Archive for October, 2010

If there’s only one exhibition you go to see in Paris this winter make sure it’s André Kertesz’ photography retrospective at the Jeu de Paume

October 26, 2010

You’ve got until February 6th, 2011, to go see the André Kertesz exhibition at the Jeu de Paume in Paris … at least once! I’ve been twice so far and am well tempted by a third trip to this centre of photography on the edge of the Tuileries gardens and the Place de la Concorde.

André Kertesz (1894-1985), Broken Plate (1929-1964)

Hungarian-born photographer André Kertesz (1894-1985) was part of artsy Paris in the 1920s, taught his fellow countryman Brassaï how to take pictures, influenced Henri Cartier-Bresson and pursued a career in photography well before most people considered photography art. His move to New York in the 1930s had been prompted by a magazine assignment and his wife Elizabeth’s insistance that he really needed to do something about his career. Contrary to all hopes and expectations this decision lead to an incredibly challenging but productive period of difficulties and setbacks.

Not only was he associated with the Surrealists whom he was never an official part of and who had gone out of fashion by the late nineteen thirties, but his photography style was deemed too particular to suit New Yorks’ commercial needs. Kertesz simply wasn’t in demand. He also missed his creative support network of painters, sculptors and other artists he had had in Paris (portraits of Lipchitz, Mondrian and film-maker Eisenstein, amongst others, are on display) as well as his brother Jeno who had meanwhile moved to South America. All this contributed to and amplified his feeling of isolation. However, thanks to his wife’s successful new cosmetics venture he wasn’t forced to put up with all art directors’ and magazine editors’ demands and could persevere with his pictorial preoccupations encouraged by her profound faith in his talent.

He thus continued his photographic explorations of the urban landscape which he had already begun in Paris (he was among the first to exploit the beauty of nighttime shots, odd perspectives and reflections in water and shop windows). His loneliness and general malaise encouraged him to push the poetic dimensions of his oeuvre. In this image below which he poignantly referred to as a “self-portrait” a small cloud is lost and on its own among the tall skyscrapers.

André Kertesz (1894-1985, Lost Cloud, 1937

With time, his work began to attract attention and the winds of newly emerging interest (and eventually market) for photography began to blow in his direction.

By the time of his wife’s death in 1977, André Kertesz had received a certain amount of critical acclaim and had started to “make money”. He received a Silver Medal at the Exposition Coloniale, Paris in 1930, a Gold Medal at the Venice Biennale in 1962, and the Mayor’s Award, New York, in 1977. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975, is an Honorary Member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (1965), and was named Commander, Order of Arts and Letters, by the French Government in 1976.

However, much to his distress, Elizabeth died before his opening in 1977 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the very city that was and had remained so artistically important to him.

Today it is not just a privilege to delve into an incredibly complete and sensitive review of his life’s work but it is a true pleasure to be shared.


The Circus has more horses prancing than ever – and Larry’s lovin’ it! … or, A Quick Timeline Overview of Paris’s Contemporary Art Scene

October 24, 2010

The art market may have peaked in 2007 (or was it 2008 with Damien Hirst’s infamous Sotheby’s sale marking the end of art money as we know it?) but in Paris the party is in full swing. Some would even say that it’s just getting started.

The dawn of the new age harks back to 1997 and the creation of the Louise Weiss gallery district which since then – contemporary history moves so quickly – has become part of the relics of the past. (99% of them packed up their bags and migrated to more glamourous locations in the Marais).
Two years later, in 1999, Ricard (they’re the ones who make Pastis, that anise seed liqueur) started awarding its Fondation Ricard Art Award or Prix Ricard pour l’art contemporain, to young talents of the French scene. Awarded every year, round about this time in fact, it is now in its 12th year and even though it isn’t known internationally it does attract the attention of a certain artsy crowd.

