James Johnson Sweeney.
Pierre Soulages, Laura Sweeney, James Johnson Sweeney and Colette Soulages at Westport train station, 1967.
Manus Sweeney and Aki Kuroda.
Fouzia Sweeney with Holton and Sandy Calder Rower at the opening of “Calder-Picasso” at the Musée Picasso, February 2019.
Mánus Sweeney was born in 1971 in Kami-ide, a small village at the base of Mount Fuji, the sacred mountain of Japan. On the day of his birth, his parents had already received congratulations from two artists who would become his godfathers: the Californian artist Sam Francis who was based in Tokyo at the time, and the French artist Pierre Soulages from Rodez who lived between Paris and Sète, until his death on October 25th, 2022.
After five years in Japan, one year in Hawai’i and two years in the Faroe Islands, Sweeney landed at the age of eight in the New York apartment of his grandfather, art critic and first director of the Guggenheim Museum, James Johnson Sweeney. In the apartment at 120 East End Avenue were not only works by the most famous artists of the 20th century, but also souvenirs of their presence… Visits from Miró, Calder, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp and Georgia O’Keeffe were frequent in the post-war years.
At school in England and at University in America, Sweeney specialized in foreign languages which was a direct consequence of moving frequently as a child. But it was at the University of Arizona that he rekindled an interest in 20th century Art History. This in turn led to a course in Post War and Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute in London, followed by an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Under the orders of the director Dr. Philip Rylands, Sweeney discovered the immense significance of a collection of modern art that had been assembled by his grandfather and a close friend, the surrealist Marcel Duchamp.
After six enlightening months in Venice, including his participation in the transport and installation of the works of Robert Colescott (the first African-American to represent the US) at the 1997 Venice Biennale, Sweeney left Europe and settled in the town of Woodstock, New York, where he worked as an archivist at the Alexander Calder Foundation. Once again, his grandfather’s influence was omnipresent, and after a year the next logical step was to move to the heart of the modern art world, New York City.
For several months, Sweeney worked in several galleries from Chelsea to Greenwich Village before returning to Europe, this time settling in Paris where he worked at the Galerie Maeght in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Among the art reviews and exhibition catalogues of the gallery were many articles by James Johnson Sweeney, as he had frequently collaborated with the founder and printer-turned-gallerist, Aimé Maeght.
After 17 years at Maeght, Sweeney decided to open a gallery at the Village Suisse in La Motte-Piquet-Grenelle where he exhibited works on paper by well-known 20th-century artists such as Calder, Miró, Chillida and Tàpies. But on March 15th, 2020, the government ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in Paris in order to battle Covid, and Sweeney took the opportunity to move to Bordeaux, where he and his wife Fouzia opened the Galerie Sweeney at number 19, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The gallery continues the legacy of James Johnson Sweeney and the artists he promoted, and organizes exhibitions of works by contemporary artists of all nationalities. Galerie Sweeney was inaugurated on March 19th, 2022.