Paris Internationale — a killing time at the fair with new dynamism
The cutting-edge event challenges the traditional models
by Anny Shaw, October 11 2019
Work by Chris Korda for the Church of Euthanasia at Goswell Road gallery
Five years after its launch, the cutting-edge contemporary art
fair Paris Internationale is cementing its place in the French capital’s
art scene. “Not many people thought the project would survive, back in
2015, but here we are. It’s enormously satisfying,” says Clément
Delépine, the fair’s co-director.
In establishing a more domestic
alternative to the standard art fair, Delépine and his co-director
Silvia Ammon have carved out a niche by giving a platform to emerging
commercial galleries and a new wave of independent spaces.
visit, the fair is billed as a non-profit venture. Delépine explains,
“It’s a commercial enterprise, but it doesn’t make a profit. All
proceeds are reinvested into the organisation for the following year.
It’s a business model that’s oriented towards collectivity — sharing
resources, counting on goodwill and benevolence.” The fair, for example,
relies heavily on voluntary work.
Until now Paris Internationale has been nomadic, occupying buildings
undergoing renovation or changing hands to keep the budget down. This
year for the first time the event is returning to rue Alfred de Vigny, a
plum spot opposite the Grand Palais where Fiac, Paris’s grande dame of
fairs, is held concurrently. “But,” Ammon says, “we will definitely have
to move again next year.” Delépine notes that venues are usually not
finalised before the spring of each year, which, he says, can be
“stressful, but ultimately rewarding when it comes off”.
costs down for exhibitors has been crucial. “We offer all our exhibitors
an inclusive fee, which covers furniture, internet, insurance, as well
as free off-site storage for art and crates — all the areas where
traditional fairs make a margin,” Ammon says. Booth prices range from
€4,000 to €7,000.
The non-profit component of the fair has steadily grown since
its inception, and this year eight independent and artist-run
organisations have been selected to exhibit alongside 42 commercial
galleries. In Delépine’s view, “It is important for us to acknowledge
the contribution these spaces make to the contemporary art ecosystem in
Paris and beyond.”
One such organisation is 650mAh, a project
space located inside MIST vape shop in Hove, East Sussex, which is
recreating a vape lounge at the fair. Communal “de-stress and relax”
vape sessions will be held daily; e-liquids designed by Paul Barsch
& Tilman Hornig, Débora Delmar and Lloyd Corporation, among others,
are available for €20 a bottle. According to a press blurb, 650mAh is
interested in the “intersection between vaping as a commercial
contemporary technology and noncommercial contemporary art”.
Returning for the second year, their co-founder Tabitha
Steinberg says they were drawn to the fair’s “untraditional”
environment. “We like that we are forced to navigate a domestic space.
It makes the install harder but an interesting challenge,” she says.
While the main galleries are given white cube-style booths, the non-profits
set up shop in the more unexpected spaces, quite often the bathrooms and
kitchens. Goswell Road, a Parisian gallery named after the north London
thoroughfare, is transforming a former Jacuzzi into a merchandise store
for the Church of Euthanasia, a controversial eco-conscious project
founded by the transgender artist Chris Korda in 1992. The church has
been decried as a dangerous cult (its main motto is Save the Planet —
Kill Yourself) but, with the climate crisis deepening, Korda’s project
is gaining traction. “Greta Thunberg and the younger generation have
really changed the game,” says Anthony Stephinson, an artist and
co-founder of Goswell Road.
He describes the church as an
“environmental educational group”. Stephinson adds, “They preach that
the best thing we can do is to kill ourselves. It’s about stopping your
lineage.” The other three pillars of the religion are abortion, sodomy
Korda’s work has not really been shown in an art
context. At the fair, Goswell Road is selling T-shirts (€25), stickers
(€5) and badges (€2.50). The artist is also creating new pieces to
reflect his position today. One new design reads: “Winning The War On
Korda’s message resonates in other contexts too. As Brexit
threatens to dent London’s position as the cultural capital of Europe,
Paris is increasingly being touted as a viable alternative. Stephinson
welcomes the arrival of mega galleries from London and elsewhere. He
says: “It’s great David Zwirner is opening in Paris, it means other
interest follows. That can only benefit the emerging scene, which Paris
Internationale has been so instrumental in growing.”
meanwhile, detects a “new dynamism” in Paris. “No one is happy about
what’s happening in the UK right now, but there is a sense that this is
now the moment for us,” he says. The director is keen to stress the
global outlook of the fair, however. “Only 15 per cent are French
exhibitors, so it’s really geared towards the outside, there’s a
European ideal to it,” he says. Times like these call for radical
solutions, and, in the art world at least, Paris Internationale is
delivering just that.