Everyone only talked about that in the alleys of Art Paris which closed its doors on Sunday on a very positive result suggesting that the Fiac could be done, with the wearing of masks and mainly French buyers. And yet, its organizer Reed Exhibition and its director, Jennifer Flay, decided otherwise. Undoubtedly in view of the new tightening of sanitary rules on the public gathering gauges which the Place de Paris will undoubtedly not escape …
The Fiac, the most important international contemporary art event in Paris, will therefore not take place because, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, almost no foreign gallery can visit the capital. Its maintenance, which was to be finally announced in the week of September 7, was delayed. And for good reason. The long-awaited press release fell at 8:15 p.m. on Monday. It is very brief: “It is with great disappointment that the FIAC is forced to cancel its 2020 edition, scheduled at the Grand Palais from October 22 to 25.».
And to continue: “This decision is the result of the numerous and constant exchanges between the organization and its exhibitors, visitors, collectors and partners in recent weeks. Despite a deep determination to set up, once again this year, the great meeting of contemporary and modern art that is the Fiac, and tireless work to overcome the many difficulties caused by the health crisis, the organization considers that it is not able to offer an event that meets the expectations and ambitions of its exhibitors and visitors. This decision concerns the Fiac at the Grand Palais, but also at its Hors les Murs sites, the Petit Palais, the Tuileries Garden, the Eugène-Delacroix National Museum, the Place Vendôme and the Place de la Concorde. In this context, Fiac has undertaken to reimburse exhibitors 100% of the sums already paid.».
Same fate for Paris Photo?
These procrastinations, which are the reverse of good communication, greatly fueled the forecasts. There have always been two camps. Those who hadn’t believed in it for several months and had thrown in the towel. And those who still dared to believe in it, even thinking that the Fiac could be postponed in November, to join forces with Paris Photo scheduled for that date. This is the noise that circulated on Sunday, a few hours before the closing of Art Paris, under the sunny nave of the Grand Palais. But its director Florence Bourgeois says still think about it and does not want to say a word about his outfit. There are still two months when everything can still change to find a shooting window, as was the case for Art Paris which was the first fair of this comeback to pass between the drops, after having itself been withdrawn from its original date at the beginning of April to the end of May, to be reborn at the beginning of September, following the cancellation of the Biennale Paris (former Biennale des antiques) at the Grand Palais.
“We did well to make Art Paris by proving to everyone that it was possible under the sanitary conditions imposed”.
Nathalie Obadia, gallery owner
In the meantime, the majority of Art Paris exhibitors are happy to have followed the obstinate steps of its director Guillaume Piens who wanted to maintain his fair against all odds. “We did well to do it by proving to everyone that it was possible under the imposed sanitary conditions and business followed with our loyal collectors and even with new clients, confides Nathalie Obadia who campaigned with her fellow gallery owners so that they do not give up. The latter, like others, will refer, for lack of Fiac, to more targeted fairs, such as Asia Now, the fair open to the Asian world maintained by its organizer Alexandra Fain. Other galleries should follow, such as Daniel Templon or Emmanuel Perrotin.
«It is a heroic act, because we were able to hold out, with the anguish of a cluster like at Tefaf Maastricht which had to close four days before the end, notes Guillaume Piens, curator-general and director of Art Paris. However, we have the same health constraints on the mandatory measures that the organizers of the Fiac would have had, namely the regulation of the VIP and public tonnage and their attendance to the nearest person on the stands.“. Art Paris was, in a flash, a very positive sign for the market, with 56,000 visitors passing through the doors of the Grand Palais in five days against 63,000 last year, a loss of barely 5 %! Everywhere on all the stands, there are many transactions at prices in an average of 5,000 and 30,000 euros, obviously far from the stratospheric prices of Basel or the Fiac. But Art Paris has never tried to compete with them.
A big chill on the future of the contemporary art market
The decision to cancel the Fiac, throwing a hell of a cold on the future of the market in the coming months, was not easy to take. A questionnaire had been sent to exhibitors and VIPs asking them if they would attend or not. Many had answered yes on the side of the French but this event, deprived of its foreign tenors, would be a “half Fiac” according to some market observers. And would no longer correspond to its image that it took so many years to forge itself to compete with the big fairs that are Frieze and especially Art Basel. The latter had canceled its June edition in Basel, then the one to be held in early December, in Miami. But not that of Hong Kong in March.
Very heckled, the calendar of fairs which goes from postponement to postponement, is not a good sign for the market which for the moment is resisting according to the galleries but which should necessarily suffer from the effects of the crisis. The Fiac could, even without foreigners, have done well by reinventing itself for a “Covid special 2020 editionSay some merchants who are not afraid of challenges. Without foreigners, the Fiac could have shown that it knows how to do otherwise, by surpassing itself, by imagining something else, to remain in the memory of those dark years.