4 questions for Pierre Moos, director of Parcours des Mondes

Paris, 7 September 2018

Do you think that the fair, celebrating its 17th birthday this year, has reached maturity? Are you still seeking to enrich it with new perspectives?

I’m very proud of the renown that Parcours des Mondes enjoys today. When we took it over several years ago, the event was going downhill. Over time and with a lot of passion, we’ve worked to give it the face it has today, by selecting participants from the world’s top galleries, which isn’t so easy given that there are very few of them. This might seem paradoxical, but what you need to bear in mind is that there are around sixty tribal-arts galleries worldwide, no more. By way of comparison, if you take any building in the Chelsea district in New York, you’ll find the same number of contemporary-art galleries, if not more. Clearly, we live in a microcosm from which we’re taking the best. This year, we refused about twenty potential participants due to the quality of works – primordial in our eyes – and also due to the fact that the number of galleries admitted to the event cannot be stretched out infinitely. In fact, I sincerely think that we’ve reached our cruising speed, with a format that we master thanks to the three people who work on the event full time. I don’t really see what we could improve on, except that we’ve been trying to extend the fair to Asian art in recent years because of huge demand. But this is a niche that we’re less familiar with than African and Oceanic arts, so this is why we’re still remaining prudent.

What is the guiding theme of the exhibitions that have been prepared this year?

Establishing a guiding thread is always a delicate matter. Even if we know about the content of certain exhibitions, it isn’t the case of all of them. Often the dealers, who spend a great deal of time preparing the exhibitions, hesitate, then validate a decision, before changing their minds or even making turnarounds in their choices. As a result, we aren’t aware of the content of certain exhibitions until the last minute, just before the opening. In any case, as far as we’re concerned, we don’t give any guidelines to the dealers. I believe that it’s normal for them to keep control of what they wish to show and sell. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not vigilant. On the contrary. Before the fair’s launch, our six international experts vet each piece that is to be presented at the fair, one by one, for quality and authenticity, including the pieces in the themed exhibitions. When we get an unfavourable opinion or an expression of doubt on a piece, proofs are requested, or even the withdrawal of the piece. This has already happened.

It’s often said that the Parcours des Mondes is an event for wealthy insiders. What do you think about this?

Personally, I don’t think that money is a criteria that’s relevant. What I like, what motivates me to continue this adventure, are the aesthetics, originality and provenance of the pieces that can be discovered at the fair. At the Parcours des Mondes, I believe that there are things for every budget. I’ve seen works that I consider to be masterpieces at starting prices of €12,000. At the same time, if there are big collectors, or those on the way to becoming big collectors, who want to spend a million euros, they can do so, no worries. To sum up: anything is possible. But note that the trend is towards a downturn in prices, due to the current competition from auction rooms.

Do dealers show satisfaction about being at the event?

You know, dealers by definition are never enthusiastic, and never give out their turnover figures. So it’s difficult to have a very clear idea. That said, at the end of every edition, we conduct a small satisfaction survey among them, and the upshot is that every year, new clients turn up at the fair. Today, Parcours des Mondes is an event that people all over the world look forward to. We see people coming from Europe, but also the United States, Australia, New Zealand... We also come across Chinese, Russian, Japanese people. We know that overall, business is good. Two figures let me confirm this. The first: some dealers make up to 75% of their yearly turnover during their week in Paris. The second, which speaks just as loudly, is the renewal rate of dealers: around 95% in recent years. This shows the importance, and also the reliability of our event.

Since 2007, Pierre Moos has been general director of Parcours des Mondes. He is also general director of the Tribal Art Magazine.