An art week amble through Paris

14 November 2016

A growing number of fringe fairs and exhibitions have been cropping up in Paris in October. Capitalizing on the international visitors that La Foire Internationale de l’Art Contemporain (FIAC) attracts, Paris Internationale’s second edition makes its mark on the city, attracting global attention with only 11 galleries and organisations being French.

Following its inauguration last year, the event quickly became known as the younger, edgier art fair. Remaining true to its beginnings, the casual and domestic location provides room for transaction and dialogue, as well as a more viewer-oriented space. Doubling in size, the updated festival format boasts a new location in a 19th century mansion in the heart of the affluent 16th arrondissement, just a stone’s throw away from the iconic Arc de Triomphe. The four-storey building — once the Parisian residence of art collector Calouste Gulbenkian — has exhibits spread throughout, including the servants quarters and the stairs. Grand and sophisticated, it is a far cry from the stark ambience of last year’s location on Avenue d’Iéna.

The upper floors are, to a degree, overshadowed by the grandeur of the mansion and its panoramic views of the city, with the exception of Arcadia Missa. Extending their space by placing a video in the narrow stairs outside a relatively small room, the London-based gallery presents the first of Amalia Ulman’s lenticular prints outside, with another two hung side-by-side inside. Presented in the style of The New Yorker cartoon strips, these self portraits are accessible yet darkly humorous, perspectives shifting slightly depending on the viewing angle.

Anne Neukamp and George Henry Longly @ FIAC (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + Valentin
Anne Neukamp and George Henry Longly @ FIAC (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + Valentin

The less magnificent tiled basement houses the younger galleries and project spaces in a refreshing reminder of how interesting displays and approaches can still exist within the art fair economy. In the slightly ominous and dimly-lit former servants quarters, LA-based gallery Château Shatto present French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s photography. Three landscape photographs are hung above a fitted kitchenette offering a moment of aesthetic familiarity, displacing the otherwise faux spatiality of the art fair.

David Rappeneau, represented by New York-based gallery Queer Thoughts, presents mundane images bordering on the dystopian; young, outsider adults and teens belonging to an apparently lost generation. By mere coincidence Julien Ceccaldi’s work presented at Los Angeles gallery Jenny’s upstairs connects with the same themes  with slightly more humor. Paintings saturated with colour depict his signature androgynous and slightly neurotic characters that have stylistic roots in Manga-type figuration.

It’s refreshing to see Section 7 Books, one of Paris’s most respected bookstores at Paris Internationale and one of only seven French project spaces included in the line up. The scarcity of these kinds of organisations indicate shifting priorities. This more polished and shiny edition might look better, but it has also sacrificed the element of randomness and unpredictability  that made last year’s edition so special.

Naresh Kumar, Artie Vierkant and Darja Bajagić @ FIAC (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + New Galerie
Naresh Kumar, Artie Vierkant and Darja Bajagić @ FIAC (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + New Galerie

A few metro stops away from Paris Internationale is the main event, La Foire Internationale de l’Art Contemporain (FIAC) at the Grand Palais. Voluminous star-filled booths and frenetic exchange, FIAC always manages to create a bubble in which everything else happening outside is suspended.

While there is no thread or trend that can somehow glue this chaotic spectacle together, it’s interesting to observe how certain galleries try to accomplish a very daunting task; that of cutting through the opulence by including more innovative work and coming up with alternative modes of display. Anne Imhof’s paintings and her water and whisky-filled resin sculpture at Isabella Bortolozzi creates a booth that is both representative of Imhof’s majestic performance memorabilia and more accessible and market-oriented pieces, proving that in spite of  the standardised fair format one can still create an immersive booth.

Darja Bajagićs angsty pieces slice through the otherwise safe works by Artie Vierkant and Naresh Kumar at New Galerie. Heavily influenced by a 90s aesthetic, Bajagićs  ‘murderabilia’-inspired portraits are  displayed against a red wall, overshadowing the rest. At Chez Valentin, 12 marble pieces by George Henry Longly each represent a Zodiac sign. An orange-and-blue metal display specifically conceived by the artist for the booth houses the flat work, resulting in a display that transforms their flatness into sculptural  pieces. Meanwhile, on the other edge of the city, La Plages vitrine is left empty, except for the dry, ironic, grey letters that read, “This junkspace belongs to us”.**

FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) + Paris Internationale are annual events running at Paris’ Grand Palais in October.