Then, Happy Hour really got started :

in 2002 the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art center opened its doors under the co-directed by Nicolas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans (now directed by Marc-Olivier Wahler) and has remained open six days a week until midnight ever since

– the same year, so also in 2002, the freshly created French auction house Artcurial moved into its impressive Champs-Elysées location and has been growing ever since

in 2004 collector Antoine de Galbert opened his foundation, La Maison Rouge in the Bastille district, ie slightly off the beaten track but not too far from the then still happening 13th arrondissement gallery district. By now it has become a destination in itself.

in 2005 Guillaume Houzé the greatgreat-grandson of Théophile Bader, the founder of the Galeries Lafayette department store, inaugurated the first group show in the “galerie des Galéries” on the first floor of their main store that he called “Antidote“. This group show has become an annual event with it’s sixth edition currently on show until January 2011. Yes, it is called Antidote 6. I don’t think this has anything to do with a lack of imagination. I presume it’s more of a marketing ploy which makes sense since those group shows have made a small name for themselves and given that Paris has dozens of exhibitions going it’s just easier to get some headspace that way.

in 2006 collectors Florence and Daniel Guerlain (the latter being the famous perfume-maker’s grandson) started the Prix Guerlain du dessin contemporain (Guerlain Art Prize For Contemporary Drawing) contributing to the increasing interest in current-day draughtsmanship. This trend has since been confirmed and amplified with the creation in 2007 of the Salon du dessin contemporain (Fair for contemporary drawing) in 2007 .… By the way, can I just say as an aside that somebody really should have the courage to tell the darling Guerlains that their website is embarassingly tacky!

Also, in 2006: Louis Vuitton inaugurated l’Espace Louis Vuitton an art space at the top of it’s totally gorgeous Champs-Elysées flagship store where it shows well-curated emerging art exhibitions and Bernard Arnault, president of luxury group LVMH announced the creation of a Louis-Vuitton foundation space to be built by Frank Gehry in the 16th arrondissement in Paris near the garden called Jardin de l’Acclimatation (to be opened in 2011? Maybe?) where he’s to show extracts of his private collection (and other things too? Not sure whether I’m just ill-informed or whether a certain amount of mystery does indeed shroud this enterprise). So he’ll open up approximately five years after Pinault’s Venetian sidestep which left Parisians a bit embarassed – was it me? was it him? or was it simply not working?

Sensing the atmosphere, more big players join the game

in 2007 Italian gallery Continua co-directed by Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi and Maurizio Rigillo since its beginnings in San Gimignano, Italy, in 1990, invested in some 10000 m2 (then thousand square meters!!) of warehouse space more or less in the middle of nowhere an hour’s drive from Paris. They turned into a major attraction worth the detour with further plans for development up their sleeve.

– also in 2007, Emmanuel Perrotin and his team’s success story took a new leap as they left behind their rue Louise Weiss location in the 13th arrondissement (Perrotin had been one of the first to open there ten years earlier). Gallery Emmanuel Perrotin in the Marais has since then  jumped from L (700 meters in 2007) to XL (1200 meters in 2008 or 2009) to XXL (1500 meters today, 2010) in just THREE years. Currently the whole of its 1500 square meters of exhibition space are dedicated to a group show of 19 (!) of the gallery’s artists’ paintings. Meanwhile his artist Takashi Murakami is causing a buzz in Versailles, in the very château where another one of Emmanuel’s ducklings gone controversial superstar, Maurizio Cattelan, is scheduled to show in 2012.

in 2008 actor, producer, art collector Claude Berri (who has since deceased) opened his art space in the Marais and several (two dozen maybe? any guesses anyone?) galleries have done so too …

Even more recently:
– on October 21st, 2010, Chiara and Steve Rosenblum inaugurated their art space in the 13th district opening up their private collection to public viewing.

And finally, following the spectacular sale of Giacometti‘s Homme qui marche for close to 75 million euros at Sotheby’s, London, and the Louvre’s unveiling of Cy Twombly‘s Ceiling just a few months ago. While the Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective is on at Paris’s Museum of Modern Art and Murakami‘s colorfully controversial gig is on at Versailles, the man who’s intimately linked to all of these artists and, more to the point, to their market, opens his sixth (sixth!) international gallery space after L.A., New York, London, Rome and Athens just around the corner from Christie’s…. Enter Larry Gagosian, stage center.


