After more than sixty years, the last handful of which were notably scandal-ridden, the Paris Biennale is folding its tent, The Art Newspaper reports. A new as-yet-unnamed event is expected to take its place late this November.
Established in 1959 by the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA) under the auspices of André Malraux and arising out of what was previously simply known as the “Antiques Fair,” the Paris Biennale initially showed only work by artists under the age of thirty-five. Expanding to offer quantities of jewelry, antiques, watches, and art, the fair quickly became the world’s most prestigious event of its kind, a visit to which was once described as “falling down a hole into Wonderland.” In 1977, Marina Abramović and her then collaborator Ulay performed Relation in Movement at the fair, a work which comprised Ulay driving a car in circles for sixteen hours around the space they had been allotted while Abramović counted off the number of revolutions.
In its later years, however, facing stiff competition from such events as Frieze, TEFAF, and Masterpiece London, the fair began to falter. In 2016, several prominent antiques dealers who regularly exhibited at the Paris Biennale, one of which had been in business since 1875, were charged with forgery; that same year, several big-name jewelers defected, and the event began to take on a threadbare appearance, despite its still being housed in its traditional home, the elegant Grand Palais. The Paris Biennale has been held annually since that year, with attendance continuing to fall: The fair reportedly lost two-thirds of its visitors between 2012 and 2017. The 2020 iteration was pushed to 2021 owing to the continuing Covid-19 crisis, while the fair’s organizers tried but failed to come up with a new format. On February 10, Georges De Jonckheere, the event’s president, announced his resignation.
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The new event meant to take its place is said to be being produced by the fair organizers in conjunction with a private company called Procept & Manufactura, about which little is known. At present, it is planned to occupy a semipermanent structure near the Grand Palais, which is closed for reconstruction.
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