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Art in Paris: Trailing or Trailblazing in Sales

Last week the waifish women of the world descended on Paris to slink down the runways and turn the heads of wealthy fashion plates and drooling “modelizers” during the annual Fashion Week. This past weekend and through today, another form takes center stage as art lovers stroll the aisles of this year’s 32nd Edition of the FIAC International Contemporary Art Show of 220 galleries at the Paris Expo, Halls 4 and 5, Porte de Versailles.

Internationally known French artist Niki de Saint-Phalle’s bigger than life bathing beauty stands out and up from the other sculptural works, but the show is filled with creative expression that is sure to get your attention. Good news for Paris, as the city wants to win its status back as a leader in the art market. At one time, with artists colonies in Montmartre and Montparnasse, Paris was once a center for sales and ateliers of young artists, such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso.

Shockingly, Paris is the weakest contemporary art market in Europe and Parisian art is being exported to bigger markets, such as New York and London. Because of it, some of the biggest galleries aren’t in the show — New York’s Pace-Wildenstein or London’s White Cube. Twenty-five new galleries are strutting their stuff in the show — 19 of which are foreign.

Here’s a statistic from a recent study by to make you reel: in the U.S., works by artists born after 1960 have an average selling price of 58,607 euros, while in France, works by the new generation go for only 3,023 euros.

In spite of Paris’ poor reputation, sales have been reported to being quite good, particularly the Chinese artists. I found a painting of a woman in red, salmon pink and winter green filling one large wall to be the most arresting piece of all at the show. Her eyes pointed in opposite directions; my own eyes trying desperately to move them together, and the color electrifying.

One reason I have always believed Paris to trail in art sales is the overabundance of art available to anyone and everyone, free to the public or very inexpensively. Exhibits abound, both in museums, galleries and in the open. The city opens its doors regularly to allow everyone to enjoy art with no entry fee (La Nuit Blanche, for example). Another reason might be indicative of the French culture. In a non-materialistic culture where “money” is a dirty word and opulent behavior is disdained, it’s no wonder there is so little need for the average Frenchman to own great art.

Still, Paris is a Mecca for aspiring artists from all over the world — a city that inspires creative and soulful thinking, even if the artists’ works must be shipped abroad to be financially rewarded.

For more information and to plan your visit for today or next year, visit

A la prochaine…








Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

To witness one of the most astounding collections of photo-journalist works, visit the Jeu de Paume – Hôtel de Sully exhibition of Frenchman Pierre Verger’s photos from Africa, Asia and South America on until December 24th. Visit for more information.

P.P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadians celebrating Turkey-Day today!

P.P.P.S. Don’t forget to come say hello tomorrow afternoon at Parler Paris Après Midi. See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for details.


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