Art Basel unveils directors and names of new Paris fair in October

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Art Basel has unveiled the first details of its upcoming inaugural fair in Paris, which pushed the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) off its October date and sent shockwaves through the industry.

Called Paris+ by Art Basel, the event will take place from October 20-23 at the temporary Grand Palais Éphémère and will move to the Grand Palais from 2024 once the €600 million refurbishment is complete. It is led by Clément Delépine, former co-director of the Paris Internationale Messe, which focuses on younger and emerging galleries and has been running alongside Fiac since 2015. He will be joined by General Manager Virginie Aubert, former Vice President of Christie’s France and Deputy Director Maxime Hourdequin, formerly Deputy Director of Fiac.

Speaking of earlier at Fiac, what about last director Jennifer Flay? After stepping down in February after 12 years at the helm of the fair, she was seen as a pioneer in leading Art Basel’s new project in Paris. Instead, she will join Paris+ as President of the Advisory Board for the second edition in 2023, as her non-compete obligation to Fiac’s owner RX France means she cannot attend Art Basel until then. According to Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s Global Director, Flay will “work closely with the Directors to provide comments and critiques from their network and leverage their existing relationships to the benefit of the fair,” while Delépine says he “recognizes Flay’s work wants by bringing the Paris art market to where it is now.”

Art Basel drew heavy criticism from within the industry when it dramatically announced its Paris fair, and many wondered which galleries would make it. 10 Parisian and international retailers have now joined the selection committee. They are: Florence Bonnefous of Air de Paris, Paris; Ellen de Bruijne, by Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam; Daniel Buchholz, Buchholz Gallery, Cologne, Berlin, New York; Anton Kern, Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Niklas Svennung, Chantal Crousel Gallery, Paris; Georges-Philippe Vallois, Gallery Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, Paris; and Christophe Van de Weghe of Van de Weghe, New York. Spiegler confirms that applications will be possible from mid-April.

As the name suggests, Paris+ will be a city-wide event that promises to be more than just an art fair and will include parallel programs in the capital’s institutions to engage the “music, cinema, fashion and design” industries. It is still unclear exactly what that will look like, not least because Art Basel is still in contact with French institutions and cooperation partners. However, Spiegler assures that a modern and up-to-date trade fair will be “the focus” of the event. He adds that the Paris+ name was chosen for its simplicity and ease in integrating partnerships.

Asked if Paris+ will be similar to Art Basel Cities, which launched its only edition in Buenos Aires in 2018 to mixed reviews from attendees and visitors, Spiegler says the Paris event will be more like Art Basel in Miami Beach than any other initiative of the trade fair franchise in the spirit of “Creating a moment” at a specific location.

Spiegler, who is a French national and speaks French, adds that his relationship with the Paris fair and Delépine will be very similar to that of Hong Kong’s Art Basel and its director Adeline Ooi.

The MCH Group, the Swiss owner of Art Basel, has paid 10.6 million euros for a seven-year deal with the Grand Palais, meaning Paris+ will run until at least 2028. However, Spiegler does not rule out changing the name and form in future editions. “Anything is possible evolutionarily,” he says.

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