A guided visit of the FIAC at the Grand Palais in Paris
As the International Contemporary Art Fair finally closes its doors tonight, Numéro revisits the art events leading up, offering a guided visited of the stands at the Grand Palais.
The FIAC week got off to a strong start. From the Sunday, a buzz rose around exhibitions from stars of the American contemporary art scene, Sterling Ruby and Julian Schnabel. The latter was celebrating his grand return to painting at the Almine Rech Gallery. Scarlett Johansson was in attendance, sporting a new, shorter hairstyle. It was all very nice. At Le Bourget’s Gagosian Gallery, Raf Simons had made it over especially for his Californian buddy. He even co-organized a memorable Wednesday evening at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (the Museum of Hunting and Nature) where Sterling Ruby also exhibited works. In the car park, despite the glow of flowing mojitos, those invited paid little heed to the stag antlers ranged about the ceiling for the occasion. Nor to the enormous bison head. As is customary, the collectors skirted around the dance floor, refusing the temptation of a creased suit. Happily, the designer himself was on hand to heat things up.
On Monday, it was artist Ugo Rondinone’s immense exhibition-love-declaration to poet John Giorno at the Palais de Tokyo that was making waves. One piece in particular made a notable impact upon the social networks, generating a giant collective orgasm: I want to cum in your heart. In quite another vein, on the Tuesday, it was Christian Boltanski’s turn to unveil his exhibition-work dedicated to Marian Goodman pour for the 20 year anniversary of her Parisian gallery. Rarely has the passing of time and the steady approach of death been so subtly evoked. The exhibition was entitled “Faire-Part” (Announcement). Some tears were shed.
You could easily forget that beyond being Paris’ premiere art week, the FIAC is also a modern art fair, with its panoply of stands raised in the Grand Palais. The vernissage was held on the Wednesday before Thursday’s opening night. We would, in the first instance, advice against braving the lion’s den – the ring of big galleries at the centre of the building – and stick to the upper levels where one can circulate at one’s own pace amidst a selection of excellent galleries at a much more human scale. In the Salon d’Honneur, Balice Hertling showed off her very much of-the-moment protégé, Neïl Beloufa. The works on view were refined and forceful, and obviously they sold well. And indeed, the artist is in the running for the Prix Marcel Duchamp. At the dinner for the Friends of the Paris Museum of Modern Art, held the night before the vernissage, all bets were off. A reputed gallery owner assured us that the die was long since cast. It is true that with his international notoriety, a forthcoming exhibition at the MoMA, New York, and particularly with this prize’s troubling tendency to decorate those artists already adorned, Neïl Beloufa almost couldn’t not win. There was considerably less certainty on the part of the artist’s own friends. Instead, murmurings about the lack of female representation and the resultant inevitability that the (lone) woman nominee would prevail: Zineb Sedira. And what of the question of talent? All but forgotten after a few of glasses of some excellent vintage.
Further along, at the Los Angeles François Ghebaly Gallery, Neïl Beloufa was once again the focus of discussion. The gallery’s director proudly recounted how he had introduced but two French artists to the USA since opening in 2008: his friend Neïl and then, Davide Balula. Who both happen to be nominated for the Marcel Duchamp award this very year! What an eye! At Catherine Bastide, a handsome and deserved place was given to Oliver Osborne and his paintings adorned by humorous cartoon vignettes. A success. New York gallery Real Fine Arts did just as well with Antek Walczak, and Peres Projects from Berlin with Mark Flood. The London gallery Pilar Corrias gambled (wisely) on young prodigy Ian Cheng. His video with its ‘90s computer graphics was little more than a computer programme offering an epic voyage around reddening landscapes. It follows the video projected in giant format at the New York Frieze. A raging success, offered the gallery owner, currently affording his charge an exhibition in London. Only one of the seven editions remained…A modicum of hot air without doubt but we wish him every success.
And it most definitely does come down to sales, whatever floor you’re on. Remaining on the first floor, the Galerie Jousse led with Julien Prévieux, winner of the Marcel Duchamp award 2014. The artist recently launched his exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. It’s common practice. A clamouring of galleries at the FIAC always ensues for those artists entered into the major institution. It’s a mixed blessing for some. While Dominique Gonzales-Foerster may have been touched by her sublime retrospective, also at the Centre Pompidou, the majority of her works at FIAC are scattered here and there in rather opportunistic fashion. Ugo Rondinone was more justly served by a beautiful stand dedicated to him by the Gladstone Gallery, in the lions den of the major galleries. Indeed, for the emperors of the art world, originality is apparently not the primary concern. Apart from Gavin Brown who decided presented a salon-style hang behind a theatrical red curtain, with dozens of works studding each wall from the likes of Martin Creed, Rob Pruitt, Nick Relph… And it worked.
Elsewhere, the presence of certain artists is a given: David Majkovic at Metro Pictures, Baselitz at Thaddaeus Riopac, Anish Kapoor at Kamel Mennour, Ryan Trecartin and David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen, Joyce Pensato at Captain Pletzel, Matt Saunders at Marian Goodman, Alex Hubbard, Sarah Morris, Latifa Echakch or again Alicja Kwade here there and everywhere. Business is booming. Or in any case, we are trying to convince ourselves so. At White Cube, celebrations were in swing for the £120, 000 sale of a “small” Damian Hirst piece. We would nonetheless linger over the wonderful Tracey Emins. At Emmanuel Perrotin almost all the artists are accounted for. From Elmgreen & Dragset to Daniel Arsham, Bharti Kher to Takashi Murakami, and Maurizio Cattelan to Wim Delvoye…Some were even in attendance themselves: Xavier Veilhan and Jean-Michel Othoniel. Not up for sale themselves though, we might add. Around a large table, four MacBooks are open, each at the disposal of a collector. It’s no longer a question of assistants with their iPads. It’s a question of selling. In volumes, apparently. It’s in part due to the new fair Asian Now - recently opened in Paris – whose attendant train of Asian collectors can now pass through a FIAC, which would previously have figured only but rarely in their calendars.
Ultimately, it’s without doubt Chantal Crousel who conjured one of the best offerings, marking her 35th year of activity. Two wonderful photographs from Wade Guyton, sublime sculpture from Jean-Luc Moulène, stunning works by Danh Vo, David Douard and Melik Ohanian….all the way along to an impressive Wolfgang Tillmans. All excellent. After such a journey, the sun sets over the Grand Palais, revealing a new surprise. Artist Wu Tsang’s luminous structure, conceived in collaboration with Swarovski, majestically hangs over the space. It was built in the jeweller’s ateliers in Wattens. It’s no accident that Jennifer Flay, FIAC’s director chose it. The message is clear. Everything must glitter.
By Thibaut Wychowanok
Julian Schnabel :
“Jack Climbed Up the Beanstalk to the Sky of Illimitableness Where Everything Went Backwards”
Galerie Almine Rech, 64, rue de Turenne, Paris IIIe
Until November 14
Sterling Ruby :
PARIS, Gagosian Gallery, 26, avenue de l’Europe (Paris-Le Bourget), et 4, rue de Ponthieu (Paris VIIIe), until December 19.
STOVES, musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, 62, rue des Archives, Paris IIIe, until February 14.
Christian Boltanski :
FAIRE-PART, Galerie Marian Goodman, 79, rue du Temple, Paris IIIe, until December 19.