FIAC’s Parent Company Has Accused the Grand Palais of Indulging a ‘Hostile Eviction Attempt’ From a Rival Art Fair

RX France was blindsided by a surprise open call for competitors.

With Paris's Grand Palais closed for renovations until 2024, FIAC will be held at the temporary Grand Palais Éphémère and Galerie Eiffel, both designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte to mimic their namesake monuments on the Champ-de-Mars. Photo ©Wilmotte et Associés.

FIAC’s parent company has accused the Grand Palais of orchestrating a concerted campaign to oust the art fair from its longtime home by launching a surprise call inviting competing offers for its usual fall timeslot.

On December 8, the Grand Palais made an open call for applications to run an unnamed “international contemporary art event” in October and a “photography event” in November, when Parisian art fairs FIAC and Paris Photo are usually held each year, according to a report in Le Monde. The call, which invited proposals to occupy the building for up to seven years, gave a deadline of December 31, blindsiding RX France, which owns the two fairs.

RX France is challenging the validity of the process, claiming that it has received two written commitments to the fairs from RMN-Grand Palais, the public body that owns the beaux-arts building, in 2019 and in 2021. FIAC is slated to take place in the Grand Palais Éphémère, the temporary structure erected while the original building undergoes construction, on October 20 through 23, 2022, before Paris Photo on November 10 through 13.

RX France’s managing director Michel Vilair said he has written to the French culture minister to assert his prior rights. An irate Vilair has accused the Grand Palais of rigging the process “to meet the needs of a rival candidate, who clearly wants to take over the dates and clientele of FIAC and Paris Photo.”

Chris Dercon, the director of RMN-Grand Palais, told the French newspaper that it had received “another competing expression of interest,” adding that it may have to “rethink new exhibitions, be ambitious, curious and open-minded.”

The open call states that proposals will be judged on quality, ambition, their links with the Paris’ cultural ecosystem and industries, plus the quality of the artistic direction.

Given the tight timeframe for the proposals to be made before December 31, the deadline is against RX France’s calls to review the process. The timing is even worse given that Paris Photo and FIAC are currently undergoing a restructuring process, which would see their management merged with RX to cut 235 jobs out of a total of 600.

“It is obvious that the third party in question has been preparing its hostile eviction attempt for many months,” Michel Vilair said. “Such a project cannot be prepared at the last moment…The call for proposals from the RMN-Grand Palais actually leaves us only a few days before Christmas to build a seven-year project!”

Anne-Claudie Coric, director at Galerie Templon was shocked to read about the open call in the press as, for her, FIAC and the Grand Palais are intrinsically linked, “Over the last decade, FIAC, French dealers and the artistic Parisian scene as a whole have all played an active role in replacing Paris as a leading cultural capital in Europe now,” she told Artnet News over email. “We certainly hope FIAC stays at Grand Palais. It is part of its DNA and FIAC is part of the identity of the French art market and contemporary creation. It is much more than just another commercial art fair,” she added.

A decision on all bids received is due to be made on January 10, 2022, leaving whoever wins just nine-and-a half months to put together an international art fair to compete with FIAC and Paris Photo. Artnet News did not immediately hear back from some of the more obvious candidates; Endeavor, which runs Frieze London and Los Angeles, and MCH Group, which oversees the Art Basel franchise. Artnet News’s requests for comment from RX France and RMN-Grand Palais were not immediately returned.

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