Grand Palace Ephemeral
Entrance to the Grand Palais Éphémère, the temporary space that housed Paris+ Art Basel in its first edition. Photo: Julien Deceroi

The world art fair scene was taken by surprise with the announcement earlier this year that the FIAC (Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain) – created in 1974, but which since 1975 has taken place at the Grand Palais, in the French capital – would leave the scene in 2022 to give way to Paris+ by Art Basel, the newest venture by the Swiss group MCH. Since 1970, the conglomerate has produced the original Art Basel, in Basel, as well as editions in Miami Beach and Hong Kong. 

Between collectors and the general public, around 40 people attended the fair. International buyers, especially institutions in the United States such as MoMA in New York and The Art Institute of Chicago, as well as collectors in South Korea, would have given a great boost to sales, according to The art newspaper. A balance of transactions was not disclosed, however. 

However, according to the French newspaper Le Monde, the new Parisian fair, which took place from October 20th to 23rd, at the Grand Palais Éphémère – a temporary venue, while renovations take place at the Grand Palais – would have caused earthquakes in its rival, Frieze, launched in 2003 and which takes place in the first half of October, in London. There were rumors that some gallery owners saved their best works for the French fair, to the detriment of the English one.

Also according to the publication, the impact was due not only to the novelty of the fair itself, but to the strengthening of the art market in France in recent years, with the opening of the Bourse de Commerce, with the Pinault collection, and the arrival of new galleries to the Avenue Matignon circuit, such as Mariane Ibrahim, from Chicago (USA), whose focus is artists from the African diaspora. And, of course, the lingering echoes of Brexit on the British economy as a whole.

In its first edition, Paris+ had the participation of 156 galleries from 30 countries – 60 of which are based in the French capital. According to its director, Clément Delépine, the selection of exhibitors was made from a universe of proponents “four to five times larger”. In addition to global giants such as David Zwirner and Gagosian, Paris+ sought to reflect a more Parisian personality, with the presence of local exhibitors such as Jocelyn Wolff and Mor Charpentier. Smaller exhibitors were also present, such as ProjecteSD (Barcelona) and Société (Berlin).

According to Artsy, among the biggest sales figures was a painting – The dream, 2022 – by the American painter George Condo, acquired from Hauser & Wirth for US$ 2,65 million (almost R$ 14 million) on the first day of the fair. Pace Gallery, on the other hand, sold a work by fellow American Robert Motherwell – Je t'aime No II, 1955 – for US$6,5 million (over R$34 million) the next day. 

According to Mathieu Paris, senior director of White Cube, “everyone seemed to be in Paris” and the new fair “definitely increased the attraction power of the city’s art market”, which, according to him, for some time “has been going through a strong renaissance and has regained an important role as the art capital of the world. Paris+ was a strong sign of that”, said the gallerist, in a statement from Art Basel. 

Also at the beginning of the year, Marc Spiegler, who in 2023 leaves the position of director of Art Basel after 15 years, told the The art newspaper who hoped to promote, with Paris+, an activation of the entire French capital, in partnerships with major local art institutions, such as the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay – in all, there were 20 exhibitions or interventions open to the public –, in addition to create connections with the worlds of fashion, design and cinema. 

This also reflected, apparently, an interesting aspect of the recent changes that occurred in the MCH group, whose stock control passed into the hands of James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch (media tycoon owner of Fox News and staunch supporter of Donald Trump), a businessman with a strong presence in the US entertainment market. 

From Brazil, A Gentil Carioca participated, which showed 18 works by the Carioca painter Maxwell Alexandre at Art Basel in Paris. And Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, which premiered in Paris its representation – in partnership with Gomide & Co – of the Argentine plastic artist León Ferrari (1920-2013), who by the end of August had received the first major retrospective of his work at a French museum at the Center Pompidou. 

At the FDAG stand, Ferrari's works were displayed in dialogue with creations by contemporary Brazilian artists, such as Anderson Borba, Marina Rheingantz, Yull Yamagata and Erika Verzutti. Alex Gabriel, one of the FDAG partners, celebrated the arrival of the Art Basel quality seal in the French capital. According to him, the historic FIAC had been “pushing various organizational and gallery selection issues for many years”.

“There were barriers to internationalization and greater diversity,” he says. “I don't think most French people would have been happy with a foreign group taking the place of their flagship fair, but Art Basel enabled a much-needed revamp, and its forte was the quality of the art displayed. In fact, they managed to climb the ruler”.

Gabriela Moraes, director of A Gentil Carioca, stated that the gallery had a great result with Maxwell's works. According to her, the success was a reflection of two previous exhibitions that the artist had held in France: one at MAC Lyon, in 2019, and another in early 2022, lasting three months at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris.

“It was the first participation of A Gentil Carioca in a fair in France. I worked at FIAC in 2019, in another gallery, and I can say that Art Basel has given new energy to the art week, with more international collectors, an upgrade in the fair's facilities, which are in a temporary location, and a section for galleries emerging markets”, said the gallerist. 

As for the rivalry with Frieze, she argued that one cannot disregard the fact that the London fair is “suffering the consequences of the withdrawal of the European community, causing sales to have an import tax that did not exist before”. 

Regina Parra, “Odara (the taste of life)”, 2022. Photo: Courtesy Galeria Jaqueline Martins
Paris Internationale

In parallel to French Art Basel, Paris Internationale held its eighth edition, with 60 galleries from 26 countries. One of the highlights of the fair was the space it occupied: the former studio of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910), known as Nadar, a pioneer of photography in France. The address was famous for having hosted, in 1874, an important impressionist exhibition. The galleries were arranged on five floors, covering an area of ​​almost 3 square meters. 

The expography was conceived by the architecture office Christ & Gantenbein, from Switzerland, with great expertise in projects in the art world, such as the extensions they made for the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Swiss National Museum and the MACBA, in Barcelona. For Paris Internationale, the architects kept the building's raw structure virtually intact, adding a lighting system and temporary walls. 

For gallerist Jaqueline Martins, who participated in the fair for the second time, the expography drew attention to “try to break with the hierarchy between booth sizes”, despite the difference in their dimensions. “The passage between them became much more subtle, so each participating exhibitor stood out more for the quality of the project than for the size of its space”, he said. “It seemed more like a construction occupation than a mere distribution of stands, which resulted in a fair with the character of a collective project”.

Jaqueline took to Paris Internationale works by plastic artists Regina Parra and Hudinilson Jr (1957-2013). It was the first time that the gallery took Parra's work to an international fair, and the result could not have been better: all five works by the artist were sold, to buyers in the United States or Europe. As for Hudinilson, four of her creations were sold, also for American or European collectors. Jaqueline points out that Hudinilson has had a large institutional presence around the world, which also reinforces the marketing strength of his production.

*Text by Eduardo Simões in collaboration with Patricia Rousseaux

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