Meet Mark and Francis Dedrie of Early Birds Art Gallery
Early Birds Art Gallery on the Zeedijk in Knokke, it is ‘the place to be’ according to Mark and Francis, father and son, artist and business manager. Francis: “Here as a gallery you are part of a ‘total experience’: the sea, catering, fashion, jewellery and art in a relaxed atmosphere.” Mark: “it’s also symbolic, we’re in the place where Guy Pieters built his career. Now we are realising our future here!”
For Francis, his passion for art starts at the age of 15, loading and unloading Mark’s sculptures. Step by step he gets involved by first going along to events, and then organising them himself. He soon acts as a contact person for the foreign galleries that Mark works with and organises Mark’s participation in the ADIHEX in the Middle East. “I wanted to go to that fair too, but Dad made me study. A real anticlimax,” Francis recalls from that time. Once graduated, and with a job offer from a company in Singapore in his pocket, he realised that a ‘different’ job could not be combined with his passion.
The solution: a turbo start with an own gallery in Brasschaat. In the end, that turned out not to be the right location. Francis: “Your roots keep you a bit in your own area. I’m glad I made this mistake early on in my career because I learned a lot from it.
Don’t be caught off guard and switch gears. It is a Dedrie trait. In the summer of 2018, they started a pop-up gallery in Knokke on the Lippenslaan and that establishment attracted a lot of visitors. That was a clear signal. Three months later, Mark and Francis sold the Brasschaat gallery and the Early Birds packed up the artworks for a move to the Dumortierlaan in Knokke.
About two years later “Dedrie” Ltd. is located on the Zeedijk between Place m’as-tu vu and the famous Crèmerie de la Poste. A beautiful building with a lot of charm and seemingly hidden spaces that keep surprising you. There is not only room to showcase early artists such as Janhendrik Dolsma, Pieter Vanden Daele and Johnny Beerens. There is also room for international names such as the Brit Simon Gudgeon, the American butterfly artist Paul Villinski and feather artist Chris Maynard, as well as the French colourist Jean-Pierre Maltèse, Stéphane Gisclard and Bernard Buffet.
Mark’s ‘Birds’ on the seawall
The Zeedijk of course also houses a substantial collection of Mark’s bronze sculptures. His robust career as an artist began 30 years ago. Mark has since exhibited at exceptional venues such as the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, the Weltvogel Park in Germany and the Möhlmann Museum in Appingedam. He has a loyal fan base in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East.
In 2018, Mark will be selected for the first time for a museum show outside of Europe. The exhibition takes place at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg, Florida. From then on, one museum selection after another follows in the U.S. In 2019, there is also the first museum purchase of ‘Sword Hummingbird’ by the Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin.
Mark: “By dropping social obligations during the corona period, I found peace, and could fully concentrate on creating. This resulted in no less than 21 new images of owls, vultures and various water birds. Some of them are now on their way to international clients. The new images will have their premiere in Knokke.
In unity there is strength
Francis: “We set up the exhibitions together. Partly because sometimes the works are big and you can’t carry them alone. But above all, Mark is a top curator, he has a third sense for how best to place the works of art, so that they are beautiful on their own and yet tell a story together. Mark has the last word when it comes to that,” Francis laughs.
“We also make the artistic choices together. But when in doubt, I decide. As the person responsible for the business, I have to sell the works. That doesn’t mean that a ‘no’ can’t evolve. Sometimes I need time to understand the artist’s work, to understand the story, and then I adjust my opinion.
Integrity, trust and open communication with people, that’s what I learned from my father. If a client is in doubt, for example, never push. Because then there is not the 100% connection between the buyer and the work of art. At Mark, the experience of art is always central. Every work of art that you sell is a business card and must be perfect.”
Mark: “For years I managed all facets of the artistry myself – from creating to the relationship with the client. Francis was always able to observe that, he saw from a distance both the opportunities and the pain points. That’s why he approaches the relationship with clients and artists in his own way. I admire Francis, his outlook on life and his desire to connect people through art. These interactions often lead to beautiful friendships. Put fifty of our relations and clients together at a premiere or dinner, and they match up wonderfully.”