Paris Internationale 2018: the non-art-fair

Stefano Pirovano

It could have been a disaster, on the contrary it has improved year after year. The fourth edition of Paris Internationale marks an important step forward in the evolution of what is more and more difficult to simply call ‘art fair’.

What makes the difference at Paris Internationale edition 2018 is, behind the scenes, the even stronger presence of its official sponsor since last year, Gucci (part of the Kering group, thus, for the art world, of Monsieur Pinault), which has allowed among other things to cut down the cost of the space to the extent that the way this non-fair has been curated seems to be more similar to that that could happen in a museum, whilst sticking to the commercial objective of the initiative, and assuring the invited galleries of an even better location that hosted the memorable 2016 edition, that is the former building of collector Calouste Gulbenkian. More than sponsorship it may perhaps be better to talk about partnership, as the New York Times readers must have thought, since the copies which have arrived in Paris were wrapped in a big light blue page dedicated to the fair. Merci Monsieur.

Edition 2018 is taking place in a five storied Haussmannian building, situated at 16 Rue Alfred de Vigny, not too far from FIAC and from a landmark of French collecting that is Musée Jacquemart-André. The location is that of a beautiful bourgeois building, which will be entirely renovated in the coming years, therefore is not afraid of being respectfully occupied by the galleries. This year they are 42, with 8 no-profit spaces adding up, selected amongst more than 150 candidates. The galleries, on the other hand, have all been ‘invited’ by the board, including Isabella Bortolozzi, the first top gallery taking part to Paris Internationale. Indeed, since its first edition, Paris Internationale is the direct expression of the very same art dealers’ work, who have chosen not to respond to institutions ruling over them, as it generally happens with art fairs, starting from FIAC, through Art Basel and TEFAF. If you think about it, this does change things to a very large degree. More than a fair, Paris Internationale is actually a community of galleries which work, without any fee, for the event itself, hence for themselves, attempting time after time to offer the public a point of view on contemporary creativity, which certainly is oriented yet guarded against marketing.

This year there has been some discontent as, in order to make room to the 11 new galleries invited, someone else had been left out. Then again, Paris Internationale’s mission is clearly stated, that is ‘to deconstruct the traditional codes of art fairs by anchoring the project in an outstanding context within Paris’ city center’. It follows that shuffling the cards is part of the game, a turn over is thus expected, contrary to what happens (or only happens marginally) at big fairs where the nodes are controlled by big powers while those galleries economically or politically weaker are relegated further and further from the ‘centre’. At this point, let’s take time to reflect. Whether it is a matter of fact that in traditional fairs smaller galleries do benefit from the light emanated by the main galleries, it is also true that in the past years little to nothing has really changed within these events’ system, where the big ones remain big, while the little ones don’t ever grow. Hence, artists can’t do anything but leaving the small, or mid-size gallery as soon as the occasion pops up. ‘This is the way the world works’ someone would surely claim, yet this is not quite the case, else fine arts would be worth much more than modern and contemporary one; whereas, quality and quantity being equal, it is almost always true the other way round. Thus, art ages with its own public and it’s up to future generations to choose what to bring along and what, instead, to leave behind.

Regarding the artists seen at Paris Internationale 2018 edition, we shall refer you to the photo-gallery we published yesterday on our Instagram account – although we highly recommend not stop here. There should be no need to point out that social networks are indeed exceptional search tools and we are certain your eyes will see even better than ours. It’d be just enough here to add a couple of notes. First of all, if painting is the queen, then the gallery is its kingdom. Some works more than others do feel the context where they are presented, and creating the most suitable one is not only a matter of instinct, or of talent. Let’s go back to the psychological problem we mentioned at the beginning, that is anchoring – or else, let’s settle for calling it ‘fashion’, yet again. The second point we would like to highlight concerns materials, and is aimed at the artists. There is not only the issue of material’s stability, but also that of the ageing. And ageing well is a matter of vital importance, for us all.

October 19, 2018