Anything London can do, Paris can do better?

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French capital mounts a charm offensive in the battle to win collectors’ hearts and minds

Bernard Arnault’s Fondation Louis Vuitton opens in Paris on 27 October

Art worth more than £1bn is expected to be sold at Frieze London and Frieze Masters, with Modern and contemporary works worth more than £260m due to be auctioned this week. Along with the numerous major shows that are opening in the capital’s museums and commercial galleries this month, this underlines London’s importance as a city in which to see—and sell—fine art.

London might appeal to the business head, but it seems that Paris appeals to the heart, and never more so than this year. New or refurbished museums are leading the charm offensive. The VIP opening of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a private museum designed by Frank Gehry for the luxury-goods magnate Bernard Arnault, takes place next weekend, when the Musée Picasso reopens and the revamped Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) launches with a chocolate-coated extravaganza by the US artist Paul McCarthy.

“Paris’s strength this year comes from the museums,” says the Austrian dealer Thaddaeus Ropac, who is exhibiting at Frieze (FL, A5) and at Fiac in the French capital next week. The Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (23-26 October) is expanding this year with a satellite fair, (Off)icielle. “They are flying in every great museum director in the world,” Ropac says, referring to the opening of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. “I have never seen such a [guest] list—more than 50 museum groups are coming with their trustees.” Frieze London and Frieze Masters welcomed 99 museum groups this week, according to a spokeswoman for the fairs.

Although the art market has been shrinking in France (it had 6% of the global market share in 2013, while the UK had 20%, according to figures from Tefaf), there are signs that France is looking to regain lost ground. The regional auction house Cornette de Saint-Cyr is due to open a standalone saleroom in Paris on 22 October, after the Piasa auction house unveiled its new Paris headquarters last month. Plans announced earlier this week to extend Sunday trading hours across France are also likely to benefit the art trade.

Perhaps spurred on by Arnault, other French collectors are sharing their art with the public. Laurent Dumas, the founder of the Emerige property group, is exhibiting works from his collection for the first time at the Hotel Beaubrun in Paris (until 20 December). “In the past, French collectors were private, but more and more are opening their collections,” says Sandrine Djerouet, a director at Paris’s Galerie Jocelyn Wolff (FL, L4), which is showing at Frieze London for the first time. “Traditionally, Paris was seen as glamorous—and conservative—and London was seen as energetic. That’s changing.”

Jocelyn Wolff is one of dozens of galleries that are going straight from Regent’s Park to the Grand Palais, to exhibit at Fiac. Several dealers, including the Belgian Xavier Hufkens and Barbara Gladstone, who has galleries in New York and Brussels, have decided to show only at Fiac this year. Hufkens says that this is primarily a matter of logistics.

It seems that the art world is falling back in love with Paris. For some, the late, great editor-turned-fashion curator Diana Vreeland’s observation that “the best thing about London is Paris” may just ring true.

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