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Ahead of the FIAC…

[18 Oct 2016]

In the Frieze versus FIAC competition, the combined effect of the Art Market’s temporary slowdown and Brexit-related uncertainty has refocused some of the limelight onto the French capital. Last year, the FIAC drew a little more than 70,000 visitors while London’s Frieze Art Fair attracted roughly a 100,000. The FIAC’s visitor figures this year will soon indicate whether or not Paris is maintaining or enhancing its attractiveness vis-à-vis its primary competitor.

Hosted in the magnificent Grand Palais – on the very site where the historical Salon Officiel and the Salon des Refuses used to be organised – the FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) still enjoys its glamorous Parisian aura. For its 43rd edition (20 -23 October 2016) the FIAC has invited 183 of the world’s most prestigious galleries from 26 countries. On the whole, the fair is dominated by major Western galleries with 55 French galleries, 34 American, 14 British and 14 Italian.

Two weeks after exhibiting works at London’s prestigious Frieze Art Fair, a number of major galleries are moving their shops to Paris’s Grand Palais. The Gagosian, David Zwirner, Sadie Coles, Massimo de Carlo and Marian Goodman are present at both shows, as are a number of major English galleries like the Lisson, Simon Lee and the White Cube. Some have chosen to focus on the FIAC rather than the Frieze (Blum & Poe, Calier-Gebauer, Continua and Paula Cooper), but this year the major Swiss gallery, Hauser & Wirth, favored the Frieze to the FIAC (at a time when its influence has never been stronger. At the top of Art Review’s “Power 100” ranking in 2015, the Swiss gallery recently opened a new space in Los Angeles).

To meet demand and exhibit works by ‘emerging’ Contemporary artists, last year’s FIAC had an official side-event to accommodate additional galleries outside the Grand Palais. Entitled l’Officielle, this “off” section attracted 13,000 visitors to the Cité de la Mode et du Design. However, this year, the l’Officielle has been suspended… a decision reflecting difficulties currently experienced throughout the art market. In fact, since the beginning of 2016, around twenty fairs have been cancelled worldwide with the proliferation of events giving way to a certain refocusing (a positive development considering the poor quality of certain fairs in recent years).

Nevertheless, this year’s FIAC does have a program of extra-mural artworks (large-scale works and installations) and activities (performances and conferences). “Hors les Murs” (Beyond the Walls) will occupy three publicly accessible and emblematic sites across the city (the Domaine national du Louvre et des Tuileries, the musée national Eugène Delacroix and the Place Vendôme) and includes a new program of artistic performances (music, dance, performance and poetry) under the title Parades for FIAC. This year, the Marcel Duchamp prize will again be awarded by the ADIAF (Association for the International Diffusion of French Art). This award has already identified a number of artists who have since achieved recognition including Thomas HIRSCHHORN, Dominique GONZALEZ-FOERSTER, Tatiana TROUVÉ and Latifa ECHAKHCH. Mainly focused on established artists, the FIAC also wants to reveal new talents.

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