On Monday, 5 November 2018 several hundred art professionals descended onto the Centre Pompidou for the Beaux-Arts Magazine (the publishing house that brings us Le Quotidien del’Art) Art Market Day. This conference looked at several of the ‘hot topics’ of the art world, from different angles. As the programme seamlessly transitioned from English to French, and from technology to forensic science to restitution, some subjects and speakers undoubtedly appealed more to certain delegates than others.

Some of the subjects were not necessarily “new” per se, as with the panel on blockchain or the discussion on how to use Instagram to sell art, but it was the first time many of these subjects were debated on French soil, and the audience clearly had a French perspective. Questions from the audience were inquisitive and called out for more information about the sample size for Barneby’s customer survey or the usefulness of smart contracts in the art world. French panellists were also wonderfully direct and inquisitive – ranging from Magda Danysz, the street-art gallerist with spaces in Shanghai as well as Paris, who asked very direct and specific questions of the online art marketplaces, and the thoughtful social media director Vanessa Clairet from Galerie Perrotin who has built up a very French tone throughout their international following. Alongside this refreshingly inquisitive approach, there was also a French-centric view – one of the panels was solely about how Parisian galleries can have a more global impact.

The most fascinating “French” subject of the day was a panel discussion on restitution in the art market, which due to its French-speaking participants with an interest in African art (Didier Claes, Bertrand Goy, Amobe Mevegue, Emmanuel Moyne) ended up being a debate about the heritage items of African nations. It was a heated discussion about one’s right to own history and whether items taken in the 19th century should be returned to the countries they come from. It was a truly topical debate as Macron published his policy on looted items from Sub-Saharan Africa just a few weeks later.

Georgina Adam provided some closure to the day, saying that the three main themes she found coming through the whole day were Trust, Communication and the Human Factor. After discussing things such as blockchain and AI, it is clear that the human touch of connoisseurship and relationships is still essential to the furthering of the art world. It is clear an open dialogue must be maintained between parties with different points of view. Again - something that has been common to discuss in 2018, but a breath of fresh air in the French art market.

On the Trust issue, I think it is deeply related to communication. If we all work together to build the future tools of the art market, and exchange ideas on best practices, the industry as a whole will benefit. There is not just one art market, as Tom Flynn from Flynn & Giovani was clear to point out. But, these very different art markets from around the world, need to speak to each other if they want to maintain relevance in a fast-moving society.

Between sessions, I exchanged a few words with Staffan Ahrenberg from Cahier des Arts, who just announced a blockchain partnership with Arteia at the conference. Ahrenberg proclaimed that “the technology is coming, whether the market wants it or not. You might as well jump on the train and be part of it, instead of watching it go by.” Let’s hope that by hopping on the train, we can help maintain this ecosystem that we all care about so much.

The only way forward, to build tech we can trust, is to work together and maintain that human factor behind the innovation, that fosters growth and prosperity. Let’s all jump on the train together, and make sure it goes in the direction we’d like it to. We’re still in an era where all trains need conductors.

You can follow the discussions from the art market day on twitter: #TAMD.