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The week in art news – Art Basel owner bumps FIAC from its slot with a new Paris fair

Plus: Art Basel Hong Kong postponed to May | France to restitute 15 artworks looted by the Nazis | Sotheby’s to sponsor provenance research at the Louvre for three years | and Bridget McConnell to retire as chief executive of Glasgow Life

30 January 2022

It was announced this week that MCH Group, the owner of the Art Basel fairs, is to take over the slot normally reserved for the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) in October at the Grand Palais in Paris. Last year, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais (RMN-GP), which manages the Grand Palais and its temporary replacement the Grand Palais Éphémère, announced that it was putting up for the tender the slots of both FIAC and Paris Photo, which is held in November. The new MCH-managed fair will be devoted to contemporary art, but does not yet have a name. Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel, told the Art Newspaper the new fair will ‘definitely not be Art Basel Paris’. RX France has issued a statement describing the decision as ‘a first that impacts the entire ecosystem associated with French contemporary art but also questions the programming of events at the Grand Palais – and has mentioned the possibility of a legal challenge.

In more fair news, Art Basel Hong Kong, scheduled for March, has been postponed until 27–29 May (preview days: 25 and 26), owing to the rise of coronavirus cases. The fair had already announced its contingency plan for the same venue, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. In a statement issued by the fair its director Adeline Ooi said, ‘Given the current government guidelines in Hong Kong, it has become clear that moving the fair to May is the right decision.’

On Tuesday, reports ArtNews, the National Assembly in France passed a bill allowing 15 works of art looted by the Nazis or sold by their owners under duress to be returned to the heirs of their owners from national collections. It is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in mid February. The works include paintings by Klimt and Chagall. Rosalyn Bachelot, the French minister for culture said, that the continued dispossession of the art was the denial of the humanity [of these Jewish families], their memory, their memories’.

Also in France, the Louvre and Sotheby’s have announced a three-year deal, reports the Art Newspaper, in which the auction house will sponsor the museum’s research into the provenance of items acquired by the Louvre between 1933 and 1945. The Louvre says the arrangement will help fund research that ‘may lead to restitutions [incorporating] digitisation, the organisation of seminars, study days, and publications’. Sotheby’s restitution department, which was founded in 1997, will lend a helping hand.

Bridget McConnell has announced that she is retiring as chief executive of Glasgow Life in May. McConnell has run the charity responsible for delivering culture and sport in the city since 2007, during which time she has overseen the refurbishment of the Kelvingrove Museum, the building of the Riverside Museum, and most recently the renovation of the Burrell Collection, due to open in March. McConnell was also instrumental in Glasgow’s bid for and hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

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