Header image: Amalia Ulman @ FIAC (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + Arcadia Missa. 

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Letha Wilson and Kate Steciw @ Christophe Gaillard, Oct 8- Nov 12

10 October 2016

Letha Wilson presents Surface Moves alongside a solo exhibition by Kate Steciw at Paris’ Galerie Christophe Gaillard opening on October 8 and running to November 12.

With Steciw’s showing in the Front space and Wilson showing in the Main space, the two exhibitions will run during the same time-frame and are part of Paris’ annual art fair Fiac.

Steciw’s practice explores the malleability of image culture, and the temporality inherent within it. Sculptural and photographic encounters are used to rephrase and repeat through collage and overlay. This exhibition in particular focuses on “the behaviour of images and how their state of contingency can be harnessed within the production of art.”

Wilson’s exhibition uses photographic prints, metals and concrete to explore the landscape of the American West, and the relationship between materials that are “grounded in their shared nature as substrates, surfaces and physical vestiges of actions.”

Visit the Christophe Gaillard webpage for more details.**

Letha Wilson, 'Surface Moves' (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris.
Letha Wilson, ‘Surface Moves’ (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris.


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FIAC 2015 reviewed

11 November 2015

The last week of October in Paris is generally taken up by La Foire Internationale de l’Art Contemporain (FIAC) with the many other “off” fairs and events and openings happening collaterally, pushed to the margins by the scale of events at the Grand Palais and Hors Murs, running from the October 22 to 25. Lately, especially with the introduction of (OFF)icielle, the major fair’s younger sister, these events have been providing a less centralized, but equally interesting perspective on the international contemporary art scene. In addition to having all the other fringe fairs such as  Asia Now and YIA happening in parallel, this year saw the inaugural edition of Paris Internationale.

Opening on the same day as OFF, this new fair/salon is a timely intervention. It is set up on three levels and hosts 34 galleries, along with seven non-profit spaces. Founded by a consortium of five younger Parisian galleries, including Sultana, Crèvecoeur, and Antoine Levi, Paris Internationale follows in the footsteps of other smaller art fairs such as Sunday in London, Independent New York and Liste in Basel. Among the international gallery selection are Lulu and Proyectos Monclova from Mexico City, Oslo’s 1857, Chapter from New York and Sandy Brown in Berlin.

Florian Germann. Installation view @ FIAC (2015). Courtesy Gregor Staiger, Zurich.
Florian Germann. Installation view @ FIAC (2015). Courtesy Gregor Staiger, Zurich.

Breaking away from the standard fair model, Paris Internationale invite associations and artist-run spaces. Visitors enter through an internal courtyard that stands at the centre of the dilapidated 19th century Haussmann hôtel particulier, a townhouse of the grand kind. Some rooms are rougher and have a studio quality to them. Others, while still slightly frayed, are more elegant, typical Parisian house rooms. This is a first for an event held in the French capital. Of particular interest is an installation by Keith Farquhar at High Art, who presents childrens’ car seats attached to floor-to-ceiling metal poles and Florian Germanns pink fountain structure at Galerie Gregor Steiger. Paris-based artist-run spaces Shanaynay and Lyon’s La Salle de Bains could be found sharing the same space with more established galleries such as Praz-Dellavallade and Croy Nielsen. It’s a curatorial choice that creates a denser, stronger and more inclusive dialogue overall, in a theme that’s further highlighted by an evening of performance with Zoe Williams and Renaud Jerez in a conversation programme centred on the question of ‘artistic agency’.

At the Grand Palais, FIAC returns for its 42nd edition directed by Jennifer Flay. Ever since the curator took over with Martin Béthenod, later carrying on alone, Flay has reestablished the fair at its original Grand Palais location, while managing to make it more accessible to a wider international audience. This year it features 172 participants, a slight decrease from last year’s 192, in an effort to reduce its numbers and provide larger booths for growing emerging galleries. Hence, there are the staple presences, including Gavin Brown, who presents dozens of works, including Joan Jonas, Martin Creed and Rirkrit Tiravanija, covering the walls and hidden behind a theatrical red velvet curtain. Paris’ Galerie Jerome Poggi shows the politically charged flower arrangements of Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga and Swiss gallery, Karma International, presents the works of Ida Ekblad, Mélanie Matranga and Pamela Rosenkranz. Rosenkranz, whose recent installation can be viewed at at the Venice Biennale, here smears Bellini paintings with the average-European-skin-tone pigment that she developed for the pool at the Swiss Pavilion. Meanwhile, Matranga whose current solo exhibition is up at the Palais de Tokyo, presents silicone casts of Parisian ceiling friezes and a glue-encased double bed.

