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Asia

Billing itself as “the first human sized fair in France and Europe for contemporary Asian Art“, Asia Now opened at the Espace Pierre Cardin on 19 October. Twenty-one galleries from 10 countries on two floors , the timing couldn’t be better. Just after Frieze, just before FIAC , record breaking auctions fueling hopes of finding the “new, new thing”.

Christie’s is expanding its Asian department here (as reported in an earlier article in AAD), several of the auction houses in Paris are planning specialist contemporary sales, Asian visitors to Paris are rising yearly. The big question is: Will this translate into increased sales across the spectrum of contemporary Asian art. In other words, will collectors of say, contemporary Chinese art go on to buy contemporary Vietnamese, or Cambodian or Thai art?

Screen Shot 2015 10 21 at 21.28.50Artist: Eko Nugroho, Embroidery, ARNDT Fine Art

Asia Now was hot – in more ways than one (note to self: no more jackets and heels – t-shirts and flats only!). The VIP lounge was notably empty – but as I quickly discovered, that was because the “VIP’s” were out on the floor. Champagne glasses in hand (well, yes I will, thank you!) There was a special exhibit by the Mimi Ullens Foundation (from Brussels) which does admirable work with cancer sufferers in 3 countries (and has a fine art contemporary Asian collection). At least one gallery exhibition was being arranged as I wandered (lots of gallery-owners there). Works were selling rather briskly in the 15,000-20,000 Euro level. For larger price tags and larger pieces (think installations) there was still fact-finding to be done.

Why were exhibitors there? Several reasons. They liked the neighbors – exhibitors I spoke to felt the level of the fair was high, and the space was intimate enough to really communicate to collectors (although there was a little grumbling about not having quite enough space). The price was right. Compared to FIAC, exhibition space was a bargain, and except for one poor gallery from China on the second floor, whose works never arrived, the general feeling was that installation was relatively easy. Security? Couldn’t be better. Espace Pierre Cardin is right across from the American Embassy…you could create an installation of gold bricks on Avenue Gabriel in perfect safety.

And there were plenty of promotions to draw visitors as well. The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome Hotel (a pretty spiffy place to have a refreshing beverage) had a special project with Korean artists during the fair – and also celebrating 130 years of diplomatic relations. Along with a pretty impressive schedule of lectures, studio, museum and private collection visits, collectors had a pretty full dance card – and that was even before FIAC opened its doors.

Of course, no matter how enticing the work, the real success of a fair – any fair – is the bottom line. Will enough collectors turn up to Asia Now – and take out their credit cards? Will museums show up? Will galleries come back next year?