And with the adults’ party going on upstairs, the kids are going wild

– a total of 7 satellite or “off” art fairs are on during the main modern and contemporary art fair, the Fiac. Slick, Chic, Access & Paradox, Cutlog, VIP, Show Off and Art Elysées are all vying for visitors and, more importantly, buyers along with other makers and shakers of the art world (journalists, art advisors, curators, institutions, etc.)

– the hot Belleville district galeries like Balice Hertling, Jocelyn Wolff, Bugada & Cargnel and Gaudel del Stampa are attracting attention. If want a quick idea of what France’s young “scene” is all about this is where you head. They are also actively exchanging ideas and contacts with Berlin’s upcoming galeries in initiatives such as the Paris-Berlin gallery exchange programme earlier this year made possible largely thanks to the patronage of Bernard de Montferrand, the French Ambassador in Berlin and President of Bordeaux’ FRAC (the official, state-sponsored regional art collection).

– Furthermore, some galleries from this district are behind the Biennale de Belleville, an initiative made in partnership with the ever-active Palais de Tokyo – which, however, aside from a successful opening night has been a bit of a flop as far as I can tell (I for one wasted an entire Saturday afternoon walking from one closed venue to another closed venue trying to get my head around the cryptic maps that were distributed, trying not to worry about wearing the soles off of my fave’ shoes and all the while telling myself, “Well, at least I’m finally locating these new and upcoming galleries…” but inwardly thinking “What a bloody waste of time! Can’t someone step in and organise this cakesale so that even the un-initiated be rewarded with a glimpse of art?!”)


On top of all of this creative energy combined with a great deal of business acumen and general chutzpah that can only be admired, in a few days time the Month of Photography, le Mois de la Photo opens in Paris. Initiated in 1980 and an inter-European event since 2004, it’s the impetus for over 50 photography exhibitions. The fair Paris Photo represents its mercantile pinnacle. Indeed, Paris not only has excellent galeries entirely dedicated to photography (galerie Françoise Paviot and galerie 1900-2000 stand out in this speciality) but hosts the most important fair at which exclusively photography is shown and traded. And, it’s not just any kind of photography, but really high- level, good quality, sought-after stuff (well, 80% of the time which is a pretty high ratio of good stuff for any fair).


Yes, Paris is buzzing.

And not just Larry is lovin’ it!

The moveable art feast is in Paris for the FIAC’s 37th edition

October 24, 2010

Two weeks after Berlin’s Artforum and one week after London’s Frieze, the contemporary art market’s moveable feast is now wining and dining all over France’s capitale until Sunday, October 24th, 2010. Paris’s contemporary art fair la Fiac ( Foire internationale d’art contemporain) is presenting no less than 194 international galleries and 3500 artists. The biggest, most prestigious ones pay to sparkle under the fabulous glass-domed roof of the Grand Palais. A walk down the main alley of the fair is indeed a memorable experience not least for Anish Kapoor‘s beautifully enigmatic sculpture (did he really have to call is Slug?!) that occupies the centre. It brazenly announces his upcoming solo show in this very location as part of the 4th edition of the “Monumenta” annual contemporary art exhibition from May 11th to June 23rd, 2011.

Anish Kapoor's sculpture. Kamel Mennour's stand. Fiac, Paris, 2010

The less established and sometimes lesser-known galleries show and sell in a custom-built, temporary structure (sounds so much better than “tent” doesn’t it?) in the Louvre’s cour carré or “square courtyard”. Organized around a central café-bar area, the atmostphere is a little bit more low-key than in the Grand Palais – which is not to say that artwork of the same calibre cannot also be found here.

American gallery Studio 94 shows this replica in black of the Louvre's reclining marble hermaphrodite

Gallery Jousse Entreprise presents a monumental sculpture by the Dutch artists collective Atelier van Lieshout who are also showing at Jousse's contemporary art space in the Marais until November 20th, 2010

