Held from March 30 to April 2, 2017, Art Paris Art Fair is Paris’s largest art fair.

It brings together 139 galleries from 29 countries to the Grand Palais to explore art from the post-war period to the present day, as well as international emerging art scenes.

This year, Art Paris Art Fair honours African art, artists, curators and galleries for the first time. Under the leadership of cultural consultant and independent exhibition curator, Marie-Ann Yemsi, the fair highlights a previously unseen perspective: contemporary African artistic horizons.

TRUE Africa spoke with Guillaume Piens, Fair Director for Art Paris Art Fair, on what will no doubt be the best and most exciting edition to hit Paris yet.

Why the focus on African art this year?

Over the last 10 years there has been growing interest in contemporary African art from both institutions and the art market.

This interest has gone hand in hand with the flourishing activity in Africa itself and the opening of a large number of galleries, art centres and museums (in particular in South Africa and Morocco), as well as the creation of foundations, art fairs and biennials.

 Do you believe that the French market would be receptive to contemporary African art?

There is an important and longstanding relationship between Africa and France, mainly focusing on the countries of West Africa.

Today, France is behind as far as contemporary African creation in non-French-speaking countries is concerned and it needs to make up for lost time.

Art Paris Art Fair’s project covers the whole of Africa, from north to south, and puts the spotlight on a young generation of artists from Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Uganda.

What will be a real revelation for many people is the discovery that African art is much more than just studio photography and recycled objects.

Who are some of your favourite contemporary African artists?

There are many but I am particularly interested in the emerging generation of talented artists from Africa born in the 70s and 80s. It is a generation that grew up with the internet and had access to artist-in-residence programmes in Europe and the USA.

These artists live and work in several different countries and, as a consequence, their themes, which deal with dislocation, migration, identity and the sense of belonging, are in perfectly in tune with the questions our European societies have to address.

My favourite artists would be among others Billie Zangewa, Gareth Nyandoro, Mohau Modisakeng, Moffat Takadiwa, Mario Macilau, Bili Bidjocka….

What five things must we see at the fair?

The three solo shows of Mario Macilau at Ed Cross Fine Art, Mohau Modisakeng at WHATIFTHEWORLD and Billie Zangewa at AFRONOVA GALLERY, the booths of October Gallery, Tiwani Contemporary and Fondation Donwahi/ Galerie MAM,  as well as the ones of  Galerie Cécile Fakhoury and Tyburn Gallery.

What other events must we attend during the fair?

The City of Light is playing host to an unheard of number of exhibitions on Africa. As part of its festival 100% Afriques, La Villette will showcase every aspect of contemporary African creation and put on an exhibition, Afriques Capitales, curated by Simon Njami.

In collaboration with Hans Lemmen, an exhibition at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature will feature South African artist Roger Ballen, whereas the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac will be exploring L’Afrique des routes.

The Musée Dapper has lent its walls to the Senegalese artist Soly Cissé, whereas the Galerie des Galeries hosts Le jour qui vient, an exhibition curated by Marie-Ann Yemsi, which promises an encounter with a whole new generation of African artists and echoes the fair’s special focus.

Art Paris Art Fair 2017 : Africa Guest of Honour will run from 30 March to 2 Apr 2017.