Home Magazine 25 years of innovations, discoveries, and support for emerging artists: Art Paris described by the director Guillaume Piens

The Art Paris’s Director Guillaume Piens, recounts the evolution of the fair in this past quarter of a century, describes the peculiarities and qualities of this year's edition and suggests to us the most fascinating and breathtaking artworks which cannot be missed. 

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Guillaume Piens, Art Paris Director. Courtesy of Art Paris

Kooness: This year marks the 25th year anniversary of the fair. How has Art Paris evolved in this past quarter of a century?

Guillaume Piens: Art Paris has known different evolutions. First of all, from 1999 to 2005 it was a satellite show during Fiac at the Carrousel du Louvre whose goal was to support the French scene. Then in 2006, it became the first modern and contemporary art fair to move to the Grand Palais on the Spring calendar, which is the other active moment for the art market in Paris. In 2012, the fair underwent a total overhaul with a new team and a new direction. The aim was to create an International art fair turned towards the regional exploration of the European scenes from the post-war period to the present day while leaving room for the new horizons of international creation from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The Covid-19 pandemic was a turning point in the fair’s history. In September 2020, Art Paris was the first post-lockdown “physical” art fair in the world and, in 2021, it went on to become the first event to inaugurate the Temporary Grand Palais on the Champ de Mars. Six months later, in April 2022, it was also the first fair to adopt a sustainable, life cycle analysis-based approach to its organisation.
Its recent themes are totally in tune with those that are omnipresent in both society and contemporary creation: art and the environment in 2022 and commitment and exile in 2023. These strong convictions and commitments contribute to the originality of this leading spring arts event and set it apart on the art fair calendar.
K: The 2023 edition has two themes dealing with notions of commitment and exile. What should we expect differently this year compared to earlier years?

GP:The two main curatorial themes “Art & Commitment” and “Exile: Dispossession and Resistance”, respectively curated by Marc Donnadieu and Amanda Abi Khalil will give a special edge to this 25th edition. These themes powerfully resonate in these precarious times when war is raging on Europe's borders, totalitarian states perdure or are reappearing in different areas of the globe and identity-based conflicts threaten social cohesion and the very spirit of democracy, let alone the challenges of migration and climate crisis we are facing. 

Romain Laprade. Chips, Los Angeles, 2022. Courtesy of Yvon Lambert

K: Art Paris has increased its digital strategy since you became Fair Director, and a virtual tour of the event is now available to the public. Why is this important in today’s society, and what does this add to the overall fair experience?

GP: Nothing replaces the physical experience of a fair, but the digital component acts as a complement. It is a useful tool for discovering galleries and their artists and it has become an essential means of information for collectors.
K: What is the impact of being located in Paris on the identity of the art fair?

GP: We are leaving a very interesting time in Paris right now. The city is undergoing a huge urban transformation in view of the 2024 Olympic Games. Private foundations are opening. Important foreign galleries are choosing to settle in Paris as well, in the wake of Brexit. Paris is rising again and it is becoming a major centre for contemporary art in Europe. 
This specific context has of course an impact on the fair’s identity: 60% of our exhibitors are domestic galleries while 40% are internationally based. This deliberate choice enables the fair to showcase the wealth of the French gallery ecosystem that includes leading modern and contemporary art galleries and galleries based in towns all over France while providing support to emerging structures with Promises, the sector for young galleries.

Lara Bloy. Entre deux temps, 2022. Courtesy of H Gallery

K: Which stands are not to be missed?

GP: Among Marc Donnadieu’s selection for his focus “Art & Commitment”, I suggest paying attention to the black and white photographic portraits of African women by Cameroonian Angèle Etoundi Assamba (Galerie Carole Kvasnevski);  the drawings by  Afghan refugee artist Kubra Khademi (Galerie Eric Mouchet); the series “Colors Grey” by Thu Van Tran (Almine Rech), a Vietnamese artist living in France who evokes in abstract paintings the artificial clouds caused by the toxic sprays of the American army during the Vietnam War; Laura Henno’s documentary photographs (Galerie Nathalie Obadia) on adolescents who arrived alone or clandestinely in France, as well as portraits of street individualities painted by Rakajoo that confront their double Afro-European heritage (Danysz Gallery). 
As for Amanda Abi Khalil’s focus on “Exile: dispossession and exile”, visitors cannot miss Soirée sur la Seine avec Pain de Sucre (2017), a photomontage by Brazilian artist Roberto Cabot (Galerie Anne de Villepoix) which provides an entertaining summary of the trajectory of life in exile when one is simultaneously here and there. Anas Albraehe (Saleh Barakat Gallery), Christine Safa (lelong & Co), Nabil el Makhloufi (Atelier 21) and Leylâ Gediz (The Pill) paint the landscapes of everyday life, a life that is a burden, but which also saves us. Aung Ko and Nge Lay (A2Z Gallery), Ivan Argóte (Perrotin) and Boris Mikhaïlov (Galerie Suzanne tarasiève) tackle historical events by telling the story of both individuals and groups. Myriam Mihindou (Galerie Maïa Muller) and Majd Abdel Hamid (gb agency) address fragility with the use of textile and yarn, mediums that are highly regarding the question of exile. Tirdad Hashemi (gb agency) and Zarina (Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger) draw inspiration from their own lives to bear witness to situations of survival. 
Among the solo show highlights, Galerie Françoise Livinec will rediscover biomorphic abstraction as practised by pioneering feminist artist Louise Barbu (1931-2021), whose work was first exhibited in 1974 by the legendary Iris Clert. Galerie Tanit will celebrate Arcangelo, a key figure of the Italian school in the 80s with a mini-retrospective. 
In the booth of Galerie Fabienne Levy, visitors will discover an immersive installation by Andrea Galvani that combines photography, video, drawing and a neon sculpture to question the notion of time, whereas Alexandre Benjamin Navet will invite visitors to discover a vivid, colourful and timeless atmosphere with his immersive in-situ presentation for Galerie Derouillon. 
Among the duo shows, I can’t wait to discover the historical dialogue between two Belgian surrealists, René Magritte and Marcel Mariën at Galerie Retelet; Dix couples d’œuvres with Vincent Beaurin and Antony Donaldson, a historical figure of British Pop Art, at Galerie Strouk; and “act of resistance” at Gaep Gallery with Romanian artist Mircea Stănescu (1954) and Croatian artist Damir Očko (1977) who both use collage as the most appropriate medium to express “ an instinctive discontent, the reflex of bankrupt existentialism”. 
Finally, in the Promises sector hosting 9 young galleries, Baert Gallery (Los Angeles) will present works on canvas and drawings by Norwegian artist Melinda Braathen and German artist Sophie Wahlquist, both of whom are part of the current revival of figurative painting. 
Galería Rebelde (Guatemala City) will show three Guatemalan women artists: Angélica Serech (1982), an indigenous artist from Comalapa who has reinvented age-old Mayan weaving techniques to create unique textile works; Clara de Tezanos (1986), whose sensory wood and glass objects capture light and transform our perception of space; and Diana de Solares (1952) who produces three-dimensional structures with colourful abstract motifs made from found and recycled materials.

K: Art Paris is a great platform to meet and explore contemporary art and artists. How do you think this will help the evolution of the contemporary art market?

GP: I hope that we can contribute to the emergence of new talents in an art world that is more and more concentrated on speculation and investment, in other words, financial concerns that are the exact opposite of discovery.

Cover image: Art Paris 2023, Courtesy of Art Paris
Written by Kooness

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