High Art, Paris + Chapter, New York @ Paris Internationale (2015). Installation view.
High Art, Paris + Chapter, New York @ Paris Internationale (2015). Installation view.

Meanwhile, London’s Pilar Corrias presents ‘Emissary Forks at Perfection’ (2015), a video by Ian Cheng and ‘Marquee’ a blue light installation by Philippe Parreno. Ugo Rondinone’s work at Gladstone Gallery’s booth is timed to coincide with the exhibition he curated at Palais de Tokyo, I <3 John Giorno, which reprises the work of the American poet and performance artist John Giorno.

Paris’ New Galerie booth is also noteworthy, presenting the works of Jasper Spicero, who is showing two pieces and a video installation from his project Centers in Pain and a Dora Budor sculpture recently exhibited at the New York Swiss Institute. Carrying on a process she calls “reanimation”, the artist works on the object’s fictional quality (usually miniature cinema-props that were originally featured in Hollywood blockbuster films) and recontextualizes them.

Prix Marcel Duchamp laureate Neïl Beloufa, whose work is on view at the Balice Hertling booth, also organised a group exhibition earlier in the week in the Paris suburb of Villejuif. C’est la Vie? was hosted in an industrial building with a Hollywood film set working as backdrop to the works of Beloufa, Camille Blatrix, Crystele Nicot, and Emile Vappereau among others. For the exhibition, Beloufa discusses the premises, which used to be his atelier and for now has become a temporary art centre. Departing from the process of gentrification, the issue is that constructing something can also lead to its destruction. C’est la Vie? analyses how this process is possibly transferred to the works during their production. It’s a discourse that’s echoed in the ‘Voices of Urgency’ FIAC conversations programme, where the importance of investment in the present is reflected not only in the talks touching on contemporaneity and how our future is constructed, but on the wealth of new talent in the FIAC week ‘happening’ as a whole. **

Select arrow, top right, for exhibition photos. 

FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) is an annual event running at October at Grand Palais.

Header image: FIAC 2015. Photo by Marc Domage.

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FIAC 2014 reviewed

11 November 2014

To write an account of FIAC is to attempt to speak of parts within a necessarily unknowable whole. Were the whole visible from one’s perspective on street level, no doubt it would be truly terrifying. Thankfully, we’re not obliged to be all-seeing, in fact perhaps even the organisers would advise against it. La Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain in Paris designates a four-day event whose object is art, galleries and exhibitions of a sort. Yet when someone says ‘FIAC’ (fyak!), they tend to mean something much more englobing even than the majestic Grand Palais that houses the main stands.

This year, FIAC introduced (OFF)ICIELLE, the ‘official satellite’ fair, whose purported purpose is to “showcase new territories: young galleries and newcomers to the international art scene; emerging artists and those whose historic contribution has been overlooked”. It was noted by more than once that, in actuality, the (OFF) – held in the less grandiose, more utilitarian venue Les Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design – was a veritable salon des refusés. Which is to say it housed those galleries which applied for the main event but, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut, suggesting that FIAC had cleverly maneuvered a cash cow on the back of younger, less established clients. That cynicism aside, (OFF) hosted some great galleries and artists, and its energy was slightly more welcoming, less high-maintenance than its older sister.

House of Gaga installation view. FIAC 2014. Courtesy the gallery.
House of Gaga installation view. FIAC 2014. Courtesy the gallery.

It’s worth mentioning, though there’s no space to go into detail, that besides these ‘official’ fairs there was also the fourth annual Young International Artists (YIA) art fair, held at the Carreau du Temple in the Marais. Which, thanks to the appearance of FIAC’s (OFF), became a sort of off-off. Here, works by USA-based Jon Bernad and French artists Loup Sarion and Eva Barto at La GAD (Marseille) were a highlight, as was Barcelona’s The Green Parrot. Each of the three fairs had outdoor or hors les murs projects, as well. There were many, many openings at galleries in Paris during FIAC week, including a great solo show by Latvian artist Daiga Grantina at Galerie Joseph Tang (she also appeared in Tang’s (OFF) booth, accompanied by Adam Cruces, Jo-ey Tang and others). And the ‘Gallery Night’ on Thursday 23 October saw spaces throughout the city opening until 10pm. Everyone makes an attempt to get a piece of FIAC pie, it seems, for you never know when a collector might just swan past and fall madly deeply for one of your stable.

