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The Grand Palais in Paris.

FIAC Cancellation Sparks Outrage, Divides Participants

The organizers of the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) are facing a storm of dissent over their late-breaking decision to cancel this year’s edition of the fair owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Art Newspaper reports. FIAC 2020 was to have taken place at Paris’s Grand Palais October 22–25.

Reed Expositions, which runs the fair, cited a recent surge in Covid-19 cases in France, as well as travel restrictions that would make it hard for exhibitors and fairgoers alike to attend the event. After news outlets piled on with articles critical of the cancellation, many of which specifically targeted FIAC director Jennifer Flay, more than 30 galleries, including Almine Rech, Chantal Crousel, and Emmanuel Perrotin signed an open letter of support, applauding the organizers’ decision to cancel FIAC.

The letter read in part, “What an absurdity to want to maintain the fair at any cost when we know that the conditions for doing our work won’t be met, that the risk is large and that we won’t recover costs. What a lack of ethics and irresponsible attitude to insist upon regrouping in one place [...] when we could simply wait for the situation to improve.”

“We want to explain that we can’t do the fair at the risk of people falling ill and financially endangering fragile galleries,” said FIAC committee member Niklas Svennung, a partner at Chantal Crousel.

Numerous other gallery owners expressed dismay at the cancellation, especially so close to the event date, and coming at a time when gallery sales are down 70 percent year-over-year. Many expressed a concern that the organizers had not taken into account local attendees, or those from neighboring countries.

 “I think it’s a lack of courage to cancel the fair,” said gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac. “FIAC is not only for the international but also for the French public, who would have made it a success. Genuinely, this is a missed occasion to affirm the strength of Paris.” 

Marion Papillion, president of the Professional Committee of Art Galleries, echoed Ropac’s sentiment. “FIAC’s cancellation will have consequences for the majority of Parisian galleries whether or not they would have participated. With 7,500 visitors over five days and an exponential satellite program, the direct and indirect repercussions are decisive.”

Flay, meanwhile, was decisive in defending the decision. “Our analysis of the reactions we received show that there was little appetite, locally or internationally, and it would certainly not have been possible to organize the kind of quality fair that our galleries, visitors and partners expect FIAC to be.”

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