Art Cologne’s director Daniel Hug has once again publicly criticised Art Basel’s “colonialism” following its parent company MCH’s acquisition of Fiac’s tenancy at the Grand Palais last week.
The Swiss company plans to start a new art fair in the Paris venue this October, over the dates normally occupied by Fiac—the French fair is now searching for a new venue.
On Friday, Hug posted on his personal Instagram account: “Loving how everybody just thinks Art Basel will make their city the centre of the world... Let’s look back at all the flops that emerged from the MCH Group:
1. Art Basel Cities Buenos Aires… how many millions did Buenos Aires invest in this again?
2. India Art Fair - bought then sold…
3. Art Duesseldorf - was supposed to replace Art Cologne… didn’t succeed, but slowed us down considerably.
4. Art SG… To be seen, sure it will be better than Lorenzo Rudolf’s Art Stage Singapore”.
Hug continued: “So, sorry to Paris, sorry to @marionpapillongalerie and the @comitegaleries very sorry to @jennifer.flay I hate to break the news to you, but MCH Group is only interested in making money and keeping Art Basel the number one fair worldwide, [Marc] Spiegler already said they will not call it Art Basel Paris, we in the Rhineland also heard this back in 2017 when the MCH Group started the Art Düsseldorf. Ultimately it means Paris will never have an art fair of equal stature to Basel ever, MCH Group will never permit this, it is just not in their interest. Besides, 10 million euros is peanuts for James Murdoch to kill the most viable competition.”
He added: “PS. They will also raise the booth rental by 20 to 30%”.
Today, an Art Basel spokesperson told The Art Newspaper that this rumoured price rise is untrue and the fair company has "no intention of increasing the square metre price [for the Paris fair] in that way."
The spokesperson adds: "We have every intention of investing equally in both fairs [Paris and Basel] and believe there is ample room for both shows to thrive."
Hug is not known for holding his punches when it comes to criticising Art Basel. In 2017, after MCH took a stake in the then new Art Dusseldorf, he told the German press agency DPA: “When the Swiss start offshoots all over the world, then they have a power over the art market that represses regional culture. That is also a form of colonialism. Art is diverse. We should not destroy it.” He added that Art Cologne “exists to promote the German art market. The Swiss fair association, however, only goes for commercial success, because there are not many Swiss galleries. It has no responsibility for a particular region.”
In response, Marc Spiegler, the global director of Art Basel, argued that auction houses, not Art Basel, were the real threat to galleries: “Good fairs are good for galleries and good for the establishment of a collector community, regardless of who organises them.”