Walter Leblanc. I regularly invest in young artists, particularly into women creators who are taking an increasingly important place in contemporary art. Rachel de Joode, Camille Henrot, Tatiana Wolska, Victoria Wilmotte are thus displayed next to Jeff Koons, Wim Delvoye, Damien Hirst and Jean Pierre Raynaud.

Safia El Malqui
A work by Koen Van Den Broek above « Puppy » by Jeff Koons. Photo by Jean Ronin
Safia El Malqui
« Le poing » (The Fist) by César. Photo by Jean Ronin
Safia El Malqui
10 metal pots signed by Jean Pierre Raynaud. Photo by Jean Ronin

HM: Where did your passion for art start from?

Safia El Malqui: My first revelation dates back to when I was 10. My parents loved traveling by car which took us one day to the Château d’Amboise. Leonardo da Vinci’s last home, Clos Lucé, thus introduced me to his artistic and scientific genius. I was dazzled by it! Later, at the age of 19, I acquired my first work of art, a lithograph by Gauguin, later displayed in my little Bruges apartment. I loved Gauguin, his colours, shapes, his very feminine contours…

Then my tastes obviously changed. I own drawings by Picasso and Matisse and some works by Chagall. My collection, however, is essentially dedicated to the art of the 1960s to the present day. I ultimately became interested in minimalism and design with a particular focus on the Israeli artist, Ron Arad.

Safia El Malqui
A set of 5 pumpkins by Yayoi Kusama Matsumoto. Photo by Jean Ronin
Safia El Malqui
« Love » by Robert Indiana beneath « Torsion Mobile-static » (Twisting Strings) by Walter Blanc. Photo by Jean Ronin
Safia El Malqui
« La linea della memoria » (The line of memory) by Vincenzo Agnetti and « Sonic rotation opal » by Haegue Yang. Photo by Jean Ronin

HM: You exhibited him at Sem’Art. By the way, what’s the latest with your new gallery or foundation project in Monaco?

Safia El Malqui: I was a little too early but I am happy to have been able to organize rare and successful exhibitions of contemporary art in Monaco. Over the five years, my gallery has welcomed some major French, Belgian, Russian and Iranian artists. Our exhibition of the Russian duo, Vladimir Dubossarskiy and Alexandre Vinogradov, has been a remarkable event.

For the time being, I prefer devoting myself to art fairs. At the same time, I do own a Sem’Art art consulting company. As to the foundation, it would require a large space which is hard to find in the Principality.

Safia El Malqui
Works by Julien Ceccaldi et Tala Madani. Photo by Jean Ronin
Safia El Malqui
Above the buffet « Modern architecture genealogy » by Kader Attia. Photo by Jean Ronin

HM: You are a mother of two. Have you sown the right seeds in your children and are they sensitive to art?

Safia El Malqui: My son is studying business management in Barcelona. He has just given me his walls dimensions so that I could send him some works of art. As to my daughter, she is studying art history in London. Lately she has been a regular art exhibitions visitor on her own initiative, whether I am present there or not. My succession is therefore assured.

Safia El Malqui
From left to right: Nicole Laffont, Olga Taran, Safia El Malqui. Photo by Jean Ronin
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