During preview day at Paris+ par Art Basel, premium collectors buzzed through the fair with designer handbags in tow, art advisors FaceTimed clients abroad, and curators and institutional figures roamed, ready to pluck.
At the fair’s Galeries Émergentes sector, gallery directors expressed a cautious optimism despite worries that Paris+ wouldn’t be able to draw the caliber of contacts that FIAC, the longstanding French art fair that was booted from its spot at the Grand Palais Éphémère less than a year ago in a major coup by Art Basel, always did.
Yet the buzz seems to have attracted a similarly high caliber group as FIAC had in years past.
“We’ve seen lots of familiar faces, great collectors, and super important institutional curators here,” David Hoyland of London-based Seventeen gallery told ARTnews. “Everyone wanted to be in the first Paris+ for a reason.”
Seventeen presented Whoopsie’s Dream (2022) a 20-minute film by Patrick Goddard about a talking dog named Whoopsie who recounts a recent nightmare, and as Whoopsie’s monologue goes on, the audience begins to realize the dog is deeply racist and xenophobic, and her dream ends with an invasion of her bucolic, English town by massive snails and other critters. Also on view were bits of the train set, complete with snails, that had been used as the set of Whoopsie’s Dream.
“Look, it’s a 20-minute film about right-wing politics, we don’t really expect to sell it,” said Hoyland. “But, coming to France, we’re deeply aware of Brexit, and how embarrassing it is, and we wanted to acknowledge that and bring something as good as Goddard’s.”
Given the presence of institutional curators at these fairs, making the effort and investment to show something that might not sell, or at least not for much, can pay off in the long run if an institutional curator gets to know works by an artist and place them in a show.
Given that Seventeen hadn’t exhibited at FIAC previously, Hoyland felt that Paris+ was an important opportunity to introduce the gallery and its team to the French art world. Hoyland has thus far found the organization around the fair to be incredibly attentive. As we spoke, Clément Delépine, Paris+’s director, shook Hoyland’s hand and asked if the last-minute editing of the film that had occurred the night before went all right.
“I wouldn’t have expected to him to remember that, not him particularly but any fair director,” Hoyland said, after Delépine walked away. “I’m just really pleased with the amount of time and attention they’ve given all of us.”
There are some other changes that the gallerists have appreciated. For those who had exhibited at FIAC’s emerging galleries sector in the past, they recalled being placed in the tent at the back of the exhibition hall. Now, the Galeries Émergentes were on the main floor.
“Sure the lighting in the tent was nice but it’s good for us to be in the main sector now,” Edouard Montassut, director of his eponymous, Paris-based gallery Edouard Montassut, told ARTnews. In previous years, he had exhibited work at FIAC’s emerging galleries sector. “Before it was a bit to the side.”
Though it was still too early to compare the success of the fair and the Galeries Émergentes sector, Montassut said he felt excited and optimistic by the people he had met thus far. “And this is saying something, because I am usually a pessimist,” he added.
For others, however, it was harder to express as much enthusiasm. Jonathan Kluth of Berlin-based Efremidis gallery has exhibited on the main floor of FIAC in years past, but had now been put in the Galeries Émergentes section of Paris+.
“We did really well last year, critically and with sales, so it was a bit sad to see FIAC go,” Kluth told ARTnews. “That being said, there’s only ten spots for Galeries Émergentes so it’s an honor to have been included.”
What Kluth is looking forward to the most is the weekend, when the French public comes to the fair or, at least, that’s how it had been at FIAC.
“They ask these really great, difficult questions,” said Kluth. “It’s an art-loving culture. Compared to other European fairs, the locals are really engaged.”
Whether Paris+ will be able to engage the French public similarly remains to be seen.