Palace Coup: Art Basel Has Ousted FIAC From Its Historic Home at the Grand Palais in an Audacious Bet on a New Paris Fair
MCH group will take over the fair's October slot in France while RX France will keep Paris Photo in November.
Art Basel is moving to Paris. After a brief and bitter battle between FIAC and the Grand Palais, the historic French art fair has lost its glass palace home to the Swiss art fair titan. The news comes after the Grand Palais blindsided the Paris art world—and RX France most of all—by announcing an open call for competing offers for the space last December.
RX France, the parent company of FIAC and Paris Photo, will continue to organize its photographic art fair Paris Photo in November, a small comfort as Art Basel’s MCH group prepares to move in beginning this October. The two fairs are now locked in to a seven year commitment with the Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais (Rmn-GP), the company responsible for the historic venue.
According to a statement from the Rmn-GP, both fairs “have committed to highlighting the contemporary artistic creation of the Parisian and French ecosystem—especially its emerging new talents.”
The press release from Rmn-GP also stated that Art Basel will bring “robust investment” to Paris, which it deemed “crucial for the development of this fair in an increasingly competitive market,” as well as a brand and identity that is “unique” to Paris with a locally based team. In a press statement, Art Basel said it plans to “build bridges” with various cultural industries in France, including fashion and music, and that the fair will work closely with institutions in Paris to create a program around its selling event.
“What we saw in the last five years in Paris was a real surge of its importance and of its energy. Look at the private foundations like the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Lafayette Anticipations, and Bourse de Commerce, and the number of international galleries that have set up in Paris,” Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel, told Artnet News. “We are not just thinking about this as an art fair, but an art fair as a core of a broader cultural moment, and Paris seemed like the right place for it.” The director said the number of French galleries participating and on the selection committee for the Paris fair will remain the same as for FIAC.
This major development in the art fair circuit means that the historic FIAC, which has been taking place at the Grand Palais since 1975, has lost its coveted spot. Artnet News reached out to the fair’s director, Jennifer Flay, for a comment and to ask whether FIAC would consider looking for a new location in Paris, but did not hear back immediately.
David Zwirner, who had expressed his disappointment with sales at FIAC last fall, said he was excited about the new fair. “It has been clear to me for the last five years, and of course especially since the advent of COVID, that the art fair model will go through changes and consolidation,” he told Artnet News. “In that light, I am not surprised about this development in Paris.” He said the transition from a regionally oriented fair to an international one “require an adjustment” for FIAC attendees but that he thinks the change “will ultimately be phenomenal and not just for the visual arts but also for the wonderful capital of France as a whole.”
Thaddaeus Ropac also welcomed Art Basel. “We are happy to have new energy in Paris around a fair that is one of the most important in the world,” he said.
Since the surprise call in December, art world denizens have been speculating about whether it was Frieze’s parent company Endeavor or MCH Group that was making a bid for FIAC’s spot. Spiegler told Artnet News that Art Basel had expressed “an interest” in the Grand Palais’s October slot last November and they were told to send an official letter of intent.
After the Grand Palais conceded that it had received an offer from a competitor, RX France called the December 8 open call a “hostile eviction attempt.” The company also made a legal challenge against RMN-GP to uphold a written agreement that they would have their October slot in 2022, and requesting that RMN-GP suspend its call for proposals.
Paris Photo, which was founded in 1997, will maintain its usual slot at the location. In response to the news, RX France said it will further develop the landmark photography fair and expand it into new image-based media.
While the Grand Palais undergoes a major renovation, both fairs will take place at the purpose-built Grand Palais Éphémère on the Champ-de-Mars in 2022 and 2023.
The—as yet unnamed—Paris fair will be Art Basel’s fourth location, after its flagship in Switzerland, and fairs in Miami Beach and Hong Kong.
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