Parisians and visitors alike have benefited from the largesse of these private collectors: In addition to Paris’s many state-run institutions, such as the world-famous Louvre
, the city boasts a number of private and corporate foundations, such as the Fondation Cartier
or the Fondation Louis Vuitton
, with more—including Dumas’s S17 and S18 cultural complex, set to be built on Paris’s Île Seguin—on the way.
“One cannot neglect the importance of this market,” said Jennifer Flay, FIAC’s director since 2003. “There’s a deep tradition of collecting here, and all the surrounding countries—Belgium, Germany, Italy. These people are very, very active.”
A handful of these very important collectors, who are said to drop several million at the fair each year, are rumored to browse FIAC ahead of opening hours, taking a quiet, hassle-free tour through the fair even before the dealers get there. That’s a rumor that Flay vehemently denied, although she did note that FIAC is “the only fair in the world that two very large collectors attend,” presumably a reference to Pinault and Arnault. Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek and Adrian Cheng of Hong Kong’s K11 Foundation were also in attendance this year, Flay said, and dealers said representatives from major French institutions were also present.
The institutional presence was a major draw for some of the younger galleries in the Secteur Lafayette, an upstairs section of the fair launched with the Galeries Lafayette group in 2009, following the financial crisis, to support emerging galleries. For the ten galleries selected, half of the fair costs are subsidized; housing is also provided for the gallerists throughout the fair. Without subsidies, booths at FIAC range in cost from less than €10,000 to more than €60,000, said Flay.
Aleya Hamza of Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery, participating in the Secteur Lafayette for the first time, brought two pieces by
, one video work and one large-scale photographic work, with the aim of getting them into one of the major foundations and institutions in Paris. At the upstairs booth of New York’s Lower East Side gallery Downs & Ross
, nearly all the works they offered by
had been placed in major institutional collections within the first minutes of the fair. Gallery partner Alex Ross said that these conversations had been in process, but seeing the works and their materials helped seal the deal.
“We were able to bring these conversations to fruition once decision-makers and curators were able to access the works in the flesh,” he said.
Crespo is a transgender, neurodiverse artist whose work explores “non-normative identity formation and the visualization of alternative relationships to common social categories of ability,” Ross said, inspired by Crespo’s own experience. Although the conversation in Europe around gender fluidity and neurodiversity is not as advanced as it is in the U.S., Ross said, “These are important discussions for institutions to lead,” and Crespo’s practice can help advance this dialogue. Most of the roughly half-dozen works ranged in price from $10,000 to $20,000.
The general consensus was that in addition to the local institutions, the FIAC collectors—French, American, and those from continental Europe—tend to be more sophisticated than the Frieze
crowd, which is a little looser and edgier.