We meet the Director of Paris + by Art Basel a few days before the opening of the 2nd Edition
He is one of the most high-profile figures in the art scene, and paradoxically one of the most discreet. Clément Delépine took the helm of Paris+ by Art Basel in 2022, when the Basel-based group won the bid for the RMN (Réunion des Musées Nationaux) – Grand Palais. While he was born in Paris, he grew up in Switzerland before moving to the United States, where he acquired extensive experience. A few days before the event, which runs from 19 to 22 October at the Grand Palais Éphémère, he shared some of his precious time with us.
«In comparison to other European centres, Paris is steadily strenghtening its position on the international art scene.»
What are your earliest artistic memories?
Clément Delépine :
” Family Sundays, we would go to the Louvre or other cultural institutions. Visiting all the major museums is an essential activity during childhood. However, it is only later in life that one realises the importance of being exposed to art from an early age. In Switzerland, I enrolled to study sociology and history, and I even started a thesis. The library I used to go to was actually right next door to a museum, where I spent most of my time. I also hung out with students from the Ecole Cantonale des Arts de Lausanne (ECAL). By that time, I already had a strong feeling that art was something that spoke to me. Or at least more than my studies did… “
How did things play out?
Clément Delépine :
“My friends launched small arts magazines and I wrote my first articles for them. I was enjoying this new journalistic role, which earned me a visa to the United States to pursue my language studies. Once in New York, I met the woman who was to become my wife. Our plan was to stay and live there. I managed to secure an internship at the Swiss Institute. Then I worked my way up the ladder: I became Gallery Manager, then curator and, finally, artistic director. It was during this period that I began working with artists. Later on, we felt like a change of scenery. Our choice was Paris. By chance, a friend of mine who had just founded Paris Internationale, an itinerant fair for young galleries promoting emerging art, offered me a position as Director. Then, in 2022, Art Basel won the bid from the Réunion de Musées Nationaux for a 7-year period, and I joined Marc Spiegler’s management team”.
What makes Paris + so unique?
Clément Delépine :
“As you know, Art Basel has existed for over 50 years in Basel, as well as in Miami for 20 years, and in Hong Kong for 10 years. While these three locations are very dynamic, Paris+ by Art Basel enjoys an unrivalled cultural environment. The French capital is home to legendary museums and artists, a dense gallery network, prestigious foundations and, since the 80s, a supportive government policy for the arts. What makes Paris+ by Art Basel so unique is Paris. It’s a global city, where luxury, gastronomy, fashion and top industries all intersect. This soft power is set to further enhance the cultural network that has been on the rise for the past 20 years. Our aim is to build a bridge where all these players converge”.
What can we expect to discover at this year’s event?
Clément Delépine :
To begin with, I’d like to stress one initiative: our desire to make art accessible for those who can’t afford to attend the actual fair. One of our priorities for this public programme was to bring art to the very heart of the city, free of charge, and for everyone to enjoy. You can see for yourself: 25 works on display in the Jardin des Tuileries, Urs Fischer in the Place Vendôme, Jessica Warboys in the Chapelle des Petits Augustins at the Beaux-Arts de Paris, Daniel Buren and Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Palais d’Iéna, and Sheila Hicks in the forecourt of the Institut de France: art will be everywhere.
As for the Grand Palais Éphémère, besides the astounding amount of exhibitors, I’d like to highlight two unprecedented projects, which took several years to organise. Firstly, the Parisian gallery Applicat-Prazan will be presenting seven paintings by Jean Hélion, deemed to be some of the most representative pieces of his work, which have never been exhibited before as they were owned by private collectors. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these works. Secondly, New York gallery P.P.O.W. will present a dialogue between Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz. This conversation between the two artists, who were muse to each other and died of AIDS in the 80s, also reveals a great deal about the persecution that the homosexual community suffered at the time. It is both a photographic work and a testimony, which I found utterly moving. Lastly, I noticed that the video game world was significantly present among many of the exhibiting galleries. Technology has always been part of the creative process for artists – Warhol had already worked with IBM on the very first diskettes at the time – but the technological innovations introduced by video games seem to have opened up a new and vast field of artistic creation.
Urs Fischer, Wave, 2023
Zanele Muholi, The Politics of Black Silhouettes, 2023
Claudia Comte, Five Marble Leaves, 2023
Interview by Nicolas Salomon
Photo Interview: Jean Picon
Other Photographs: Courtesy Paris + by Art Basel
Paris+ public programme by Art Basel, free and open to all:
Jessica Warboys ‘This tail grows among ruins’ (2023)
From October 17 to 22 / from 10h to 19h
Chapelle des Petits-Augustins, Beaux-Arts de Paris / 14 rue Bonaparte, Paris
Sheila Hicks ‘Vers des horizons nouveaux’ (2023)
From October 17 to 22
Parvis de l’Institut de France / Paris
‘La cinquième saison’
From October 18 to 22 / from 7h30 to 19h30
Jardin des Tuileries – Domaine national du Louvre / Paris
Daniel Buren & Michelangelo Pistoletto
From October 18 to 31/ from 10h to 19h (18 > 22 oct) and from 11h to 19h (23 > 31 oct)
Palais d’Iéna – Conseil économique, social et environnemental / 9 avenue d’Iéna, Paris
Urs Fischer ‘Wave’ (2018)
From October 18 oct to December 1st
Place Vendôme / Paris