As the very first edition of Paris+ by Art Basel gets underway with roaring sales across all levels of the market reported, I sit down with Georges-Philippe Vallois, cofounder of Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, a Paris-based gallery specializing in contemporary art and New Realism, to discuss the impact of the new art fair.
What were your thoughts when you heard that Paris+ would replace the FIAC?
My thoughts were mixed. On one hand, I was sad and nostalgic as the FIAC has been, for my generation, the personalization of an international event in France. On the other hand, RX, the owner of the FIAC, never showed any real ambition for the FIAC and never gave the impression the FIAC was among its priorities. Therefore, I wrote an opinion column to explain that our main concern about the new art fair would be the attention paid to the French scene and its singularity.
Why did your gallery decide to exhibit at Paris+?
We are a Parisian gallery and not showing in Paris would clearly be a resignation. This has to do of course with strategy and business, but also with solidarity. The success of Paris+ is not only success for participating galleries, but also success for the whole ecosystem. Therefore, participating is for sure a choice, but also a commitment.
As part of the Selection Committee of Paris+, what goes into the curation of the galleries and artists at Paris+? What are your criteria?
The question of gallery selection is a very thorny one since the applications for this first edition were particularly numerous and the fair relatively small – less than 160 booths. The Art Basel organization is also known for respecting the local fabric of galleries in the country where the event takes place. A number of French galleries were therefore preserved, which was also an official request of the RMN-Grand Palais. It is therefore clear that many of the excellent galleries that were not selected were not selected for qualitative reasons. The small size of the venue and the desire not to create a rupture – which seems to be borne out by the high percentage of galleries that were common to the previous edition of the FIAC – clearly played a role. However, the criteria are always the same; they correspond to the gallery’s reputation and the quality of the project for its booth. From my point of view, the diversity of the projects and the artistic representativeness they are likely to bring to the fair also play a significant role.
What is the expected impact or role that Paris+ will have on the Parisian art scene?
The expected impact is a confirmation. Paris, with the arrivals of more and more major galleries and foundations, appears to be a major cultural capital of the EEC. Art Basel, being the most important and professional international art fair, will reinforce this position. The question still pending is: will Paris be a new center or a satellite of the international market?
Who are the biggest buyers of modern and contemporary art today, and what kinds of collectors is your gallery targeting in particular at Paris+?
Everyone knows the main market is the United States, followed by China, Great Britain and France. However, I do not believe there is a typology of collectors by generation or nationality. There are several art markets: auctions, galleries, virtual, young speculation, museum masterpieces, etc…. In my case, I am not targeting any special actor, except maybe international institutions, and hope to be targeted by all of them.
Which categories or themes of modern or contemporary art have you been noticing that are registering the most interest from collectors lately?
Everyone noticed the strong interest for works made by minorities, whatever they are. This was expected, but is indisputably one of the most obvious recent phenomena in auctions, galleries and museums. It might sometimes be considered excessive, but it was obvious that this category was clearly and unfairly ignored. There is also clearly strong speculation on young artists, as always. For these two categories, time will make a selection, as always. We have also noticed strong interest in the European movement from the ’60s, essentially from American and Middle Eastern museums and more and more American collectors.
Which are the three most interesting modern or contemporary artists exhibiting at Paris+ to collect today whom you feel have the greatest potential?
I cannot answer this question as the offer will be amazing. One thing is sure: the diversity of artistic movements has been respected, which should offer historical masterpieces as well as young artists for all “categories” of collectors. This is clearly what I observed from the council deliberation.