Art Galleries Show Confidence in The French Market
Paris has become an international platform for exchange and experimentation.
According to The Art Market Report 2023 published by Art Basel and UBS, France is the world’s fourth largest art market after the United States, the United Kingdom and China, with a sales volume approaching USD5 billion in 2022, an all-time record and equivalent to a 7 percent market share. This dynamism is attracting ever more international players, seduced by the artistic aura and multicultural offerings of the Parisian marketplace.
“In over 50 years of existence, 2022 has been our best year ever,” asserts Daniel Templon, founder of the eponymous gallery in 1966 which boasts two spaces in the Centre Pompidou district, one in Brussels and another in New York that opened last year. “2023 seems to be following the same path,” agrees Anne-Claudie Coric, the gallery’s director.
Most players in the French art market agree that by 2022, Paris had become the most attractive of European capitals even amid unstable geopoliticals, post COVID-19 difficulties, inflation and the uncertainties of war in Ukraine. Although London remains the European stronghold for auctions, Brexit has led to several gallerists to turn to the French capital, following the example of David Zwirner who opened a space in the Marais district in 2019. “Brexit changes the game,” Zwirner told the Financial Times at the time, “… my London gallery will be a British gallery, not a European one. I am European and I would like a European gallery, too.”
Zwirner’s artists have been visible as part of the exhibition programs of a number of Parisian institutions, including Franz West and Alice Neel at the Centre Pompidou; Gordon Matta-Clark at the Jeu de Paume; Josef and Anni Albers at the Musée d’Art Moderne; and Joan Mitchell at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
London’s White Cube followed suit, arriving on Avenue Matignon in 2020. Over the past 2 years, a wave of international gallerists has chosen Paris as their European base, encouraged by the growing number of collectors and artists basing themselves in the city. This includes young talents such as Robin Kid, Iván Argote, Bianca Bondi, Giulia Andreani, and Joël Andrianomearisoa alongside established figures such as Jim Dine and Anselm Kiefer, with David Hockney having opted for Normandy.
“In terms of the gallery market, Paris ranks second in the world,” says gallery owner Nathalie Obadia, author of Géopolitique de l’art contemporain (published in 2019 and expanded in 2023). “French collectors are active and important, and artists are always very happy to exhibit in Paris,” says Obadia. “Today, collectors know that they will find the same quality in Paris as in New York. Paris has become more international as we saw with the first edition of Paris + par Art Basel, and we’re seeing a real rise in quality.”
Emmanuel Perrotin agrees, noticing a new local dynamism: “If a fair like Art Basel has chosen to move to Paris, it’s down to the exceptional dynamism and diversity of the French cultural scene, both public and private. It’s a much more open and collaborative world than it used to be. That’s also the strength of Paris!”
It was recently announced that Colony IM would be buying a significant stake in Perrotin’s gallery, facilitating the further growth of the business internationally. “I’ve always favoured collective decision making, including in the choice of artists,’ says Perrotin. “What I lacked was a shared decision-making process when it came to the business side of things: it’s a real blessing to have professionals whose job it is to work alongside us! The gallery is about to move into another dimension.”
Moreover, the The Art Market Report 2023 points to a “considerable uplift in the segment from USD500,000 to USD1 million,’ And France now seems perfectly placed to capture this market segment.
In recent years, the French capital has stood out for its unrivalled cultural offering. The Fondation Louis Vuitton, the Bourse du Commerce — Pinault Collection, and a growing interest in contemporary art by the city’s major museums are of just a few examples. Adding to this, collector Laurent Dumas’s Fondation Emerige, which focuses on the French art scene, is due to open an art center on Île Seguin in 2026. Not only a first-rate marketplace, Paris has become a platform for exchange, conversation and experimentation with strong international influence.
These factors have prompted major French galleries to solidify their base in the capital by opening additional spaces around Avenue Matignon (including Mennour, Perrotin, Galerie Nathalie Obadia and Almine Rech) while powerful foreign galleries are opening Parisian branches. This expansion phenomenon was highlighted in The Art Market Report 2023 with nine percent of global dealers surveyed operating in multiple locations, almost double from five percent in 2021.
It is a trend noted by even Clément Delépine, director of Paris+ par Art Basel: “France is a market whose global share has risen from four to seven percent in 20 years. Today, 50 percent of art transactions in Europe take place in France. Concrete signs of this include the number of galleries opening or expanding. Gallerists show confidence in the French market.”
Newcomers to the city also include Berlin’s Esther Schipper who opened a space at 16 Place Vendôme in October 2022 and believes Paris is on the way to regaining the major role it once had. Galleries Hauser & Wirth and Mendes Wood DM will also be opening new spaces in time for the second edition of Paris+ par Art Basel this October, the former on Rue François-Ier and the latter on Place des Vosges. For these three latest arrivals, housed in historic buildings, the idea is to open unique and luxurious venues steeped in history and in keeping with the French art of living.
Marc Payot, President of Hauser & Wirth, is quick to point out that their future Paris space will be “unrivalled in elegance”: “Paris is home to a unique and sophisticated public, an incredible concentration of outstanding museums and foundation and a community of ambitious and astute collectors and patrons — ideal audiences for a rigorous, conceptual program like ours,” says Payot. “What’s more, Paris has inspired our artists to such an extent — from those born here like Louise Bourgeois and Pierre Huyghe to those from elsewhere like Barbara Chase-Riboud, Takesada Matsutani, Alina Szapocznikow, and Ed Clark — that their careers would be almost unimaginable without it.”
Pedro Mendes, a co-founder of Mendes Wood DM also talks about a special relationship with Paris and artists based in France. “Over the years, we have developed a very close bond with French cultural institutions and collections that have believed in our program and supported the careers of many of our artists,” says Mendes. “[This new space is] our chance to give back and recognise a place that has been so generous with us.” Mendes and co-founder Matthew Wood also emphasise the appeal of Paris-based fashion and luxury brands, many of which “are committed to contemporary art via collections or collaborations.” Their only concern? “The impending art tax which threatens the continued growth of the art market.” The pair refers here to the VAT rate in France currently at 5.5 percent, the lowest in Europe being threatened by a new European directive set to take effect in 2025. The issue is currently being examined by the French government in collaboration with a working group of art professionals, including the director of Paris+ par Art Basel Delépine.
While the dealer Franck Prazan (a member of the Art Basel selection committee) points to a contraction in sales on the secondary market in the first half of 2023 due to a scarcity of supply, he also notes that the great French painters are on a roll. Artists such as Pierre Soulages, Jean Fautrier, Georges Mathieu, Serge Poliakoff, and Nicolas De Staël (the focus of a retrospective opening in September at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris) have seen their prices reassessed, an “upward movement that goes hand in hand with the refocusing of the Paris market,” says Prazan. His gallery, which specialises in the post-war School of Paris artists, will celebrate its 30th anniversary this fall with a presentation of seven key paintings by Jean Hélion at Paris+ par Art Basel.
A version of this article was first published on artbasel.com
Julie Chaizemartin is a journalist and art critic based in Paris. She is a regular contributor to Transfuge, Artpress and Le Quotidien de l’Art.
All images are from Paris+ par Art Basel 2022, courtesy of Art Basel.
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