How did Art Paris Art Fair succeed in making an impact on the art world?
I arrived in 2012, having been the director of Paris Photo. Art Paris Art Fair was created in 1999 as a fair to run in parallel with the FIAC and offer support to the French art market. From being an “anti-FIAC” event, in my opinion, it became a FIAC twin from 2006, when it was installed each spring in the Grand Palais, though without really being convincing.
It was thus necessary to give the fair back its own character, to rework its identity and image, and to create a sphere of influence for it. Beginning in 2012 we restructured the fair by creating a VIP department, a presentation for collectors, an office that dealt purely with communications and partnerships, and so on.
With regard to strategy, we focused on two main lines: investigating the new horizons in international creation (Africa, Asia, Middle East) and exploring the European scenes from the post-war period to the present day but on a regional basis, thus showing developments in Marseille, Milan, Zurich, Munich, etc., rather than in the major centres like London, New York and Berlin.
We developed theme-based perspectives that aimed to introduce the public to new aspects of the scene, for example with the creation of the Promesses sector in 2013. This hosts young international galleries, for which the fair contributes 45% of the costs, because our role is to bring to the attention of the public galleries and artists that have not yet made a name for themselves and to support the latest wave of participants in the art world.
We take trouble about educating the public and making the fair understandable. Because we all prefer to stick with what we know, we work with the Observatoire de l’Art contemporain to offer 80 explanatory visits to VIPs, which allow collectors to make discoveries and learn something new, and thus we help stimulate purchases.
Today the image of the Art Paris Art Fair has been clearly defined and it has shaken off the notion of being the “Salon des Refusés”.
After Asia and Africa, today Switzerland is the centre of attention. How did you come to make that choice?
This year we wanted to return the focus to Europe and Switzerland corresponds to Art Paris’s strategy in many respects: the country lies at the centre of Europe geographically and it is at the crossroads of all European traditions. It operates on a regional basis and contemporary art is to be found everywhere, even up in the mountains.
Our project reflects the characteristics of the Swiss scene: being the country with the greatest density of collections and foundations in Europe, we invited the Helvetia insurance company to spotlight its collection of 1700 works by 1400 artists, which embraces exclusively Swiss art. We are emphasising video art, in which the Swiss are at the fore. In the Project Room there are 25 videos by 25 Swiss women artists, which is a way to remind viewers that the video which appeared in the 1970s was linked with women’s voting rights, which were granted in 1971. As the Swiss are fond of site-specific works, we have created a new development by dedicating four walls to four artists who create all-over compositions – of paintings, photos, etc. And to celebrate the excellence of the Swiss in digital art, we have three artists representing the three linguistic areas who will create digital projections on the façade.
In all, the show will include a hundred or so Swiss artists, who are represented both by Swiss and European galleries.
This year the fair is also spotlighting French art with “Un regard sur la scène française”, organised by François Piron. In this, 20 projects will draw attention to remarkable figures since the 1960s who remained on the edges of the main discourse, something that should always be reconsidered with each new generation. There will be an interesting selection, which will include Frédéric Pardo, a dandy of psychedelic Paris during the 1970s (Galerie Loevenbruck), François Arnal (Galerie Sobering) and an unpublished collection of drawings by Roland Topor at the Gallerie Vallois. This year, marked in particular by the election of Emmanuel Macron, the project is a way for us to contribute to the French art scene.
With the Promesses sector, is it possible to discern a common basis for emerging European creation?
There are no more movements and creation today has been fragmented just like society, even if sometimes certain notions are common across creation as a whole, such as intimacy, identity, the body, the environment, and so on. But it is difficult to generalise.
How does an exhibition curator consider and approach his work?
It’s a huge job that entails discussions at all levels and in all fields, including in diplomatic circles!
Each fair is a challenge, though it does not appear to be. It’s a complex job as it means being a good organiser, having an artistic vision, and knowing the art market and the people who comprise it (galleries, artists, collectors, curators, museum directors, etc.) and so on.
What use does Art Paris make of the web?
We have a highly elaborate website that allows us to promote what is being exhibited. You have to prepare your visit: we have the agreement of galleries to publish photos of their works during the show and we are careful to ensure that viewers can have an accurate idea of the works’ actual size (each photo includes a recognisable element that indicates the scale). Also, it will be possible to visit each stand virtually both during the show and afterwards for a year. We have created search filters based on artists’ names, pricing, geographic origin, technique, etc.
For the galleries, the number of hits for their individual stand is given so that they can assess the effects on their business of this online promotion.
Art Paris Art Fair, at the Grand Palais from 5 to 8 April 2018