Paris, the former European capital of art, is back on top
THE TREND IS NOT LIMITED TO THE FRENCH CAPITAL either. Last summer, Responding to an urge to return to Europe after feeling overwhelmed by both the Trump presidency and Brexit, Lucy Chadwick, the British-born former senior manager of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York, decided, with a few days’ notice, to move the family not to Paris but to Biarritz, at the south-west corner of the country, and to open Champ Lacombe, the first contemporary art gallery in the Basque city. Its inaugural exhibition last summer featured works by Anne Collier, Arthur Jafa, Adrian Piper, Martine Syms, Josiane MH Pozi and Mark Leckey. The town already felt like a second home for Chadwick, as she had visited friends and family every year for three decades. Still, “opening a new business is a challenge, but doing it during a pandemic in a different country, using a second language, has been fraught with unforeseen hurdles and roadblocks,” she says. “It was really only through a community of friends that this was even possible.” Fortunately, this community is only growing, due to an influx of American visitors and collectors from Spain, London and, of course, Paris. (Locals have also become familiar with the gallery, as Chadwick has organized several community-focused events in hopes of making it as open and accessible as possible.) She also travels often to Paris to wander around museums and the galleries and see what’s new. . “I try to wrap my visits with shows and meetings, then return to breathe in the Basque Country,” she says.
For his part, Ibrahim sees his move to France, a dream come true after many years, as a kind of homecoming. She opened her space with “J’ai Deux Amours”, a group exhibition featuring the work of her entire roster of artists that was a tribute to performer Josephine Baker, who, like Ibrahim, navigated having links to both France and America, and demanded a space to tell complex cultural stories, with all their intertwined specificities. “Paris was the city of black intellectuals and creatives when America didn’t offer them a platform,” says Ibrahim. “One day I was in the car thinking about this and I had a flash. I played ‘J’ai Deux Amours’ for my husband and I said, ‘That’s the title from my first show in Paris. I need optimism, positive energy and love. So I’m taking Josephine with me.”