Shake up the art world
The author is director of Choi&Lager Gallery.
The news that Art Basel – a premier art fair run by Swiss parent company MCH Group AG – will hold a Paris art fair in October at the Grand Palais – the venue for the International Contemporary Art Fair of Paris (FIAC) for 40 years – stunned the global arts community last week. In January, the Grand Palais operator opened the FIAC slot to a public competition, where its parent company RX France lost to Art Basel’s MCH Group AG, which offered $10 million for the use of the place for seven years. The October slot for the famous Paris art fair has been lost to Art Basel.
The art community was shocked by a juggernaut being knocked down by another juggernaut. Art Basel, which started in the Swiss city in 1970, also hosts art fairs in Hong Kong and Miami. The addition of Paris goes beyond the sense of expansion. Art Basel has done much to advance local arts and develop cultural infrastructure in Hong Kong and Miami, previously places that were off the global art map.
Paris was already home to FIAC, which has maintained its reputation as a major international art fair over the past 40 years. With its iconic glass and steel dome, the Grand Palais has made the most glamorous art fair in the world.
The City of Lights has helped elevate the status of FIAC, with its wealth of art and architecture of classical and contemporary magnificence, museums, romantic alleyways, boutiques and bistros. Galleries joining the FIAC organize evenings for collectors in famous Parisian restaurants. During the October art fair season, Paris is exactly as American author Ernest Hemingway described life in the city. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris in your youth, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it goes with you, because Paris is a moving party,” wrote the great writer.
French presidents and first ladies were regulars at FIAC openings as well as politicians. When the Swiss art group stole the traditional venue from its French counterpart, Parisians and French art communities might have felt that the unique Parisian identity established by FIAC had been lost. Parodying the Netflix show “Emily in Paris” about a young American from the Midwest finding a new job in Paris, an online post read “Art Basel in Paris.”
Visitor to the Paris International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) at the Grand Palais in Paris. Art Basel, the world’s leading Swiss contemporary art fair, has been selected to succeed FIAC, the Grand Palais announced in January. [AP/YONHAP]
The arrival of an organizer of multinational art fairs has at the same time raised expectations for a more global highlighting of the French art market. But the small gallery owners fear losing their place and their chance to present unknown artists.
UK-based Frieze – which competes with Art Basel at international art fairs and holds events in London, New York and Los Angeles – chose Seoul as its first opening to Asia. Unlike Art Basel which replaced FIAC for its Paris exhibition, Frieze will host an art fair in Seoul in September at the same time as the traditional Korea International Art Fair (KIAF). By co-hosting art fairs at COEX, this year’s event is expected to help globalize the Korean art market.
When an international art fair travels to a new city, it can spark both fears about damage to the local art habitat and anticipation of new growth and opportunity. The globalization of art fairs and galleries should create synergy with a local art industry. The fair should not just please sponsors and galleries in a different location. It should involve local artistic communities and also strengthen the cultural identity of the host city.
Marc Spiegler – American-French journalist and art columnist since 1998 and global director of Art Basel – is committed to creating new content by mixing traditional and digital art forms and fashion through the momentum of the Parisian incursion. What would happen to FIAC stripped of its traditional location and how will Art Basel please visitors by replacing it? We’ll see in October.
Translation by Korea JoongAng Daily staff.