Even the day of rest, Sunday, saw the Belleville Galleries’ Brunch, where the array of young-ish spaces based in Paris’ Belleville quarter opened their doors. For someone who went expecting sweet patisseries and Nutella, the brunch itself was disappointedly meagre, however. Seemingly, everyone was hungover and would rather have been in bed. The Friday had seen the Ricard Foundation’s announcement of their annual art prize at the infamous bal jaune (yellow ball, named after the family’s eponymous pastis, one can only assume). More occasion for what became somewhat of a constant for many people from Tuesday’s (OFF) vernissage onward: drunkenness. Curatorial collective castillo/corrales curated the Prix Ricard show this year, with a fine selection of French artists including Mélanie Matranga, Audrey Cottin and Jean-Alain Corre. The winner was Camille Blatrix.

Laure Prouvost, ‘Wantee’ (2013). Courtesy MOT International.
Laure Prouvost, ‘Wantee’ (2013). Courtesy MOT International.

In addition to all this folly, FIAC had organised substantial parallel programs of films, performances and conversations. The latter were conceived and orchestrated by Paris-based artist Alex Cecchetti under the title ‘Voices of Urgency’, with the final conversation event consisting of New York-based poet Ariana Reines, Paris-based sociolinguist Luca Greco and Slovenian poet Peter Semolič, reading around the topic of ‘desire and revolution’. Earlier that day, Laure Prouvost had given the performance titled ‘Bread, Tunnel, Vegetable’ (2014), which involved a group of children offering tea, bum-shaped cakes, and crisps to the audience sat on the floor, while the London-based French artist dramatically recounted stories associated with her imaginary lost granddad. The performance falls within the expansive Turner Prize-winning project, ‘Wantee’ (2013), the video of which was shown on a laptop monitor during the performance.

Berlin-based artists Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz showed two videos within the films program, ‘To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of their Desperation’ (2013) and ‘Opaque’ (2014), a film so recently finished that Boudry and Lorenz had not yet seen it projected. A discussion between the artists and French art historian Élisabeth Lebovici followed each film, with some of the primary concerns being non-hierarchical production (in film, and in Pauline Oliveros’ music), the camera as active participant in a performance that couldn’t exist without it, and opacity as resistance against the aggressive act of understanding. The veil is a recurring motif; the artists suggest we don’t need to see everything and it is misguided to think the camera reveals all.

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, 'Opaque' (2014) 16mm film on HD video, 10 min. Courtesy Ellen de Bruijne Projects.
Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, ‘Opaque’ (2014). Video still. Courtesy Ellen de Bruijne Projects.

If only one didn’t feel the pressure to see it all! At the main event, expensively-dressed people shuffle around with glazed eyes, darting between 750,000€ Isa Genzkens, 9€ sandwiches resembling plastic, and Ruinart champagne. The most interesting booths were ones that pretended to be anything else but a luxury goods stall. Particularly successful were those who allowed one single artist to create a total installation, not only because it gave a more generous insight into the practice, but also because it was such a relief after the endless white. Perhaps unsurprisingly, two Berlin galleries were among the most adept at this technique. Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie’s Wu Tsang installation came directly from the artist’s solo show, A day in the life of bliss, held at the gallery this summer. One of the highlights of the season, they cleverly re-contextualised the work for an FIAC audience, turning the stand into a mirror-like infinity lounge and inviting people to sit and observe reflections of themselves and others – and of course the colourful flashing light sculpture which took prime position in the centre, hanging from above and almost touching the floor.

Meanwhile upstairs, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler’s GCC installation included the HD video ‘Co-Op’ (2014), which ironically promotes a society based on luxury. The flat screen is installed within ‘Royal Mirage’ (2014), where wallpaper depicting the luxurious interior of a multi-billion dollar hotel in the Gulf serves as the background to eight painted portraits, hung in an even line. GCC commissioned a Thai painter in Kuwait to create oil paintings of members of the collective in the same style he paints sheikhs. Depicted in thawb and in a typical soft-focus manner, signs of age or gender become indiscernible, and all eight artists fall under the category of ‘Arab’. Simultaneously a witty comment on the kinds of portraiture Western collectors might hang on their walls, the rising power of the Middle East, and the role of the artist as self-promoting brand, GCC really made the mirage work.

