Meeting with Guillaume Piens, General Curator of Art Paris Art Fair

Guillaume Piens © Chiara Santarelli / nhcomm

La Chaux-de-Fonds, 2011 © Matthieu Gafsou / Galerie Eric Mouchet - Galerie Zlotowski

Made in Palace 326/8, 1980 © Tania Mouraud / Galerie Rabouan Moussion

Found Paintings #22, 2017 © Alexandra Hedison / H Gallery

Révolution de Chopin, 2016 © Li Chevalier / Galerie Albert Benamou - Véronique Maxé

Guillaume Piens © Chiara Santarelli / nhcomm
La Chaux-de-Fonds, 2011 © Matthieu Gafsou / Galerie Eric Mouchet - Galerie Zlotowski
Made in Palace 326/8, 1980 © Tania Mouraud / Galerie Rabouan Moussion
Found Paintings #22, 2017 © Alexandra Hedison / H Gallery
Révolution de Chopin, 2016 © Li Chevalier / Galerie Albert Benamou - Véronique Maxé

The twentieth edition of Art Paris Art Fair opens its doors to professionals tomorrow, for the occasion, we met Guillaume Piens, the curator general of one of the most important contemporary art fairs in Paris.

Mowwgli : 20 years of Art Paris Art Fair, a symbolic date, a subjective look through 20 artists. How did François Piron’s profile meet your objectives and how was the selection made?

Guillaume Piens: On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Art Paris Art Fair, whose original vocation was to support the French art market, we developed the theme of this subjective view on the French scene with a selection of 20 artists among the projects of the participating galleries operated by the exhibition curator and art critic François Piron.

We chose François Piron for his independence of purpose, his capacity for analysis and his interest in freelance artists or on the margins of dominant movements which corresponds well to the spirit of discovery or rediscovery of Art Paris Art Fair.

At our request, François Piron wrote a background analysis text on the 20 artists selected with the idea of producing a more complex and diversified cartography of the French scene beyond the instituted narratives.

For the selection, there was first of all a research work which focused on singular artists, unclassifiable and on the margins of the dominant movements from the 1960s to today, followed by appointments in the galleries to convince them to participate in the project.

We are very happy with the result which emphasizes figures to rediscover like Frédéric Pardo at the Loevenbruck Gallery, the psychedelic Paris dandy of the 1970s, or Hessie at the Arnaud Lefebvre Gallery, woman of colour and immigrant, precursor in the 1970s of a feminist art, or discoveries like Vincent Gicquel, young artist presented in solo show by the Thomas Bernard Cortex Athletico Gallery.

Mowwgli : What is your vision on the French scene in terms of international visibility and artists’ strategy?

G. P. : We know that French artists lack international visibility because they are not supported enough, unlike other countries, by their own collectors and institutions. It took twenty years after his death for César to obtain a retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. However, some clearings are emerging. French artists were in the spotlight in New York last March with a retrospective of François Morellet at the DIA art foundation, Parmentier at the Galerie Ortuzar projects, and Martin Barré at the very influential Matthew Marks, not to mention the opening of Emmanuel Perrotin’s new gallery in the Lower East side with a major exhibition by Jean-Michel Othoniel. Macron effect or not, there is a revival of interest at the international level for France with a new dynamic institutional landscape which is taking shape for Paris dominated by private initiative (opening in March of the Lafayette Anticipations Foundation which will be followed in 2019 by that of the Pinault Foundation on the Bourse du Commerce).

Mowwgli: Country in the spotlight Switzerland with a high density of cultural networks and quality of offer: Which components wished to highlight Karine Tissot in her”Panorama”?

Switzerland is at the origin of some of the most unique artistic currents and creators of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Swiss art scene is prolific and diverse, with a taste for purity and offbeat humour, in the image of a country at the crossroads of different European traditions and cultures. It is also a very decentralized scene where each city, from Zurich to Basel, from Geneva to Bern, cultivates its autonomy and difference.

In addition to the presence of a hundred artists, of different generations, represented as well by Swiss as European galleries, the video program, conceived by the guest curator Karine Tissot, privileges Swiss women artists, the appearance of this new medium in the 1970s coinciding with the female suffrage introduced at the federal level in February 1971. Similarly, the digital projections on the façade highlight a generation of highly innovative artists such as Camille Scherrer, Alan Bogana, Yves Netzhammer. Three artists who represent, by their origin, three different cultural regions of Switzerland (Camille Scherrer for French-speaking Switzerland, Alan Bogana for Italian-speaking Switzerland, Yves Netzhammer for German-speaking Switzerland).

Echoing the in-situ practices highly prized by contemporary Swiss artists, the north and south monumental walls of the nave will host four all over wall compositions designed specifically for the fair, including a photo-mural project by Christoph Rüttimann presented by May 36 Gallery. Finally, as Switzerland is the country in Europe with the highest density of collections and foundations, Karine Tissot invited the Collection d’Art Helvetia, a collection exclusively focused on Swiss artists with more than 1 700 works. The exhibition”Panorama”, conceived by Karine Tissot, focuses on her latest acquisitions and about forty little known artists in France. It tells in three parts the importance in Swiss art of line and drawing, the relationship to landscape.

Mowwgli: Promises, and the Prize”Art is alive, promises”: What phenomena have you observed in terms of emergence since the creation of this sector?

G. P. : Today there is a globality of art. Artists come from all horizons and from increasingly distant territories. The Promesses sector highlights scenes not very represented in Paris as was the case in 2017 with galleries coming from Angola, Lagos or Bogota.

Concerning artists, their practice is more and more interdisciplinary. I notice a return to the profession; drawing, painting, ceramics or textiles for example. Many address issues related to identity and belonging, the relationship to the body and intimacy, memory and the forgetfulness of history in an information society dominated by speed and the present, the relationship to the urban and the destruction of the landscape.

Mowwgli : What are the keys to the success of Art Paris Art Fair, in this spring of Parisian arts and how do you see the future?

G. P. : The main success of Art Paris Art Fair is to have today a very particular identity: to promote the new horizons of the international creation, to explore the scenes little or rarely represented in Paris, to support the French and European creation of the post-war period to our days, to be an accessible fair to the passionate ones of modern and contemporary art.

Its success is also based on the hard work of a motivated team of about ten people who work year-round and whom I would like to salute.

Since its complete redesign in 2012 with a new artistic and strategic direction, Art Paris Art Fair has become the rendezvous for modern and contemporary art in spring. The twentieth edition promises to be a most gratifying one!

Art Paris Art Fair
From 5 to 8 April 2018

Grand Palais

Avenue Winston Churchill

75008 Paris

Mowwgli is media partner of the event.

Marie-Elisabeth de La Fresnaye

After training in literature and art history, Marie de la Fresnaye entered the art market in Drouot and embarked on events. In parallel to several years in business in the field of editorial commun...

View Profile and Articles

More Contemporary art articles


#SAINT-PAUL DE VENCE The love of art but also friendship shapes the soul of a collection. This is then revealed through these mysterious signs inherited from a story, an encounter and feelings that…
"Let's create a destination around contemporary drawing" Carine Tissot welcomes us at the Drawing Hotel After joining Christine Phal in 2009 in the Drawing Now adventure, the mother and daughter decided to add…
I like to think of jaming as an invitation to the sensory ecologies of the different species... opening a dialogue, while listening to the possible resonances that emerge from it Tomàs Saraceno, interview…