Europe's art fairs look ahead to a busy autumn season

The 47th edition of the FIAC will be held at the end of October in the new spaces of the Grand Palais Ephemere and the Galerie Eiffel.  — AFP pic
The 47th edition of the FIAC will be held at the end of October in the new spaces of the Grand Palais Ephemere and the Galerie Eiffel. — AFP pic

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PARIS, July 27 — After a year and a half of events being canceled, postponed and transformed into online-only versions, art fairs are banking on the fall to get back to their pre-covid rhythm. It’s great news for art lovers, who will be spoiled for choice with Art Basel, Frieze and FIAC all taking place in the fall.

Gallerists and dealers specialising in modern and contemporary art have been eagerly awaiting the return of Art Basel, as have the tens of thousands of visitors who flock to the Swiss city every year to attend.

The Art Basel fair will be back with an in-person session this September 24-26, after cancelling its 2020 edition due to the covid-19 pandemic.

The organisers of the art event, Swiss group MCH, had initially chosen to move it from June to September last year, but uncertainties related to the circulation of the virus in Europe pushed them to renounce this plan.

While Art Basel migrated to the digital sphere by launching “online viewing rooms,” this web-based edition did not have the same flavor as past versions in the view of Marc Spiegler.

“While the pandemic has been a time of
resilience and innovation, it has not always been one of discovery — patrons have often not been able to discover the work of new artists; likewise, galleries have not had ample opportunities to meet new collectors who can start to engage with and then later sustain their programmes, commented the global director of Art Basel.

“That’s why it’s so important to be able to stage our show again in person, while at the same time building upon the digital innovations of the past year to continue engaging the broadest possible audiences worldwide.” 



Experimentations and new formats

For its grand return, Art Basel will bring together over 270 galleries and art dealers.

Among them are art event regulars such as Gagosian, Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth, as well as some 20 newcomers including Bridget Donahue from New York, High Art from Paris, Isla Flotante from Buenos Aires and Edouard Malingue from Hong Kong.

Although many art dealers will be making the trip to Basel, the fair will also offer satellite stands for gallery owners unable to travel to Switzerland due to the pandemic. A hybrid format that already proved its worth in Hong Kong last May. 

Meanwhile, Paris’s International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) is taking place October 24-26 in new spaces known as the Grand Palais Éphémère and the Galerie Eiffel for its first physical “post-covid” edition.

On the programme are more than 160 galleries of modern art, contemporary art, design and publishing from 25 countries.

Among them are market leaders such as Paula Cooper, Gagosian, David Zwirner, Buchholz, Konrad Fischer and Bärbel Grässlin, as well as players from younger generations such as Bel Ami, Mendes Wood DM, Öktem Aykut and Martina Simeti.



For its 47th physical edition, the fair will also feature an online version, FIAC Online Viewing Rooms.

The organisers of the event inaugurated this format in March to compensate for the cancellation of the 2020 edition at the last minute, in mid-September.

All the galleries present at the Grand Palais Éphémère will participate in this new “online” version of FIAC, as will a selection of art dealers exhibiting exclusively online. 

Between organisational headaches and uncertainties

While the return of physical art fairs is making collectors happy, it represents a logistical headache for international gallery owners.

Many of them are wondering which event to attend this fall: Art Basel, FIAC or Frieze London, which is scheduled to take place October 13-17 at Regent’s Park.

“It would have been difficult for us to do Art Basel, Frieze Masters and Fiac in a row and we unfortunately had to concentrate on Art Basel and Fiac as logistically it would have been a nightmare to align the three of them,” Franck Prazan, founder of the Paris-based gallery Applicat-Prazan, told Art Newspaper. 

Add to that the spread of the Delta variant in Europe, which is causing a series of new waves of covid-19 on the continent.

A health situation that casts a shadow on the major European art fairs. — ETX Studio

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