Art Basel already runs glamour-filled art fairs in Switzerland, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Now, it’s heading to Paris.
In an announcement likely to stun the art world, the organization that runs the glittering Grand Palais in Paris announced on Wednesday that MCH Group, the owner of the Art Basel brand, would set up a new contemporary art fair to run in the venue each October.
MCH Group will take over the slot previously held by the FIAC contemporary art fair, the organization, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, added.
The news will surprise many in the art world, as FIAC was a venerable French institution that has held fairs there for decades. Last year, President Emmanuel Macron of France held a reception for the fair, calling it the “nerve center of the art world.”
But a president’s backing was not enough to stop the change.
Chris Dercon, president of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, said in a telephone interview that he hoped Art Basel would set up an event that was more than an art fair, something he hoped would be “immersive.”
“That means art plus fashion, art plus design,” he said. “The plus is very important.”
He said that he wanted to see an art fair that engaged with the wider culture of Paris. Dercon, previously director of the Tate Modern art museum in London and the Volksbühne theater in Berlin, has long been known for pushing an interdisciplinary approach to art.
Although Art Basel was “the mother” of art fairs, Dercon said, he did not want the new art fair to simply be another outpost for the brand. The new event will not be called Art Basel Paris, he said, adding that its name would be unveiled soon.
Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director, said in a telephone interview that the company only had “a short runway” to the first event, but that he hoped to work with Paris’s whole “creative class,” not just its art galleries, museums and dealers. Much of that work would occur “outside the halls.”
The fair will have “a French touch,” he added. “People coming to Paris will expect to see the various French movements of the last 12 decades well reflected at high-level quality from strong galleries.”
The number of French galleries appearing in the fair will not be below the number seen at FIAC, he said, and the new fair will be organized by a largely French team.
RX Group, the organizers of FIAC, said in a statement that it “strongly regrets this decision taken abruptly by the public institution, at the end of a procedure which RX believes was hasty and flawed.”
“This is a huge disappointment for our teams and all the clients and partners who support us,” Michel Filzi, the president of RX France, said in the statement.
Spiegler wouldn’t comment on how the fair would be an improvement on FIAC, but said his cellphone had been “blowing up with text messages and DMs all day long” from galleries hoping to work with the fair given “the type of promotion we can do for them all over the world.”
The first two events will take place at the Grand Palais Éphémère, a temporary venue on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris, as the Grand Palais itself is undergoing renovations.