Signs of a second wave of coronavirus are evident in various parts of Europe, and the possibility of another round of museum and gallery closures is becoming more likely. Online viewing rooms have replaced most physical art exhibitions, and fairs continue to be canceled around the world. But dealer Vanessa Guo, who formerly served as a director of Hauser & Wirth’s Asia operations, is embracing the bleak moment for its potential for new business.
Her latest venture is a new Paris gallery she’s running with Jean-Mathieu Martini called Galerie Marguo (a portmanteau of their surnames). Scheduled to open in October in the city’s Marais gallery district, near Marian Goodman Gallery, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, and Perrotin and not far from the Musée Picasso and the Centre Pompidou, it will occupy 1,200 square feet and focus on emerging Asian artists. The gallery’s first exhibition will be a solo show by Zhang Yunyao, a Shanghai-based painter in his 30s.
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For Guo and Martini, the gallery is a way to tap into markets that have long been considered separate from the French capital. “You can be an artist based in Paris or Shanghai—it doesn’t mean you can’t have a global view, to have success in multiple markets,” Guo said in a phone conversation with ARTnews. “There’s a way to be a global now, even as an emerging artist.”
Paris, like many art capitals, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Its top institutions have faced the prospect of financial freefall, and major fairs such as FIAC have been canceled after attempts to forge onward. And in April, the Comité professionnel des galeries d’art, a trade association, forecasted that one-third of galleries in the city would shutter permanently as a result of the pandemic.
Yet there are still some exceptions. Earlier this month, a scaled-back version of the Art Paris fair was staged, and Paris Photo still plans to host in-person events in the city in November. In the south of the country, Manifesta’s 2020 biennial is currently taking place in Marseille, a city about three hours south of Paris by train. (In spite of a rising case load in France, officials have not yet placed new restrictions on events such as these or ordered museum closures.)
To outsiders, the pandemic would appear to have placed a damper on a period of market expansion in Paris. David Zwirner opened a Paris outpost in 2019; that same year, ARTnews reported that Pace Gallery was exploring launching a French venue.
But Guo, who grew up in the U.S. with Chinese parents and has shuttled between New York and Hong Kong for most of her career, expressed optimism about Paris, which she said is “becoming more and more important as the center for contemporary art in Europe.” Citing the Chinese word for the situation, Weiji, which translates to “danger” and “opportunity,” she said, “My ancestors have figured out that whenever there’s a crisis, there’s always an opportunity.”