In the second round of the Paris+ art fair, a cousin to the famous Art Basel, the organizers decided to take a step back and rethink their approach. Clément Delépine, the fair’s director, admitted that the first edition last year was a bit of a whirlwind, so this time around, they aimed to match Art Basel’s high standards and get closer to the art scene in the city of love.
A Fresh Approach and a Bit of a Makeover
Paris+ was supposed to be like a “tour” of the art market, according to Delépine. But it also wanted to be the spot where the French art world met the international stage. So, they spruced things up a bit by bringing in more programs focused on the public. They joined forces with fancy institutions like the Centre Pompidou and set up some art displays in the Tuileries Garden, a shift from the big installations they had last year in the Site section.
Paris+: Who’s Represented and Who’s Missing
As Paris+ tries to blend in with the French art scene, including galleries and foundations, there’s a bit of a representation challenge on their plate. Out of 154 exhibitors this year, only three galleries from Africa made the cut. It’s a pretty striking difference from the rest, and it’s got the fair thinking about how they’re doing things.
The Art World’s Velvet Rope
One of the big barriers for African galleries is the super strict selection process that most major art fairs have. The fair has this seven-person selection committee made up of dealers from the US and Europe. They rate candidates based on stuff like their history of exhibitions, how well they support artists, where they’re located, and how much they can amp up the fair’s overall quality. But this high bar can make it tough for emerging galleries to get a shot. The fair’s looking into a more flexible approach that’s more about a gallery’s projects and less about how long they’ve been around in a particular place.
Paris+: Understanding the African Art Scene
A few things are keeping African galleries from getting more spots at Paris+. One biggie is that contemporary art hasn’t fully blossomed in many African spots yet. Plus, lots of African galleries are more focused on the business side of things and less on building ties with institutions. Lastly, Art Basel is picky about who they let in.
Meet the African Galleries
The three African galleries that made it to Paris+ are all about showcasing artists with deep conceptual roots who could easily hang with the big museum shows. SMAC Gallery in Cape Town, Cécile Fakhoury with bases in Dakar and Abidjan, and Selma Feriani in Tunis are working hard to promote their artists and show off their unique perspectives. They’re all trying to bridge the gap between African artists and the global art scene.
Art as a Cultural Bridge
Feriani, in particular, is all for the fair’s high standards, seeing them as a way to make sure they bring in projects that are seriously deep. She sees the artists she represents as cultural ambassadors, connecting different parts of the world. She’s all about nurturing exchanges and mutual development between the Global South and Europe. She’s got big hopes for African contemporary art to get the global recognition it truly deserves.
So, as Paris+ figures out how to bring more voices into the conversation, it’s also reminding us how art can cross borders, blend cultures, and keep on evolving. And then, this chat about representation is a clear sign that the art world is ever-changing and full of surprises.