FIAC draws contemporary art focus to Paris

Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:25am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - The focus of the contemporary art world moves to Paris next week when the FIAC market opens on a prayer that slim signs of economic recovery may help stabilize a sector hit badly by the financial crisis.

The giant FIAC jamboree, which follows this week's Frieze fair in London, is one of Europe's biggest contemporary art marketplaces, showcasing a vast display of works in picturesque locations around the Tuileries Gardens and the Grand Palais.

Sharply weaker sales at auctioneers Sotheby's and Christie's and a cautious tone at Frieze have killed off any hopes of a quick return to the heady days when cutting edge contemporary works were among the hottest investments around.

But just over a year after the collapse of Lehman Bros triggered a near-meltdown of the world's financial system, some cautious optimism has been returning to the market.

"What we've really been noticing over the past few months is that the genuine apprehension there was a year ago that something completely unprecedented was going to happen has died down," Jennifer Flay, FIAC's artistic director, told Reuters.

"Even though the art market has been slowed by the crisis, it's perhaps been less affected than other sectors," she said.

The record-breaking sale of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent's vast art collection this year boosted the Paris market and while it lags New York or London as a magnet for the world's super-rich collectors, it has also fallen less dramatically.

"Paris was also a bit less abnormal than the other big centers," FIAC director Martin Bethenod said. "There was less of a boom but by the same token there's been less of a bust."   Continued...