The Basics of: The Paris Art Fairs

It’s always a thrill to visit the major Parisian art fairs. Light streams through the soaring glass ceiling of the Grand Palais several times a year, to illuminate thousands of works at FIAC (the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain), ParisPhoto and ArtParis ArtFair.

These are the biggest shows, each sporting over a hundred galleries from around the world, and tens of thousands of visitors in attendance.

And what visitors! If you’re lucky enough to catch VIP night, or opening day, you’re rewarded with celebrity sightings and a veritable couture-fest as the who’s who of the art world comes out to see and be seen.

The Grand Palais fairs present work at the higher end of the cost spectrum, award a variety of prizes, and host very international audiences. This generates a huge appetite for art among the broader art-loving population, and several fairs pick up where the biggies leave off.

Known as the “OFF” fairs, they take up residence in more intimate venues at more-or-less the same times as the big fairs. Look for names like SLICK, YIA and ShowOFF around FIAC time in October, Fotofever and NoFound during ParisPhoto in November. ArtParis ArtFair comes with the spring, during the last days of March, just after a host of drawing shows, both contemporary or antique.

While the shows may vary from year-to-year, and the quality of the works can vary widely within each show, the smaller shows are where you’re likely to find a piece you love at a reasonable price.

One of our very favourite shows is quite unknown outside of Paris. The Salon de Montrouge is a peer-juried art show that showcases artists who’ve never before exhibited solo. Many young artists, but also more reclusive artists who’ve built up a body of work, are represented individually (May to June).  It’s a great opportunity for discovery.

Summertime sees city | art insider at les Rencontres d'Arles , in Arles, France, enjoying the best of new, international photography shown in a wide variety of settings -- from industrial buildings to 12th century churches.