The Local Paris Fair Salon Galeristes Pulls the Plug on Its 2021 Edition as Bigger Art Fairs Power Ahead With Fall Events

The niche fair had been slated to run alongside FIAC in October.

A general view of atmosphere during "Galeristes" Art Show at Carreau du Temple on Octobre 22, 2020 in Paris, France. Photo by Foc Kan/WireImage.

In yet another worrying sign for the fall art fair season, the French art fair Salon Galeristes has cancelled its 2021 edition, initially slated to run October 22 through 24 alongside FIAC in Paris.

It is the latest small but significant art fair to pull the plug amid rising concerns about travel restrictions and the Delta variant. PAD London cancelled its forthcoming edition at the end of last month, while the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair and 4heads Portal/the Governors Island Art Fair both scrapped their 2021 events, which were due to coincide with the Armory Show this week. 

The founder and director of the French fair, Stéphane Corréard, announced his decision on Friday, September 3, on Twitter. “Too risky for us, if we have to cancel later,” he wrote, apologizing to the fair’s exhibitors and loyal visitors. “Too risky for the galleries, if we hold on and there are not enough buyers.”

Salon Galeristes, which is focused on contemporary art and the gallerists shaping the local art scene, was due to be held at the Carreau du Temple in Paris’s third arrondissement.

Corréard did not immediately respond to Artnet News’s request for comment, but he expanded on his rationale in an interview with the French Art Newspaper“All the health signals we have are going in the wrong direction, and I have two daughters who were vaccinated but infected this summer,” he said. “What if there is a lockdown of several gallery owners? What if the business is not there? The service to the galleries is less, the rates would have to be cut in half, which is not possible for me.” 

Exhibitors will be given full refunds rather than a credit to put toward next year’s fair. The event has opted out of holding an online viewing room, a strategy that Corréard said had yielded “mixed results” in the past.  

The power of hindsight also played a role in the decision after the fair pushed ahead with its 2020 in-person edition last October, but received 40 percent fewer visitors.

The cancellation is the latest sign of a growing division between large art fairs, which are generally forging ahead with their plans, and smaller ones, which are more wary. Art Basel is trying to assuage concerns by stressing that it will enforce strict sanitary measures, offering to foot the extra cost of quarantine should gallery staff fall ill, and establishing a $1.6 million solidarity fund for galleries who fail to bring in sufficient sales.

But these costly failsafes are just not possible for fairs of a smaller scale, like Salon Galeristes, which was a satellite fair to FIAC for the past three editions.

“We knew the crisis would shake up the fairs a bit,” Marion Papillon, the head of the French trade association Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art told Artnet News. “The situation is complicated for a young fair, and it’s difficult to stabilize oneself amid the wider changes in the global calendar of fairs.”

Despite these setbacks, Papillon said that there is a general sense of “optimism” among her members, noting that there were lots of people at openings in Paris over the weekend, and hopes for good attendance of Art Paris, which opens this week.

“There is still a sense of recovery after a calm pre-summer season when not a lot of activity resumed after the May 19 reopening,” she said, adding that galleries had reported a positive start with Art-o-Rama in Marseille at the end of August.

“There was a nice atmosphere, people were returning and there was a dynamic presence of collectors and professionals,” she said. “But we will have to wait and see if this keeps up.” 

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