Art : a family history
Grandparents, new world adventurers
Leïla Voight’s family history features generation after generation of quasi-novelistic characters experimenting, exploring, investing and living in the midst of the art world of their time. As she grew up, she was partly raised by her grandparents, Claire Voight and René Batigne, in houses open to their artistic friends where the « scents of cooking blended with the scents of paint and glue ». Claire Voight was a new world adventurer. Raised in small-town America, she went from illiterate to scholar, and instilled the belief in her granddaughter that « anything was possible ». Her life was turned on its head when she made a fortune by inventing an image sub-titling system that she gave to RKO to use in film. Her second husband, René Batigne, a French oil field explorer, took her to the effervescent heart of twenties and thirties Paris, reinvented by exiled painters, Picasso, Brauner, Kikoïne, Rivera, Ozenfant and Matisse, who were also friends of the couple along with Saint-Exupéry, André Malraux, Louise and Mapie de Vilmorin and the « five Pauls » (Valéry, Claudel, Morand, Reverdy and Landowski). The intellectual salon that Claire Voight created in 1925 was infused with the spirit of a world where dividing lines were absent and artists and writers rubbed shoulders in their joint search for new ways of thinking.
An experimental father
Although Robert J. Godet died prematurely in a plane disaster over Tibet in 1960, he passed on his free spirit to his daughter. A disciple of Gurdjieff, the young Godet specialised in judo and esoteric philosophy and was involved in publishing, working with the likes of Artaud, Michaux and Picasso. He was part of the effervescent post-war era and the « avant-garde » culture : the feeling that the world was reinventing itself via new fields of experimentation. His friends were a group of eccentric utopians including Pierre Lazarref, Jean-François Revel and Jacques Soustelles in their youth. Close to Yves Klein, Robert J. Godet assisted in the first experimental pieces that his friend carried out at home, at 9 rue Le Regrattier : living brushes (1957) and the first fires (1958). He was a first-hand witness as the New Realism movement got off the ground. Around the same time, during his long trips abroad, he met the young Dalai Lama and ultimately helped him to flee China in 1959, along with Peter of Greece.
The imagination of Leila Voight was formed in this melting pot and her mother, Marguerite Batigne, an inspiration close to these avant-garde artists also played a key role, seeing the workshop as a space open to a total art, and a new way of viewing the world.
Collect and regenerate the family history
For Leila Voight, there is little difference between collecting and breathing. It is a way of regenerating her family history and keeping it fresh and live. She sees artwork as a part of life rather than a signature. In her home, all of the avant-garde artists are ever present : Prinner, Rivera, Ozenfant, etc. They sit indiscriminately alongside the following generation : Klein, Hains, Villeglé, Deschamp, Raynaud, Soulage, Nikki de Saint Phalle... and current artists such as Tony Oursler, Gabriel Orosco, Emmanuel Régent and Miguel Chevalier, or young unknowns...
Money has no real value in her eyes as her relationships with artists bring her other riches such as heightened sensitivity and anticipation. And although this gives her « the freedom to be in the continuous presence of a piece that you love » , it is not « essential to buying Art ». Through her family culture, she has gradually turned to purchasing, private commissions, sponsorship, donations and exchanges, naturally reconciling them; she acquires and never sells on. The sponsor of Raymond Hains, she has hosted him in her family home for almost fifteen years, while the artist, in his pœtic wanderings, could not see anywhere else to go. In another vein, she singlehandedly set about financing the purchase of an ORLAN piece, in order to make a donation to the Kunst Palast museum in Düsseldorf in 2006 as part of her drive to promote French artists abroad.
Knowledge for artists
In view of a new generation of collectors in France who are becoming personally involved in sponsorship and public interest initiatives, Leïla Voight is preoccupied with the idea of initiating artistic projects and seeing them come to life, first-hand. She acquired her experience and knowledge between 1980 and 1991 by participating in the birth of three ephemeral achievements : Surrounded Island in Miami with Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Pont Neuf in Paris and the Umbrellas in Ibaraki, Japan. Currently active in the international art world - particularly in her three countries of preference, France, the USA and Mexico - and steadfastly cosmopolitan, she plans and organises an international contemporary art festival at the heart of the Alpilles. The APART festival invites artists from all walks of life to employ their talents in known or unexplored sites in the region, uniting communities, private estates and companies. In this festival she once again demonstrates the power of her heritage, especially when we discover that just after the war her grandmother - the couple lived in the Château de Vallauris at that point - had rekindled the golden age of the village, establishing the « Ceramics Festival » , and instigating the first artist-in-residence schemes and collaborations with the potters, with figures such as Malraux, Cocteau and Brauner. Leïla Voight has vivid memories of unforgettable festivities, Picasso painting scenery year after year, his enormous paintings, the streets of the village, the bull runs and the crowd where the superstars of the time - Zaza Gabor, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, etc. - mixed so naturally. And then there was the execution and installation of War and Peace, a mammoth piece by the Spanish master that Claire Voight commissioned from him for the former chapel of the castle which became the Vallauris Picasso Museum.
And in line with the spirit of her grandmother, whose name she took after her divorce, Leïla Voight is moving forward in the art world, building an active network that she uses to help artists further their careers.