After Brussels and before New York, the YIA fair is opening its doors for the first time in Basel. Romain Tichit, the dynamic founder of Young International Artists, here retraces his background, his projects, his doubts… And restates that Yesterday Is Aujourd’hui!
It often begins this way, as a passion, or an interest shared with friends. “Parallel to my job in advertising and the digital technologies, I used to organise exhibitions with artists in so-called nomad locations,” explains Romain Tichit, he of the unruly hair and three-day stubble. In the advertising world, he passed through Publicis, DDB and Lagardère. It was “Dynasty”, the show jointly presented at the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, that urged him to change direction. This mega-exhibition gathered around forty artists over nearly 5,000 m2, including Farah Atassi, Bertrand Dezoteux, Camille Henrot, Théo Mercier, Jean-Xavier Renaud, Bettina Samson and Oscar Tuazon.
“In 2010, after ‘Dynasty’, I decided to set up the YIA (Young International Artists) concept, a fair to support the emerging scene.” In 2012, Romain Tichit founded the communication agency LFDAC (La Française des Arts Contemporains), which continues to be his instrument for steering YIA. In the first years, the initial concept was clear: exhibiting young artists represented by gallerists in (post-)industrial sites. For its first edition, it showed artists including Vincent Ganivet, Hsia Fei Chang, Lionel Sabatté and Guillaume Cabantous. It then worked its way across Paris, from the Cartonnerie to the Bastille Design Center, Loft Sévigné, the Espace Morin, the Espace Commines as well as the Galerie Joseph on Rue de Turenne. “After a number of editions in more or less confidential locations, we managed to get the hall of the Carreau du Temple, which we’ve been occupying for four years now.” This was a turning point which marked the start of YIA becoming an “off” fair alongside the FIAC. In 2013, YIA welcomed 50 galleries, while in 2012, it hosted only 25 statements or artist’s propositions at the Bastille Design Center. “My vision is to exist in a milieu generally reserved to the elite; to promote the projects and artists that we defend.”
“Stabilising everything so that it works”
But Romain Tichit prefers the term “salon” (show) to “fair”. It’s more classy, less commercial – and it also pays homage to Gertrude Stein’s salon at number 27 Rue de Fleurus, a meeting place for the avant-garde at the start of the 20th century. Fairs are endless successions of look-alike booths, whereas the salon model permits more open scenographies while bringing in a throng of galleries.
Indeed, in Brussels, in April this year, 45 galleries shared the 2,000 m2 space of the Square Brussels Meeting Center. This was the second edition in the Belgian capital. “Belgian collectors are really top quality and passionate. Despite the attacks, we had many sales at the first edition, benefiting galleries that defend their artists. This year, we sought to really amplify our communication to maximise the number of visitors and to diffuse the art on display at the show.” Little by little, YIA is gaining recognition. Since settling in at the Carreau du Temple, Romain Tichit has duplicated the model. “Recently, we stressed international development in Belgium, then this year in Maastricht at TEFAF, and today in Basel at Art Basel. The idea is to be present in the main countries considered as meeting places for contemporary art,” he explains before confiding that he’s looking at New York. “The idea is to obtain exceptional sites every time in well-considered cities,” he adds.
Four editions, soon five per year. Fatigue is building up while the cash box doesn’t always follow suit. “Things are going fairly well. We have a great team and many processes have been set up. But as we’re a small structure, there are big treasury setbacks.” After a major development phase, the idea will be to make the initiative endure. “Our ambition is really to hang in there and to continue existing in order to permit dialogue between works, artists, gallerists and all publics.” He sums up this aim in a pithier statement: “Stabilising everything so that it works.”
So the model is changing. And YIA, Young International Artists, has, this year, turned into YIA, Yesterday is Aujourd’hui. “The idea is to open up to fields of art from the last century to today.” Will modern art soon be seen at YIA? “In Basel and Paris in particular, we’ll have the chance to see some very fine propositions encompassing modern, post-war and contemporary art.”
YIA Art Fair. From 14 to 18 June, The Basel Art Center, Riehentorstrasse 31, Basel. www.yia-artfair.com
The Basel-New York axis
It’s an argument… But not the only one. The contemporary-art fair, YIA Art Fair, is barely 5 minutes from Art Basel, on the way to Liste. Above all, this explosive fair is offering, from 14 to 18 June, a battery of 15 international galleries. 1,200 m2, at the heart of the Basel Art Center – now that’s something! For its first Basel edition, Romain Tichit, founder of the fair, is taking advantage of the occasion to reveal YIA’s new positioning. The acronym YIA, created in 2010 in Paris is still the same, but what was once “Young International Artists” now stands for “Yesterday Is Aujourd’hui”. Phonetic constancy, but a real semantic turnaround. Romain Tichit’s new focus is on “a dialogue between eras, articulated around the fields of modern and contemporary art”. In other words, over four days, an enthusiastic proposition combining strength and a diversity of mediums: painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, but also photography, video and publishing…. All this nicely presented to offer “a gaze at the emerging contemporary scene in the light of key works and emblematic artists from the start of the 20th century to today”. Let’s remember that YIA, in the space of just seven years, has emerged as a major meeting spot for contemporary creation, confirming an increasingly international vision at every new edition. After its Parisian events, Romain Tichit transferred the platform to Brussels in 2016, then opened a branch in Maastricht this year at TEFAF, with no less than 1,000 m2 of exhibition space dedicated to 25 curatorial projects. Following Basel, YIA will be returning to Paris for FIAC, from 19 to 22 October, when it will be welcoming nearly 50 galleries at the Carreau du Temple. And that’s not all: in 2018 will bring the opening of a spot in New York, in May, during Frieze and TEFAF.