French art collector François Blanc on the future of art fairs
Founder of Communic’Art Agency and collector of French art, François Blanc, whose collection includes works by Gérard Garouste, Walead Beshty, Hannah Whitaker, Gilbert & George, Ulrich Lamsfuss, Louise Lawler, Iván Argote and Jean-Michel Alberola, shares his thoughts on fairs art in the COVID-19 era.
What do you think of digital art fairs?
A show’s digital platform, such as a gallery’s online viewing room, aims to increase awareness and visibility; it is not a privileged direct sales channel. Art Paris Digital, mounted in the emergency of the pandemic, has chosen a partnership with Artsy. It was smart because this site has a much larger audience than Art Paris. But in practice, I have the impression that the Parisian salon is drowned in Artsy’s communication channels, in the mass of the many partnerships forged with all the other canceled exhibitions. Hence the possible disappointment.
Since long distance international travel is not possible at the moment, is a digital substitute better than not seeing the artwork at all? In the era of COVID-19, do you think we’ll see more online art fairs around the world in the future?
This crisis demonstrates the essential complementarity between digital and physical, in terms of communication and information. Actors who had taken the initiative and swept aside the somewhat snobbish prejudices denigrating the digitization of professions have shown that Instagram, a newsletter or a viewing room, well mastered by professionals, express an identity as well as a showcase, a place or catalog. The observation room of Templon Gallery, generated by Arteïa, is a superb example. To put it another way: it is clear that online salons will not replace physical salons, but today nothing can replace … an online salon! The same goes for online auctions.
During the first lockdown, did you buy art online at digital art fairs? Before the start of the pandemic, had you ever purchased artwork online without seeing it in person?
Buy online the work of an artist that I discover, at a very reasonable price, why not? Decide on a larger purchase because I know the artist and possibly the work, I made it. Beyond that, buying a name or a work like buying shares on the Nasdaq is not my practice. I can do without the proposed experience provided I have had prior experience in the real life of the artist’s work. I acquired a magnificent little painting by Gérard Garouste coming out of confinement after seeing it again and seeing it again on screen. Without it, I would have missed it.
How has your vision for the future of the art world changed? Do you think massive art fairs will be able to survive and remain relevant, or will we see fewer or more local / regional art fairs in the future?
The art market is bending to health imperatives and the desires of collectors in a context of major global economic crisis. The desire to acquire works is there. Mega-fairs are no longer able to impose their business plan in the coming period of scarce money and limited transport. The market has the possibility of returning to the low level of what is really necessary in terms of artistic creation. Likewise, the galleries that will survive are those that will be able to make themselves economically indispensable to artists and relevant to collectors. When the big fairs are once again possible thanks to international exchanges, we will see that they will have been partly disrupted by electronic means, of course, but also by more local fairs close to artists and collectors. For galleries in France and elsewhere, this is an opportunity to regain control of their market: interact with collectors, understand their expectations, identify artists and promote them. From this point of view, a fair like Gallerists founded by Stéphane Corréard and thematic fairs (African art, art brut, tribal art, etc.) are relevant in their fields. For operators of international formats, as we know them, it is not a question of refraining from shining globally or conquering markets from their fiefdoms, but the time has simply come to dispel the illusions of a speculative market. ! Be local and stay local to shine abroad.
In general, will you continue to buy at physical art fairs, or will you travel less and buy more at online art fairs?
The success of a show is the successful alliance between sociability and the quality of the works. Long before the pandemic, the art world was already tired of the wavering of certain parties or unimaginative exhibitions, duplicated on the successes of previous years. Regarding the future, a collector remains a collector: he will never stop buying. I look forward to a renewed offer of exhibitions, both physical and virtual. For mixing and discovery, the pleasure of meeting people, I’m ready to turn on my screen or redeem my plane ticket, starting tomorrow morning!