Some of the galleries shown would well deserve a space in the Grand Palais. Indeed, I would have preferred seeing the likes of the galleries below at the main location:
– much under-represented gallery Laurent Godin who represents 2005 Marcel Duchamp Prize winner Claude Closky among some most excellent “others” such as Aleksandra Mir, David Kramer, Scoli Acosta, and Wang Du.
– very active, rising stars gallery Xippas (with its brilliant director François Quentin) and gallery Frank Elbaz. The latter has gone to the lengths of paying hommage to the Ferus Gallery (active and super important in California from 1957 to 1960) of which Wallace Berman (1926-1976) was a part and whose work Frank Elbaz actively shows. He’s also Susan Collis‘s gallerist in Paris. She’s the British artist who makes incredibly discreet sculptures out of highly precious materials (such as a gold nail in the wall and gem-stone encrusted broomsticks) and whose been recruited by the Armory Show 2011 to design their visual identity
gallery Bernard Ceysson who is presenting a group show of the French historical Supports-Surfaces trend of the late 1960s hardly known abroad and well-worth promoting. It’s simply odd seeing this gallery with 2 locations in France and 1 outpost in Luxembourg, run by former director of the very much respected musée de Saint-Etienne (next to Lyon in the South-East of France) and his group of historical artists at the end of aisle E just opposite the young Semiose gallery which promotes super young art, generally light-hearted and produces multiples. Both galleries are interesting for very different reasons and the juxtaposition of the two is just a bit bizarre and doesn’t “do it” for either party.

The works selected for the Marcel Duchamp Art Prize, displayed in the very back of the cour carré location are somewhat drowned out by the rest. I cringe to think of the contrast between this French contemporary art award and the massive space the Turner Prize nominees occupy at  Tate Britain. Surely the Palais de Tokyo would have room to show the nominees in a more worthy setting?!

Having said that the Prix Lafayette initiative that’s part of the Fiac’s cour carré‘s set-up is great (you know, from the department store Galeries Lafayette who has become a major player of the emerging French art scene thanks to the youngest heir and director of something-or-other, Guillaume Houzé). The Prix Lafayette selects 6 young galleries from a pool of applicants and covers 50% of their booth costs. This also provides the possibility of an acquisition for the Lafayette corporate collection plus a show at the Palais de Tokyo the following year. It’s thanks to this initiative that gallery Labor from Mexico City created by rising star Pamela Echeverria was given the opportunity to participate after only 6 months of existance (at the time of selection). This is daring. This is exciting. This is what the globalized art market and corporate patronage should be all about. And the Mexican gallery responded with one of the most beautiful exhibition designs of this neck of the fair, displaying delicately suspended metallic constructions by Etienne Chambaud, a French artist born in 1980 who is quietly but steadily making a name for himself.

In between these two main fair locations, the Tuileries gardens are speckled with a movie-theatre in a container showing a selection of video art plus several eye-catching monumental sculptures. Most noteworthy is the use of the water bassins with Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone‘s white, leaveless tree (last seen at Eva Presenhuber’s booth at Frieze 2009) in one fountain and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama‘s installation in the other. Kusama’s accumulation of metallic spheres in this particular context offer a nice formal echo to Claude Monet’s 19th century pictorial explorations currently on view in Paris at a magnificent retrospective and, of course, more specifically to his monumental water lilies which have been permanently installed in the Orangerie since 1926 – just meters away from Yayoi Kusama’s current intervention.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s documentary by Tamra Davis and upcoming show at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris (MAMVP)

October 13, 2010

Jean-Michel Basquiat, the James Dean of contemporary painting, died in 1988 at age 28. He wasn’t just lonely and full of regrets after his close friend Andy Warhol’s death the year before but truly alone after his meteorotic rise to fame which isolated him from the ones he loved while never giving him neither the profound artistic recognition in the way he had hoped nor complete acceptance from society which after an intense moment of celebration cut him back and pushed him down. As artist Julian Schnabel puts it in the documentary,”He simply didn’t have the tools to navigate the sea of shit.”

Basquiat flew so close to the sun that he crashed and burned. Disillusioned with money and fame – the two things he had been striving for so badly when he ran away from his comfortable home in Brooklyn to live down and out in Manhattan and become an artist, he plunged a heroin needle into his body one night and was released of his turmoils for good.

