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Art Paris: why another Contemporary Art fair at the Grand Palais?

[28 Mar 2017]

As the month of March draws to a close, the Parisian art market has been particularly busy this year. After an intense week dedicated to drawing, the Grand Palais is hosting Art Paris, (the FIAC’s little sister, but nonetheless interesting). Also specialized in Contemporary art, Art Paris targets a much broader spectrum of collectors; so instead of prestigious international galleries, Art Paris invites a less established and less publicised art scene, with a selection of galleries offering works by relatively unknown artists at relatively reasonable prices. Art Paris exhibits the heart of the Contemporary art market, without compromising on quality.

The new Parisian marketplace on the global Art Market

Gathered in Hong Kong last week for the Asian edition of Art Basel, the prestigious Parisian galleries will not necessarily be present at the Grand Palace this weekend. Nathalie Obadia and Daniel Templon are among the few to see the complementarity of the two fairs, while Perrotin, Kamel Mennour, Almine Rech and Chantal Crousel have given preference to the Asian fair and its long international reach.

This choice reflects a general trend: Paris still has one foot in the high-end market, but that market is increasingly attracted to the world’s major luxury capitals. In 2016, Paris accounted for 4% of global Fine Art auction turnover, ranking 5th behind New York (26%), Beijing (18%), London (16%) and Hong Kong (9%). However, fortunately, the French capital still retains a strong attraction that is largely based on its thriving network of galleries and collectors who have a more ‘alternative’ relationship to Art.

Already last week, the three fairs dedicated to drawing – Salon du Dessin, Drawing Now and DDessin – highlighted the passionate interest of French collectors in smaller, more delicate and more personal artworks. While the upscale Parisian galleries were gathered in Hong Kong, Paris itself was showing a number of superb collections and hosting a series of sales dedicated to art on paper. Only a couple of lots fetched results above the million-dollar line; but hundreds of works covering more than four centuries of art history were sold for a few hundred or thousand euros each.

Top 5 Fine Art auction marketplaces in 2016

Auction turnover ($) Lots sold Top price ($)
New York 3,241,551,533 20,252 81,447,500
Beijing 2,290,571,381 34,876 44,149,512
London 2,041,408,267 20,115 63,220,336
Hong Kong 1,156,058,737 9,846 39,577,200
Paris 517,618,131 43,407 7,820,287

Indeed, Paris is increasingly standing out on the international art market for the density and the diversity of its exchanges. Without seeking at all costs to compete with London and New York in the race for new auction records, the French market is recovering the enviable position of being primarily a market for art lovers rather than for powerful investors. This more authentic and more stable positioning allowed the French market to resist the hesitations of the global market in 2016, unlike the United States (-43%) and the UK (-30%).

A diversified and transparent market

The 139 galleries invited to the Grand Palais for the 19th edition of Art Paris will highlight the new Contemporary art scene… but not only. A number of artists who are well-known to the French public are also well-represented at the fair, including Ben, Robert Combas, Herve di Rosa, François Morellet. Nor is the high-end market completely absent from the Art Paris… it is just much less visible. You won’t see works by the omnipresent Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Ugo Rondinone and Rudolf Stingel… but there will be one or two works major signatures… Julian Schnabel and Wolfgang Tillmans for example, as well as a couple of major works by Anatsui and Ousman Sow, who died recently.

This year, Art Paris has chosen to highlight African art. Galleries from Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Angola and Nigeria are representing a continent that is too often absent from major events, but which nevertheless fascinates the International Art Market.

Another feature of Art Paris Art Fair is a surprising level of transparency: the website provides price estimates from the galleries themselves for a large number of the works shown. Although the prices indicated may not be fully representative of the entire fair, they suggest that almost 80% of the works in the fair are available for less than €15,000. And if that is anywhere near accurate, it’s a price structure that sends a clear and strong message: Art Paris wants to demystify the idea that the Contemporary Art market is inaccessible.

This price structure fairly accurately reflects the reality of Contemporary Art prices, a reality that is constantly overshadowed by the media’s focus on its high end. In contrast to this high end, Art Paris Art Fair aims to reflect the reality of the Parisian market: a premium quality fair, but accessible to the largest possible number of collectors, and, representative of the diversity of Contemporary art.

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