GCC installation view @ FIAC 2014. Courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeilder.
GCC installation view @ FIAC 2014. Courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler.

Other galleries went for the classic mixed-bag group show model, which inevitably meant the works on display ranged from the merely eye-catching to the quietly stunning, with little way of discerning the two, unless you mustered up enough energy to speak to one of the exhausted looking gallerists. Some gems among the Kapoors included French artist Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s dancing pyjamas encased in glass sheets, ‘Live Through That ?!’ (2014), at Kamel Mennour, London-based Eloise Hawser’s two pieces at Balice Hertling, young Romanian Mihuț Boșcu Kafchin at Gaudel de Stampa, Praz-Delavallade’s swathe of LA artists including Amanda Ross-Ho and photographer Matthew Brandt, and Galerie Antoine Levi’s display of Italian artist Francesco Gennari’s spiderweb photographs and US-American Sean Townley’s sculptures.

In addition to all these Paris galleries, highlights from abroad included Mexico D.F.’s House of Gaga, whose pairing of New York-based Sam Pulitzer’s drawings and Mexican illustrator Julio Ruelas, who died of tuberculosis in Paris in 1907, made a link that gave a touch of much-appreciated sentimentality. Unexpectedly seductive, German artist Martin Eder’s painting at Leipzig/Berlin Galerie EIGEN + ART also spoke to the romantics amongst us, while New York’s On Stellar Rays had a wild display of Debo Eilers’ and Rochelle Feinstein’s colourful painting and sculptural works. Austrian-born artist Josef Strau’s tacky fence piece was a highlight at London’s Vilma Gold, and the Latin American stars Adrián Villar Rojas, Abraham Cruzvillegas and Gabriel Kuri at kurimanzutto, Mexico City, were predictably impressive. Meanwhile, Lisbon’s Vera Cortês Art Agency presented artists Joana Escoval and Daniel Gustav Cramer, whose understated pieces provided relief from the bombastic, ostentatious norm.

Joana Escoval, 'Outlaws in Language and Destiny'. Courtesy Vera Cortês Art Agency.
Joana Escoval, ‘Outlaws in Language and Destiny’. Courtesy Vera Cortês Art Agency.

That’s a tiny, we’ll say refined, taste of FIAC before one even begins to rattle off some of the things to be seen at (OFF)ICIELLE. There, it’s worth mentioning Cynthia Daignault’s photographic and painterly meditation on images of the Matterhorn for New York gallery Lisa Cooley; British artist Merlin James’ solo show of his expanded landscape painting practice at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin; London-based Italian artist Salvatore Arancio at Rome’s Federica Schiavo Gallery alongside Jay Heikes; and Jacqueline Mesmaeker’s beautiful photo-sculptural installations at Nadja Vilenne, Liège.

At Galerie Tatjana Pieters, Belgian artist Philippe Van Snick’s ten-colour palette and associated aesthetic limitations proved in reality to allow an ongoing multiplicity of forms and encounters. Andreas Angelidakis’s series of ‘bibelots’, 3D-prints resting atop internally decorated vitrines, at The Breeder (Athens) were a highlight. As was French artist Sarah Tritz at Paris Galerie Anne Barrault, whose work included a trashy fake-hair and bead sculpture and large collage of a seductively angled naked arse.

Last but not least, who could forget the darling, not just of ‘post-internet’, but of contemporary art in general. Amalia Ulman’s solo show at the booth of ltd los angeles was a total hit, making one wonder how the artist could put a foot wrong. One of the large digitally printed tapestries Ulman had produced for the fair seems a good note to finish on. Depicting two African children in school uniform, a girl whispering to a boy, the serif embroidered text reads:

‘What Have You Heard About MONEY?’

‘What Does It Mean?’ ‘How Does It Harm Us?’ ‘Who Can Get It?’ ‘What Causes It?’ ‘How Can We Stop It?’ What Can We Do For People Who Have It?’ ‘Can It Be Cured?’ ‘What Does It Look Like?’ ‘Which Of Us Has It?’


Select arrow top-right for installation photos.

FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) is an annual event running at October at Grand Palais.

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