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.
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.
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.