France, as the gateway to Europe, is an excellent place to start networking on an international basis. French art galleries tend to have poor links with the UK, but are well-connected with other places in Europe.
For artists, attending exhibition openings is an important way to begin making new contacts. The Paris galleries distribute free bi-monthly listings with the dates of previews (vernissages); it is an excellent means of assessing the scene and meeting people.
The contemporary art market in France is a small part of the art market overall. Unlike other markets internationally, the public sector is generally regarded as the ultimate goal for the works produced and sold in France. This semi-official, public recognition of an artist's work boosts its prestige and value in the commercial marketplace.
It follows that there is a general aspiration in France for an artist to have his work in a public collection, for it to be considered 'museum quality,' and so for it to be recognized as having public value status.
So many young French artists aim initially to have their work bought by a local art collection where they live, via the city council, the district or 'département'. They then hope to be bought by the Frac in their region. A British artist who decides to establish a base in France can take this same route.
France has dual system with exhibitions in art centres (Centres d'Art Contemporain) and collections (see FRACs-Fond Régional d'Art Contemporain). Public spaces often buy work linked to exhibitions and the production of a catalogue helps disseminate the exhibition more widely. (see Showing your work)
In France, however, it is difficult to gain access to the major public sector spaces without a dealer.
The relationship between the public and commercial sector in France is similar to the UK. There are far less not-for-profit and public seed-bed galleries, especially if you compare Paris to London. However, there is a similar concentration of commercial activity in Paris, with hardly any commercial galleries to speak of elsewhere. There is a similar diversity from historic galleries and international commercial chains to more innovative, younger spaces such as the rue Louise Weiss area in 13e arrondissement.
The FIAC annual art fair takes place in Paris every October. It is making great efforts to change its image but is currently losing out to Frieze Art Fair.