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French art fair ends on high note despite wealth tax row

PARIS: Paris’ top contemporary art fair, the FIAC, wrapped up on a high note Sunday night despite market jitters sparked by an abortive French plan to slap a new wealth tax on artworks.

Visitor numbers were up 3.7 percent, at more than 70,500 over five days, including more than 15,000 collectors and art professionals, who flocked to see the 182 galleries represented at the show, organizers said Sunday night.

The French government was forced last week to intervene to block a budget amendment that would have expanded a wealth tax to include artworks, following a storm of protest from top museums including the Louvre, and the wider art world.

“French collectors were relieved to see the measure scrapped, and some were buying in a state of near-euphoria,” said Georges-Philippe Vallois, the head of France’s professional art gallery committee.

The amendment was intended as a signal that wealthier citizens are shouldering the burden too, as France braces for a new austerity budget, but critics warned it would drive both art and collectors out of the country.

“The FIAC was a success – but the affair very nearly spoiled the whole event,” gallery owner Herve Loevenbruck said.

“Commercially, it went very well considering the current economic context,” FIAC director Jennifer Flay said.

U.S. giant Gagosian – which opened its second Paris gallery to coincide with the FIAC – said it was “very happy” with the fair. The Paris- and New York-based Marian Goodman also reported a “good” edition.

Germany’s NEU said it was satisfied with this year’s result, while the American David Zwirner judged it “good, without being easy, in a context of continuing economic crisis.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 23, 2012, on page 16.

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