Art Basel already organizes glamorous art fairs in Switzerland, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Now he is heading to Paris.
In an announcement likely to stun the art world, the organization that runs the glistening Grand Palais in Paris announced on Wednesday that MCH Group, owner of the Art Basel brand, will set up a new contemporary art fair that will would take place at the venue each October. .
MCH Group will take over the slot previously occupied by the contemporary art fair FIAC, added the organisation, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais.
The news will come as a surprise to many in the art world, as FIAC was a venerable French institution that had held fairs there for decades. Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a reception for the fair, calling it a “nerve center of the art world”.
But the support of a president was not enough to stop the change.
Chris Dercon, president of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, said in a phone interview that he hoped Art Basel would put on an event that was more than an art fair, something he hoped to be “immersive”.
“It means art plus fashion, art plus design,” he said. “The more is very important.”
He said he wanted to see an art fair that engaged with wider Parisian culture. Dercon, previously director of the Tate Modern art museum in London and the Volksbühne theater in Berlin, has long been known for promoting an interdisciplinary approach to art.
Although Art Basel is “the mother” of art fairs, Dercon said, he didn’t want the new art fair to be just another outpost for the brand. The new event will not be called Art Basel Paris, he said, adding that its name would be revealed soon.
Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel, said in a phone interview that the company only had a “short runway” to the first event, but hoped to work with the entire “creative class “of Paris, not just its art galleries, museums and concessionaires. Much of this work would occur “outside the halls”.
The fair will have “a French touch”, he added. “People coming to Paris will expect to see the various French movements of the last 12 decades well reflected at a high level of quality in strong galleries.”
The number of French galleries present at the fair will not be less than the number seen at FIAC, he said, and the new fair will be organized by a predominantly French team.
RX Group, organizers of FIAC, did not respond to a request for comment. Last December they challenged the decision launch a call for applications to host a new art fair at the Grand Palais.
Spiegler wouldn’t comment on how the fair would be an improvement on FIAC, but said his cellphone had “swelled with text messages and DMs all day ‘from galleries hoping to work with the fair given’ the kind of promotion we can do for them all over the world.
The first two events will take place at Grand Palace Ephemerala temporary location on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris, while the Grand Palais itself is being renovated.