In a major shake-up, the October dates typically held by FIAC, Paris’s top art fair, will now belong to Art Basel and its parent company MCH Group. Art Basel revealed plans on Wednesday to launch a new fair for modern and contemporary art in Paris this October, making this the fourth event staged by the enterprise, which also hosts editions in Hong Kong, Miami Beach, and the namesake Swiss city.
The news came after the Grand Palais, which has been the longtime home to FIAC and Paris Photo, said it would be taking bids to secure the traditional fall dates for FIAC and Paris Photo, a photography-focused fair. RX Global, which organizes both French fairs, will retain the November dates for Paris Photo.
FIAC had previously announced the Grand Palais Ephémère, the temporary structure in Champ-de-Mars facing the Eiffel Tower in operation while the Grand Palais undergoes renovations ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics, as its venue for its 2022 and 2023 editions, with an expected return to the Grand Palais in 2024. The fair’s website lists its 2022 dates as October 20–23. Now, the fair will have to find a new home.
In a press release announcing the news, Grand Palais said that the two fairs “have showcased their ability to strengthen the international reputation of the events that they will be responsible for organising. They have committed to highlighting the contemporary artistic creation of the Parisian and French ecosystem—especially it’s emerging new talents—that will create further synergies with cultural and creative industries, in line with the artistic and cultural project that has been developed for the reopening of the Grand Palais.”
Both MCH Group and RX Global have signed seven-year contracts as part of their bid to secure the October and November dates, respectively. Grand Palais’s press release stated that the seven-year term was decided for “the long-term visibility required to ensure their positive development.”
In its own press release announcing the news, Art Basel said it “will establish a new French entity and employ a dedicated team on the ground, as well as work closely with France’s gallery community and ensure their strong representation in the fair’s Selection Committee. In addition, Art Basel intends to develop an identity and a brand specific to the Parisian fair.”
In a statement, Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler said, “With its incomparable history and contemporary dynamism, Paris is uniquely positioned as a pivotal epicenter of the international cultural scene. We aim to build on Paris’s unparalleled standing as a global metropolis to help create a vibrant week that even further amplifies the city’s international resonance as a cultural capital.”
The public competition for the dates was launched by Grand Palais’s president Chris Dercon last month, with the decision being made at the organization’s January 24 board meeting. In its press release, the Grand Palais said that it had received interest from Art Basel in the October dates last November, and had announced the competition because it did not currently have a contract with RX Global for FIAC and Paris Photo.
In a statement sent to press on Wednesday afternoon, RX Global said it “strongly regrets” the decision of Grand Palais to give its dates to Art Basel, adding that it believes the public competition was “hasty and flawed” and that it would have major repercussions for French contemporary art.
“It is in this spirit that, after decades of investment and presence at the Grand Palais, we have succeeded in raising the FIAC to the highest ranks of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs and in making Paris one of the world’s most important capitals for cultural and artistic life,” RX France president Michel Filzi said in a statement, continuing, “This is a huge disappointment for our teams and all the clients and partners who support us.”
He added, “We reserve the right to challenge the decision concerning FIAC in court in favor of its competitor.”
The French newspaper Le Monde had previously reported that the Grand Palais was requesting at least €20 million ($22.7 million) over seven years for the dates. In an email to ARTnews on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Art Basel clarified that Grand Palais’s call for proposals stated that €10.6 million ($12 million) would be required for the contemporary art fair and €7.5 million ($8.5 million) for the photography fair over 7 years (until 2028), excluding technical costs.
Earlier this week, MCH Group announced that it would reinvest in the ART SG fair in Singapore, taking a 15-percent minority stake. The group had previously invested in it between 2016 and 2017, but had sold its shares by 2018 when the company was in financial straits.
Since Brexit became official on January 1, 2020, the art world has been abuzz about to what the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union might mean for London’s standing as the art market capital of Europe, with many seeing Paris as being in line to take over as the continent’s main city for the art trade.
Update, 1/26/22, 2:10 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a comment from FIAC and RX France president Michel Filzi.