The historic Grand Palais in Paris will close for more than two years from 2020, causing upheaval in the art fair calendar with three major fairs—Fiac, Paris Photo and La Biennale Paris—forced to relocate to temporary locations.
The government cultural body, Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN), which runs the Grand Palais, says that the refurbishment of the turn-of-the-century venue is due to begin late 2020. The overhaul will result in “exceptional high-quality, generous exhibition spaces to accommodate our partners and visitors”, says Sylvie Hubac, president of the RMN.
The building is scheduled to re-open in January 2023. In the meantime, the 2021 and 2022 editions of Fiac and the Paris Photo fair will be held in temporary locations to be announced later this year. La Biennale Paris (formerly the Biennale des Antiquaires)—the jewellery, art and antiques fair held every September at the Grand Palais—will also need to move. The fair organisers were unavailable to comment on the RMN announcement.
“The Grand Palais has no equivalent in [other] Western capital cities as a central and stunning exhibition space,” says Franck Prazan, the director of the Paris-based Modern art gallery Applicat-Prazan, who participated in Fiac last year. “But it is highly important not to lose track during refurbishment. For this reason, one should absolutely avoid relocating to non-strategic locations, as was the case during the previous closure when the Biennale des Antiquaires moved to the Carrousel du Louvre [from 2000 to 2005] and Fiac to the Porte de Versailles.”
The Grand Palais closed for refurbishments from the mid 1990s to 2005. Fiac subsequently relocated to the Pavillon du Parc at the Porte de Versailles from 1999 to 2006. For the past ten years, the fair has been held at the Grand Palais.
Anne-Claudie Coric, the executive director of Galerie Templon in Paris, says: “When it moved to Porte de Versailles, foreign collectors were a little reluctant [to attend] but business was good. Going back to the Grand Palais put Fiac back on the map of key international art fairs. I am sure Fiac will keep the same pace despite the temporary closure. If Reed [the company behind Fiac] decides to create a tent in the centre of Paris, it could be ok for a couple of years. We are curious to hear their plan.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the RMN declined to comment on the potential impact on Monumenta, the biennial art installation held at the Grand Palais—the French equivalent of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall commission. She adds that Sylvie Hubac will announce further details regarding the renovation cost and schedule later this year.