As Paris Gallery Weekend shapes up to a 7th edition in highly charged circumstances, we talk to Marie Delas, its new young director.
PHOTO ROELAND VERHALLEN BD
After working with Elle magazine (on the editorial staff), Philippe Starck's studio, the Sydney Biennial and the Carmignac foundation, Marie Delas has not only a fine mind but plenty of valuable experience too. At 31, she has headed Paris Gallery Weekend – one of the most popular events in the capital's cultural schedule – ever since its founder, gallery owner Marion Papillon, handed over the reins after becoming President of the Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art in December. Marie tells us her thoughts on crisis communication and the digital age.
As we approach this 7th edition, how do you see the development of Paris Gallery Weekend?
When I joined Marion Papillon in 2016, it was still called Choices Collectors Weekend and featured a group exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo as well as a gallery circuit. We have changed the name and visual identity and refocused the message: promoting the art experience through galleries, and aiming to reach an ever-wider audience of collectors and art lovers. We are also working in a more collaborative way, as we have had a board made up of gallery owners helping us for the last two and a half years.
How has the crisis affected the event's organisation, apart from its postponement?
We have had to abandon various plans for developing its international and festive side. We have also started up collaborations with the Brussels and Madrid Gallery Weekends and institutions in Canada to attract foreign collectors and curators. The idea is to create further versions of the Weekend in other countries over the next few years. We had also planned to stage a major festival instead of the traditional gala dinner. So we have rethought the event, altering our VIP services and eliminating everything non-essential or considered a gathering – exhibition previews, cocktails, tours of partner institutions and so on. In a way, it means we can now focus attention on the core of the event: galleries, pure and simple.
How did you manage to reenergise them in this disastrous season?
What the event has been promoting since the outset – attracting audiences back to galleries – has taken on even more meaning with the crisis. This can be seen in the fact that paradoxically, it has never brought so many galleries together before: nearly 60. The circumstances have conspired in our favour, oddly enough, as the fair calendar is now pretty sparse right until September. We have also decided to halve the participation fees from €3,000 to €1,500. Our reason for maintaining the event is chiefly to provide support to galleries.
The visitors are sure to be mainly from this country. How are you planning to compensate for the lack of foreign collectors?
This is an occasion to focus our efforts on French art lovers. Before the Weekend, we are offering two free online training sessions to give new collectors the means to be independent. We have begun a partnership with the Art Across Europe network, in close collaboration with the Gallery Weekends of Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid and Milan, so that we can unite our forces. And we have considerably boosted the partnership we began last year with the Artsy platform. A week before the Weekend, our galleries can make a comprehensive presentation on the platform of the works they are showing: a preview enabling collectors to discover our offer online over a month. This system provides an international showcase for Paris galleries and helps us make the digital side work hand in hand with the real world. The fact that we share the same microsite developed for high profile fairs is very satisfying. Paris Photo, Drawing Now and A Round Video Art Fair will also contribute to the thematic selections of our exhibitions.
Digital technology seems to be becoming the dominant medium for the art sphere. How do you see the future of the online market?
I think the crisis has merely accelerated the process. But Paris Gallery Weekend is still a physical event first and foremost; nothing can replace standing in front of works and talking with the artists or chatting to a gallery owner. The real and the virtual are two complementary experiences. In terms of digital creativity, the art world still has a long way to go compared with other industries like fashion or music, so it will gain from emulating much more sophisticated payment systems for artists.
How is the programme shaping up for 2020?
The large majority of projects have been disrupted. We wanted to highlight French talents, who initially represented 40% of the 140 artists exhibited – figures that have obviously changed. However, we will have the pleasure of rediscovering Jeremy Demester, Loris Gréaud and Tursic & Mille with Max Hetzler, Nathalie Boutey with Magnin, and Olga Theuriet with Arnaud Lefebvre. Though the content will probably be less exclusive than in previous years [with some exhibitions opened before lockdown simply being extended - Ed.], a cheerful note is dominating the programme, as witness the titles of group shows: Printemps (Spring) at Ceysson & Bénétière, Summer at Almine Rech, Oh les beaux jours (Sunny days) at Michel Rein, Au bout du plongeoir, le grand bain (The big pool beyond the diving board) at Binôme, and Looking forward at Nathalie Obadia.
Which artists have particularly attracted your eye?
I'm very keen to see Joachim Bandau's drawings again with Maubert, and those of Chourouk Hriech with Anne-Sarah Bénichou. I've also been delighted to discover a painting by Gil Heitor Cortesão (at Suzanne Tarasieve) of a place I really like: the Bondi Icebergs pool in Sydney.