In the increasingly clogged art fair circuit, there is a growing phenomenon of “the best and the rest”. For general fairs, Basel, Maastricht, the Biennale or Palm Beach have become “need-to-sees” whereas many others are merely “nice-to-see”.
In addition, general fairs are having a harder time of it in today’s difficult market conditions. More specialist fairs seem to be doing better, and one is really outstanding: the annual Salon du Dessin in Paris, held this year between 24 and 31 March in Paris.
Its success may also be a pointer towards the way fairs are evolving. The appointment of Lorenzo Rudolf (see story, below) to run the dmg fairs is a sign of how things should look in the future. Fairs will not just be “cubes in a conference centre” (in the words of MArark Carr of dmg) but events that extend far beyond their white walls.
This is where the Salon du Dessin has really scored a bull’s eye. In addition to the exhibition by a group of 25 highly selected dealers, the Salon du Dessin extends it reach by offering an astonishing array of shows, lectures and visits during the week-long event.
No wonder that last year many of the top American drawings curators were shepherding groups of trustees around, trying to see everything put on by museums and institutions in the capital.
This year, the emphasis is on conservation and restoration, with visits to conservation studios in the Bibliothèque Nationale and Condé Museum in Chantilly. As always, there will be the chance to see works not generally on view to the public.
One such is the series from the Museé de la Marine, of 80 17th- and 18th-century drawings of the decoration of French ships. The Musée Condé is showing its group of 363 “Clouets”, while the Custodia Foundation is bringing some of the holdings of French 18th- and 19th-century drawings collected by Fritz Mannheimer and now in the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam. Also offering guided visits are the Bourdelle museum, Carnavalet and Cognacq Jay. Sign up in advance for all these events: website www.salondudessin.com.
Visitors will need the full week to see everything offered by the 12 participating institutes, particularly if they go down to Lyon to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, to see the Winthrop collection from the Fogg Museum–its first trip to Europe. And they will want to spend time at the fair itself, which will offer a wide range of drawings.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'What a fair should be'