Close friend Tamra Davis gallery assistant when they met and seasoned film maker by 2010 had kept footage in her drawer for over 20 years of an interview she made of the painter in a hotel room in New York. Today she has interwoven extracts of this interview, with snippets of conversations with friends, gallerists (no lesser than Larry Gagosian and Bruno Bischofsberger) and artists (such as his graffiti pals that he started out with). A quick-paced collage of images accompanied by music, voice-offs, texts and other commentaries tell Basquiat’s story in al crescendo tempo and beyond the stereotypes. It’s a very personal personal film that also shows the various creative influences and energies that flowed right through the young man’s body and onto at first city walls, then found objects like doors and windows and finally monumental canvases that now dawn the walls of the most prestigious international colllections.

The movie “Jean-Michel Basquiat. The Radiant Child”, named after an Artforum review that contributed to his success, was shown in an independent cinema in Paris’s Marais district last night and is officially released today, October 13th, 2010.

Thanks to a “wonderful coincidence” of timing (I’m quoting the Pretty Pictures production company) the musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (the Museum of Modern Art that’s near Trocadéro in the 8th district of Paris) is opening Jean-Michel Basquiat’s retrospective this Friday, October 15th, 2010.

Serendipitious indeed. I’m going!


Suzanne Mallouk (long-term girlfriend), Tamra Davis (film maker), Mariapol (one of the makers of "Downtown 81") and two close friends and collaborators of Jean-Michel Basquiat at the documentary's first screening in Paris last night, October 12th, 2010


Bruno Perramant, an interesting painter

October 1, 2010

Impastoed compositions by French painter Bruno Perramont are on view at Fabienne Leclerc’s gallery In Situ in Saint Germain until October 16th, 2010 and they’re well worth admiring – and buying for those who can.

Seeped in the tradition of easel painting and informed by several currents, Perramant employs a range of styles and is today displaying extracts from a handful of pictorial projects he’s been pursuing for the past two years, since his last solo show at gallery In Situ.

The exhibition begins on the groundfloor with the pegasus or horses of the Apocalypse series, apparently inspired by the equestrian statues of Paris’s Alexander III’s bridge built for the 1900 World Fair. But the visually strongest pieces are below, in the gallery’s large basement space. Here Perramont presents, among others, draped figures executed in luminous pastel-colored oil paint. The drapery and harmonious, symmetrical compositions reminiscent of Renaissance interpretations of biblical episodes contain images of violence: the bodies underneath the cloths are mean being handcuffed, arrested, kidnapped or otherwise captured by fellow men.

Claude Closky’s conceptual painting at gallery Laurent Godin

October 1, 2010

French conceptual artist Claude Closky is a difficult one to grasp but definitely an artist worth getting to know. Born in 1963 he was awarded the Prix Marcel Duchamp* in 2005 for his video installation Journal (the news), a collage of short extracts of world news with sound effects that consciously add to the confusion of the rapidly projected images. Closky generally likes to play with words, numbers and their visual representations in modern society – bar graphs and pie charts, for example, become the visual inspiration for eye-catching, monumental paintings. Using video, painting, collage, web sites, retouched magazine ads and other techniques, Closky’s work explores the fault lines between form, content and meaning.

You’ve got until October 16th to see his latest “landscape paintings” and word collages in his solo show “Lolali” at gallery Laurent Godin next to the Pompidou center.

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* The Prix Marcel Duchamp or Marcel Duchamp Art Prize is awarded by ADIAF, an association of French collectors and other contemporary art players, who began this art prize ten years ago in the year 2000. The winner pockets €35,000 and gets the chance to exhibit in the “Espace 315” of the Centre Pompidou (which gets its name from the fact that it’s 315m2 big) the following year. This year’s winner Saâdane Afif, another interesting conceptual artisted and represented by gallery Michel Rhein, just opened his show at the Pompidou which is on from September 15th 2010 to January 3rd, 2011. (Not sure it’s the best show I’ve ever seen, but the artist is interesting)

The idea of the Prix Marcel Duchamp is to promote French art both nationally and internationally and they’re doing all they can to improve its visibility which so far lags way behind Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize. Last year’s Duchamp’s vintage of 4 nominees, for example, are on show at the Shanghai World Fair until November of this year. Even nominees who don’t win benefit from the additional publicity. Didier Marcel, a 2008 nominee who lost against Laurent Grasso, for example, has a solo show starting at the musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAMVP) on October 8th this year.