Interview : Johan TAMER-MORAEL

©SLICK Director Johan Tamer-Morael

©SLICK Director Johan Tamer-Morael



SLICK Art Fair set in Paris in 2006 by a team led by Johan Tamer-Morael. Evolved from a fun fair to a more mature manifestation with a clearer direction, SLICK is heading for its 6th Edition pitching a 2.000 square-meters marquis tent on the esplanade between the prestigious Palais de Tokyo and Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. This year, 40 international galleries and thousands of art work in the list. As a young fair dedicated to the discovery of new generations of galleries, 67% of this year’s galleries are first-time exhibitors at Slick.

InitiArt Magazine talks to Johan Tamer-Morael, SLICK’s director about this year’s new initiatives.

JTM – Johan Tamer-Morael
ST – Selina Ting for InitiArt Magazine


ST: What do you want to signify by « Slick » ?

JTM: « Slick » means “emergence”, something constantly emerges onto the surface. Since we work with emerging galleries and artists, it’s the right word that signifies our position. It’s an English word, because we don’t want to restrain ourselves to a Franco-French community. We are an international art fair with an international resonance. Besides, it’s a short word, right “sounding” and gives the right sense of what we are doing.

ST: Because it’s a very chic word?

JTM: No, not necessarily. I would rather say it’s a word that evolves. It’s unstable and it changes its meaning with time. I think it’s a word that cannot be easily fixed or clearly defined. SLICK is a young fair of good quality, where you can find the first sense of today’s creativity. Perhaps it’s less a fair for the market, but here you feel the first motivation of artists, of their creations. I think it’s a place to show that there are young ideas and young artists who still believe that we can still change things.

ST: It’s an interesting definition… those who still believe in the power of changing things…

JTM: Perhaps it’s a bit naïve. Because we know that it’s a harsh world out there. After all, it’s about market. Everyone needs to earn a living to continue their work. Very often, we are too quick to enter a system. Here, in SLICK, we are a bit lucky to not have to enter into the system too soon, too quick.

ST: You are the man behind SLICK. How many people are you working on the art fair? Are you a group of gallery owners?

JTM: No, we are a team belongs to the art fair. I had a gallery when we set up SLICK. So, you can say that it’s initiated by galleries. But quick enough, we became an independent team that works for the art fair. Now I closed my gallery to concentrate on SLICK. We have an organizing team and we work very closely with the galleries. We always wanted to make clear to our gallery partners that SLICK is not a project that decided and set up by the organizing team but a collaborative project, a result of discussions that we want to involve our participating galleries. It’s a real dialogue.


©SLICK, Paris, 2010.

©SLICK, Paris, 2010.


ST: This year is the 6th edition, as far as I can remember, you change venues very often.

JTM: We started in 2006 in la Bellevilloise. We had two venues in 2007, the Bellevilleoise and the Carré de Baudouin where we put up the SLICK Projects for the first time. We were in Le 104 in 2008 and 2009. Then we are in the Esplanade between Palais de Tokyo and the Modern Art Museum of Paris since 2010.

ST: You are lucky to have the flexibility to do so… Besides, the galleries are very different from edition to edition.

JTM: Yes, because an established art fair clings to its clients, i.e. the galleries. But we have a slight different idea. We are here to discover and to show the new generations of galleries, and then to introduce or to present them to other fairs that are more market-established. Our aim is to discover new and interesting galleries. So we have a very different role than the institutionalized art fairs.

ST: When you started in 2006, there was only the FiAC in Paris?

JTM: Yes. We are the first satellite show of FiAC. There is ShowOff which started on the same year as us. There are more and more off fairs set up in the later years.

ST: You started just one year before the financial crisis. What motivated you to start SLICK in 2006?

JTM: It was something logical to do at that time. But we were very spontaneous when we started. Now the market is very different, I don’t know if the young fairs that set up last year are going to continue or not. But they were present, and the galleries participated were happy.

