What if that was the “next world” of the contemporary art business? The Parisian ecosystem of art dealers is discovering, these days, that their habits, sedimented in half a century, are not necessarily eternal. The niche occupied by the FIAC, the International French Contemporary Art Fair, launched in 1974, is today the object of envy, just like that of Paris Photo, created in 1997. Thanks to a published call for competition on December 8 by the public establishment that hosts the two events, the RMN-Grand Palais, and revealed by The world on December 23, the current operator, RX France, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch group RX Global, could lose its lease in favor of a new player… which has not been revealed. Before the very next meeting of the board of directors of the RMN-Grand Palais, which will settle the debate in the week of January 24, the cultural community, public side as private side, competes in games of influence.
One man, Chris Dercon, is at the heart of the questions. At the head of the Grand Palais since 2018, this multilingual Belgian with a Flemish accent and a white mane, succeeded Sylvie Hubac, member of the Council of State. Chosen for his daring, he carried out works that paralyze his monument until 2024 a pretext to break all the monotonies. Faced with an operator comfortably installed, this art adventurer did not let himself be fooled: pandemic or not, he made a point of imposing his views, and his prices, on the company RX France.
Balance of power
From arm wrestling to arm wrestling – the Grand Palais has thus demanded compensation for the cancellation of the 2020 editions of FIAC and Paris Photo – it has established a balance of power, despite the institution’s migration since 2021 in the ephemeral Grand Palais. This obviously did not escape a mystery entrepreneur, who told Mr. Dercon his « Serious interest » and proposed new fairs, on the same dates as FIAC and Paris Photo.
Without warning, Mr. Dercon and the deputy director general, Emmanuel Marcovitch, sought in the code of public procurement the opportunity to reshuffle the cards and open the game. And everyone to wonder about the hidden intentions of Mr. Dercon: does he want impose new rules on the former operator or put Paris in the hand of one of the international mastodons of the art market?
More than Frieze, which belongs to the American Endeavor, the name of Art Basel, owned by the Swiss group MCH, is now in everyone’s mind, on everyone’s lips, even if its representatives refuse to comment on the information. The question of 20 million euros – the sum on which the future operator will have to commit over seven years – is so sensitive that the President of the Republic in person has, according to our sources, questioned Chris Dercon on this subject, on the 7th January, at the Elysée.
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