In January, Art Basel shocked the Parisian art world by confirming rumors that it would launch a new fair in the French capital. In the process, it knocked FIAC, which has for years reigned as the supreme fair of the French scene, out of its longtime venue and its typical October slot.
At long last, the new fair, titled Paris+, Art Basel, is finally here. It opens to VIPs on Wednesday, and will run through Sunday. Hundreds of galleries from all across the world are on tap; some of them also appeared at Frieze London just the week before.
But what, exactly, is Paris+, and what’s the deal with FIAC? Below, all your questions about the world’s newest high-profile fair, answered.
What is Paris+, par Art Basel?
Paris+, par Art Basel is the fourth event of its kind in the portfolio of Art Basel, the world’s biggest art fair. Other, related editions are regularly held in Hong Kong, Miami Beach, and the Swiss city of Basel, where its tentpole fair is held. Expect big sales and even bigger crowds, as has long been the case with Art Basel’s other editions.
The launch of Art Basel’s newest fair in the French capital comes as many figures in the market turn their attention from London—long a locus of economic activity, not just in the art sector but in others too—to Paris.
Brexit, which went into effect at the beginning of 2020, was the determining factor for most. But the pandemic also aided in the shift. Dealer Marian Goodman, who has also operated a Paris space for over 25 years, said as much when she shuttered her London gallery that year.
Add to this the changing international consensus about Paris’s scene. The commonly held belief among many outside France was that the gallery infrastructure and art ecosystem in the city had withered in the mid-20th century, after New York displaced Paris as the art capital of the world, and never regained its foothold. Things are shifting once more, however, according to some. “Even if people are fearful for no reason and the build-up is in some way artificial,” dealer Thaddaeus Ropac told ARTnews in 2021, “it’s a fact now: Paris is having a renaissance.”
Does Paris have other major fairs?
Yes. FIAC, a blue-chip fair that has regularly attracted mega-galleries, has been in operation for nearly 50 years and his typically been held in the fall. (This year, it may not happen, but more on that in a bit.) Beyond that, however, there are no other art fairs of Art Basel’s scale. Still, there are interesting, cutting-edge ones for smaller galleries like the Paris Internationale, a roving fair mainly devoted to younger spaces. The Paris Internationale will coincide with Art Basel this time. There’s also Art Paris, a fair that takes place in the spring, and Paris Photo in November, also at the Grand Palais Éphémère.
So, what’s the deal with FIAC?
FIAC’s status this year remains unclear because Art Basel effectively stole its venue and its slot. FIAC regularly takes place at the Grand Palais, which is now closed for renovations; this year, it was expected to be held in October at the Grand Palais Éphémère, a temporary space.
Word that that would no longer be the case emerged toward the end of 2021, when it was rumored that Grand Palais director Chris Dercon and others there were exploring the possibility of hosting another major fair in October. Once the news was announced, the Grand Palais said it no longer had a contract with RX Global, the group that runs FIAC and Paris Photo. RX Global’s FIAC competed with Art Basel for the October but ultimately lost; it managed to receive a seven-year contract to continue Paris Photo in November. Months later, Dercon revealed that he will depart his post at the Grand Palais to lead the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.
How did FIAC respond?
Upon the announcement of Paris+, par Art Basel, FIAC tried to challenge the decision in court. The court rejected FIAC’s challenge, saying that the Grand Palais was allowed to proceed with Art Basel, given that it had not been contractually bound to host FIAC in 2022 and 2023.
Who is at the helm of Paris+?
When Art Basel announced the name of its fair, it also announced its senior leadership: Clément Delépine is its director, Virginie Aubert is its general manager, and Maxime Hourdequin is its deputy director. The fair has a seven-person selection committee. It’s composed of three French dealers—Florence Bonnefous of Air de Paris, Niklas Svennung of Galerie Chantal Crousel, and Georges-Philippe Vallois of Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois—and four non-French ones. The international ones are Ellen de Bruijne in Amsterdam, Anton Kern in New York, Christophe Van de Weghe also in New York, and Daniel Buchholz, whose Galerie Buchholz has spaces in Cologne, Berlin, and New York.
What’s so important about Paris+?
Art Basel’s other editions tend to draw collectors, dealers, curators, critics, advisers, and artists from across the globe, so you can expect this one to be the same way. Additionally, Art Basel’s events regularly commands the biggest sales out of all the art fairs in the world. (It’s worth remembering, however, that many works are pre-sold and that galleries’ self-reported sales data is often hard to independently verify.) Whether the Paris fair will continue those million-dollar purchases will be a good test of the French art scene’s market worth and its ability to attract collectors willing to spend top dollar.
How much does a ticket cost?
A day pass costs €40 ($39), which may seem not inexpensive until you consider the fact that it costs nearly double that to visit Art Basel Miami Beach.
What’s with the name of Paris+, par Art Basel?
The fair’s chunky title, à la a couture house’s diffusion line, is a mouthful, to say the least, and it’s made all the more odd by the fact that none of Art Basel’s other editions have quirky names in quite the same way. (Miami Beach+, by Art Basel—or Miami Beach X Art Basel for that matter—doesn’t have the same ring to it, it must be said.) There’s no official line on why Art Basel went this route, but when the name was announced, the fair’s global director said in a statement that the Paris edition “capitalizes both on Paris’s unparalleled legacy as a cultural capital.”
Additionally, Art Basel has previously said that Paris+ would attempt to highlight “the dynamic dialogue between its cultural industries—from fashion and design to film and music,” and how contemporary art is inextricably connected to them. Though it doesn’t seem like that will manifest in the fair’s booths, its Conversations series, organized by curatorial duo Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou, will include talks like “Sex and Art along the Seine” and “Dandyism in the 21st Century?,” the latter of which will include playwright Jeremy O. Harris.
Which may mean the fair is intended to connote French locality and then some, or something like that. Très chic, or vraiment gauche? You be the judge.