In Paris, Autumn Fairs Jostle for Position

La Gazette Drouot
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Covid’s aftershocks have profoundly reshaped the art fair landscape. All the operators have revised their strategy for September 2022. What will the autumn fair schedule look like in Paris?

Paris Photo 2021 © Jeremie Bouillon
Paris Photo 2021 © Jeremie Bouillon

Is it excitement about the comeback of Paris to the forefront of the global art market? Or the consequence of adjusting to the post-pandemic world? As the art market bounces back, fairs are pulling out all the stops. While the return to business-as-usual was a bit halting at first—many events had been postponed until later in the year—Paris will be teeming with fairs this autumn. In the post-Brexit context, many operators are betting on large numbers of buyers converging on the city. While London is still highly appealing, customs duties, taxes and administrative hassles are putting a damper on art transactions. The autumn Paris fairs should confirm whether or not the European art market’s center of gravity shifts towards France.

The 21st Parcours des mondes, the season’s first major fair, will set the tone when it takes place from September 6 to 11 in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the stronghold of dealers in non-European art. “Parcours des mondes is one of the most important international fairs,” says American collector Sam Singer, this year’s honorary president. “It combines everything you could hope for: first-rate traditional non-European art, dealers with significant expertise, outstanding exhibitions and the chance to meet other collectors and aficionados and learn something new every year.” Mr. Singer, who is also a fine political communications strategist in the United States, has every reason to rejoice: with a result of €107.6 M in 2021, the traditional non-European art market rose by 233% compared to 2020. That unprecedented figure is due to the fact that in 2021 France accounted for the overwhelming majority of non-European art sales: €91.7 M and 85.2% of the global market, far ahead of the United States (€10.1 M), Belgium (€2 M) and the United Kingdom (€1 M). A single sale sums up this spectacular shift: the Périnet Collection sale, which took place in Paris on June 23, 2021, netted an astronomical €66 M. That auction alone illustrates the operators’ strategy: during the lockdown, they kept the treasures of their traditional non-European art collections under wraps while making the digital transition. Result: the 2021 auction season hit the ground running, with buyers clamoring for in-person sales. The return of fairs, especially those dealing in traditional non-European art, strengthened that trend in 2022.

In late 2021, only one thing was on everybody’s lips in the art world. By winning the RMN-Grand Palais tender, Art Basel ousted the FIAC and imposed its brand under the banner of a new event, Paris +, which will take place at the Grand Palais Éphémère from October 20 to 23. Some worried, others rejoiced, but in either case the FIAC’s demise is undoubtedly the biggest change in the Paris autumn calendar. While large galleries were exultant about the firepower Art Basel offers, medium-size ones are feeling anxious about their future and their visibility during Paris +, even though MCH Group, the event’s manager, has implemented a reassuring communication strategy. The selection committee includes seven gallerists for the general-interest section, including Georges-Philippe Vallois, and three for the emerging artists section. Sixty-one of the 156 galleries selected for the first edition are located in France. They include Anne Barrault, Salle Principale, We Do Not Work Alone, Art Brut specialist Christian Berst and, for contemporary African art, Magnin-A.

Meanwhile, Paris Photo director Florence Bourgeois has struck a new seven-year deal with the Grand Palais. From November 10 to 13, Paris Photo will take place at the Grand Palais Éphémère in addition to hosting an Online Viewing Room (OVR), which Ms. Bourgeois already wanted to make a permanent feature of the event in 2021. “Like many fairs,” she says, “we found that it’s important to offer collectors who cannot or do not want to come an alternative.” The 25th Paris Photo will bring together 181 exhibitors from about 30 countries, including 134 galleries for the main section and 16 for Curiosa, dedicated to creation, which will be curated by Holly Roussell (UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing). Newcomers will also be there.

During Paris + week, Design Miami will arrive (since canceled by the prefecture, editor’s note*) and the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild Offscreen will take place from October 20 to 23. This new Parisian event will focus entirely on the still and moving image. Former Reed Expositions France vice-president Jean-Daniel Compain, Delpire & Co publishing house director Julien Frydman, also an ex-Reed employee, and Paris People Show (PPS) created the event, which plans to host about 30 solo shows. The venue they chose is symbolic: the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild housed the Centre national de la Photographie until it moved to the Jeu de Paume in 2011.

Strategic Bifurcation
The Syndicat national des Antiquaires (SNA) believes that in union there is strength. The Biennale, the SNA’s historic fair long called the Biennale des Antiquaires, is teaming up with Fine Arts Paris to create a new event, Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale, that will take place at the Carrousel du Louvre from November 8 to 13. It aims to be a large generalist show that combines both entities’ expertise in the fields of fine arts and antiques. “We began the year by refocusing on our original 120-year-old mission: to promote, support and defend the professions of antique dealers and gallerists,” says SNA president Anisabelle Berès-Montanari. “To do that, we signed a partnership with the Fine Arts Paris organizers to create a show in the capital that will be relevant for everyone and allow the whole profession to identify with a new event combining the best of each entity.” Several SNA members say the union will strengthen their position on the international market because, they believe, post-Brexit Paris is becoming the center of Europe’s art world. The merger would also allow the SNA to focus on its original mission of promoting the profession. Planning such a large event would be very time-consuming for the SNA’s volunteers, so the Agence d’événements culturels, which manages the Salon du dessin and Fine Arts Paris, has been asked to organize it. The new show will take place at the Grand Palais Éphémère in November 2023 before moving to the renovated historic Grand Palais in 2024. In a fiercely competitive context, the Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN)-Grand Palais is said to have urged the two fairs to join forces. From antiques to photography and contemporary art, the Grand Palais looks increasingly like a kingmaker.

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