The French art world has been astir for months about the future of FIAC, which used to be the biggest art fair held regularly in Paris.
Earlier this year, Art Basel revealed plans to launch a new fair, Paris+. In the process, it kicked FIAC out of its longtime partnership with the Grand Palais and its October slot.
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Anne-Claude Coric, executive director of Paris’s Galerie Templon, told ARTnews, “We have been participating in FIAC since 1974 and Art Basel since 1978, so the replacement of FIAC by a new Art Basel fair came as a major surprise. No one expected FIAC to be ousted so fast.
“Now that Art Basel has taken over its time slot, its locations, most of its exhibitors, and even some of its staff,” she continued, “I do not see how FIAC could possibly reinvent itself.”
Some questioned whether FIAC, which is owned by RX France, would ever come back to the august venue where it has previously been held.
“It seems unlikely that FIAC will return to the Grand Palais, given that RX France’s request to extend their stay was rejected by both the administrative court and the state council,” said intellectual property lawyer Julie de Lassus Saint-Geniès.
Yet she remained hopeful that the fair would continue to live on in some form. “An exhibition is not only a space, but first and foremost a concept. We should not be too quick to dismiss RX France. They still own the French, European, and international trademarks for FIAC. They are free to launch a new event anywhere else in France, Aix, Monaco… Plus, Paris is not short of venues likely to welcome a new fair.”
Those involved with RX France are also still optimistic. “We are still considering rebooting FIAC,” Michael Filzi, the company’s CEO, told ARTnews in an interview. “The name belongs to us. And we have no intention of selling it.”
He declined to comment on when or where that may happen, and some cast into doubt whether a return in Paris was even worth it altogether.
“The international fair calendar is already so crowded that it is hard to imagine how the city of Paris could accommodate yet another fair,” Coric said. “There is already Art Paris in the spring, as well as many other fairs devoted to design, modern art, photography.”
The doubt surrounding FIAC dates back to December 8 of last year, when RMN-Grand Palais launched an open-call competition for a new art fair to open in October 2022, followed by a new photo exhibition in November 2022 at the Grand Palais Éphémère, its temporary venue in use while the main one is being renovated for the 2024 Olympic Games.
These slots formerly belonged to FIAC and Paris Photo, both RX properties. Applicants had until December 31 to plead their cases. The deadline to apply was unusually short, causing some in the French press to question if the process had been in some way rigged.
Thrown off by the initiative, RX France filed a summons for urgent proceedings to assert their right to continue holding fairs at the Grand Palais. The request was rejected on January 14, 2022, by the urgent applications judge. According to the court, RMN-Grand Palais was entitled to explore its options, since it was not contractually bound to hosting RX France’s 2022 and 2023 fairs.
Some argue Paris+ is destined to make Paris the new international capital for contemporary art, and that it may be even more Parisian than FIAC, if that’s even possible. Coric called Paris+ “a new chapter in the Parisian cultural life. We are all ready to embrace it.”
Gaudel de Stampa, located in Paris’s 6th Arrondissement, not far from the Pont Neuf, and which had participated in every edition of FIAC, applied for Paris+ but did not make the cut. (An Art Basel representative did not respond to request for comment.)
“We were on the waiting list. We wanted to feature four emerging artists. Perhaps it was too much. Perhaps they were too emerging,” Denis Gaudel, the gallery’s founder, said, adding, “FIAC was a way for us to meet international curators, art critics, and museum directors. The bright side is that we are currently devoting a solo show to Gaia Vincensini, who was the star of our [FIAC] booth at the Grand Palais Éphémère last year.”
Saint Paul de Vence–based dealer Catherine Issert was also rejected from Paris+. “It’s a real disappointment for me and my artists. FIAC provided huge exposure to non-Parisian galleries like mine,” said Issert, who has attended almost every edition of FIAC, since 1976. She plans to try her luck again next year. Meanwhile, her gallery will be at Paris Photo in November and at Art Paris 2023 next spring. Why were FIAC alumni like her not making the cut for Paris+’s exhibitor list? Issert said, “My guess is there is not enough space for an increasing number of applicants.”