· Art · · T. Maria Cruz · P. Daniel Camacho

Maria do Carmo – Galeria Saint Louis

When art and antiques become a passion 

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Of French descent (her grandfather was French, Pierre Louis, born in Bourdeux), Maria do Carmo knows a lot about France, where her family’s origins lie, but it was in Switzerland that she lived for several years – the country where her passion for the arts and antiques came to the fore. Maria do Carmo, owner of the Saint Louis gallery in Oporto, lived in Lausanne, in the house of Coco Chanel, who was, and continues to be, one of the benchmarks of French haute couture and perfumery. At the time, at the age of 20, she was already looking at pieces as essential elements of her life. She fell in love with art and, when she returned to Portugal, this desire remained. The more pieces she saw, she fell more and more in love. She started a collection of eighteenth-century toothpick holders. She opened a gallery. More than 30 years later, she is still passionate about this art. And the fascination for art and antiques has also led her to create a vintage clothing boutique, another of her passions. 

The most expensive piece the Galeria Saint Louis ever sold was a Chagall.
Maria do Carmo is a lady with good taste. You feel it as soon as you meet her. She is unrivalled in her friendliness and simplicity. Besides art, antiques and fashion, she also loves decorating – an activity she also once did. «As I have pieces, I love to decorate, I always combine modern pieces by sculptors with older pieces», she says. Now that she does not have so much time, she dedicates herself in particular to pieces of art and antiques, to satisfy the requests of her clients – she sells many of her pieces to international clients –, and there are pieces that come into her hands almost by chance. Maria do Carmo looks for products for her clients, some want to sell, others want to buy; and so, «after assessing the pieces», the work continues. «Also, one of these days, I’m going to see 40 paintings by Antoni Tàpies. People get to know me, and through one, and another, they call me to sell their things», she explains. 
Her true fascination in art can be found in porcelain pieces - her passion -, but she also loves furniture: «These I have in my shop window [in Pau Santo wood (18th century)] I think they are spectacular because that ornamentation they have is all made in metal». And she continues... «I have taught them a little bit, in Portugal, in how to deal with French furniture, the darker ones, which nobody liked. The truth is, sometimes I had a shop full of them, and the next day everything was sold», she recalls. It’s certain that people have learnt to like things with Maria do Carmo, because good taste is something she possesses. Many of her clients have followed her journey over the years, and she tells us: «It makes me happy to know that my work is valued, that I have made good purchases, and that the clients are also happy».
Maria do Carmo has always tried to attend fairs, as she was at the inauguration of the Beato Fair, in Lisbon, and the inauguration of the Alfândega Fair, in Oporto, when they held their antiques fairs. She has already been invited to do antique fairs in Dubai, among others. She likes to see what can be found abroad and what we have here. She never introduces a piece to a client unless she thinks it will have the use it deserves. That’s how she is. She’s loyal.
In the gallery, one of the pieces catches our eye: a fabulous oratory that came from the Vimioso Palace, but the terracotta pieces (Chinese) are also beautiful, among various pieces from the 17th and early 18th centuries and some precious items from the 2000 BC period. And, of course, as this has to do with masterpieces, such as the ones we find here, care is of the utmost importance: «We all tiptoe around here (she laughs), always with great care».  Besides the background of the works, Maria do Carmo also knows their characteristics, also when we talk about paintings. We saw paintings on ivory and fabulous Christs from the 17th century. Also, for this type of piece, the client has to have a passion for the art world. «What’s good always sells. I deal with good paintings, like Vieira da Silva. And when we need a piece, we ask other colleagues in the field, because there’s a spirit of sharing between gallerists». When it comes to art and antiques in Portugal, Maria do Carmo says: «we have good galleries and good colleagues working well, whether in Oporto or in Lisbon».
One of the most expensive pieces that the Galeria Saint Louis has ever sold was a Chagall (Marc Chagall – painter, ceramist and engraver). Is truth that the essence of this art is just that, «it’s the searching, it’s seeing the periods, and it’s seeing how gorgeous a piece can be», Maria do Carmo concludes. 
Maria Cruz
T. Maria Cruz
P. Daniel Camacho
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