ST: Did you have difficulties during the 2nd edition in 2007?

JTM: No. I would say this year is the hardest one! There is a huge tension in the market. As the organizer of art fair, I can feel the tension. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can be heavy to get through, but it might as well push things to their very best. Perhaps we would have the most beautiful fair.


©SLICK, Paris, 2010.

©SLICK, Paris, 2010.


ST: This year’s FiAC has largely reduced its size. Is there any impact on SLICK?

JTM: Yes. We have some galleries that used to be showing in FiAC joined us this year. But the majority of galleries in SLICK are still the newly discovered galleries. We are not just taking galleries that left the FiAC but we actively search for new young galleries, which is always our direction.

ST: So no complex feeling for you when galleries take SLICK as a stepping-stone to get to FiAC one day?

JTM: No! That’s what we are doing. We want to help young galleries to go to bigger and more important fairs.

ST: Which means you are not aiming at of becoming equally important as the FiAC, for example?

JTM: No. Not for now. We want to be the discovery fair. We are not going to show Damien Hirst, for example.

ST: This year, you have Laurent Boudier as SLICK’s artistic director. Is it the first time you have an artistic director?

JTM: Yes. We want to have someone who takes a distance from the selection of the fair’s galleries. He presents the fair as a big feast where every guest is carefully seated and things are carefully arranged to create a great mix of things. It’s a game of placement. He knows very well the galleries, the artists, so he has a vision on the overall presentation of the fair.

ST: What can we expect from this year’s SLICK? What are the new things that we are going to experience?

JTM: It’s really a curated show, in a sense. It’s an effort on our part to look for some precise pieces, to invite certain artists or galleries. So, we will see the SLICK projects proposed and tailor-made for SLICK by the galleries and artists in the middle of the fair. So, they are really some big scale projects. They are the monumental works that punctuate the fair. Another new initiative is a mix of private-sector collections from the IACCCA (the International Association of Corporate Collections of Contemporary Art), including Lhoist, DZ Bank, Dexia, etc., that would present their latest acquisition in the fair to create a form of exhibition. This would be shown in a space of 150 square meters. So there are three pillars this year, the SLICK Projects, the Corporate Collections and the galleries booths. This year, we have many solo shows proposed by the galleries.


©SLICK, Paris, 2010.

©SLICK, Paris, 2010..


ST: It’s very risky to present a solo in an art fair.

JTM: From my experience, the objective for a gallery is to stand out amongst the others, to be noticed by the visitors, and not to seen as someone looking for business. Taking part in a fair is a big investment in communication. So, it’s an important moment that the art world professions travelled to see your booth and you should never commit any error in such important occasion. You are either to win them or to lose them. Of course, you want to give them a good impression and hopefully they would come to visit your gallery. An art fair is a display window; it’s not a flea market.

ST: But participating in a fair is a big investment for most galleries, especially the young ones. Isn’t it normal that they expect at least to balance out?

JTM: Yes. But what I usually advise galleries to do is to wait for another year if they have a very limited budget. It’s not wise to expect a fair to balance out the expenses of getting a stand. It’s a preparation, it’s about paving for future clients, network, visitors. We are not in any way mean to lie to our galleries; I think it’s better for everyone that the galleries are conscious of this. It’s about image and communication. A fair is an enormous visibility in the art field.

ST: Is it interesting for a gallery to participate in a fair just one time, especially for those who come from other continents?

JTM: Yes. They find new clients, they enlarge their network… Of course, we can’t guarantee if the relationship is long-term.

ST: How do you find the other satellite fairs in Paris?

JTM: Each fair has its own direction and uniqueness, and we do things differently. But I have no comments on the other fairs, some of them I have never visited. So, I have no comment.

ST: Thank you very much!


Slick 11
20 au 23 octobre 2011
Esplanade du Palais de Tokyo et du Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris
11-13 av. du Président Wilson
75116 Paris