Caroline Soyez-Petithomme

October 24, 2011
FIAC, Paris
October 20–23, 2011

Following the opening of FIAC on Wednesday, positive feedback confirmed a strong start. Perhaps a little dazed after the opening, a few dealers–such as Isabelle Alfonsi, co-founder of Marcelle Alix with Cécilia Becanovic–scattered to deal with collectors and other VIPs scanning everything in the booths. Marcelle Alix took part in the easy-to-miss galleries on the upper floor, a space they shared with the Lafayette section. For the third year, the Groupe Galeries Lafayette sponsored ten emerging galleries at FIAC. As noted by Laurence Périllat, head of Groupe Galeries Lafayette’s corporate patronage department and also in charge of developing the private arts foundation project due to open in Paris in 2014, the prize was awarded to a female artist for the third year running, a point the company is proud of, particularly when considered alongside the Prix Marcel Duchamp which nominated only male artists this year. Lafayette’s awarded project is then purchased by the collection of the Groupe Galeries Lafayette. Helen Marten (b.1985), represented by Johann König won the prize this year and will realize a solo exhibition in October 2012 at the Palais de Tokyo.

The Parisian artistic landscape is growing up and has become more diversified, particularly via the creation or projects of private foundations, which may have influences on the fair in the future, as with the Groupe Lafayette sponsorship for instance. This process of private initiatives started in the mid nineties–for instance with the moving of the Cartier Foundation to its new Nouvel’s architectural building in Paris–followed by the Maison Rouge in Bastille in the 2000s, and more recently by Kadist or the Rosenblum Collection. Today these take part in the program running in parallel with FIAC. And of course the next and very expected development is the LVMH foundation whose new architectural building by American architect Frank Gehry is still in progress.

Thus the Parisian arts infrastructure is developing more cohesively in the private rather than the public realm. The fair has changed slightly too, now only taking place at the Grand Palais, meaning the emerging galleries are no longer showing at the Louvre in the Cour Carrée. As a consequence, the exhibition space is smaller than last year resulting in fewer galleries and smaller booths.

At the entrance, on the front row are some of the pillar galleries. At Metro Pictures, Franz West and Rudolf Stingel meet up in Louise Lawler’s Moonrocks (2008–2009), giving a witty wink towards what an art fair is all about. Barbara Gladstone chose to give over her entire booth to Andro Wekua’s ambitious and puzzling solo project. Heeding a completely different trend, Elvira Gonzalez from Madrid dedicated her booth to the minimalism of Robert Mangold, while David Zwirner brought over Dan Flavin’s installation Untitled (to the citizens of the Republic of France on the 200th anniversary of their revolution) 2 (1989) which amusingly referenced the tricolore in the climate of the next presidential campaign.

Going further through the Grand Palais, in the far corner Bortolami drew attention to Polish artist Anna Ostoya with the series Untitled (Non-Spaces) (2011), repetitive collages made of newspapers, or, more precisely, from their margins, spare spaces, and various residual places free from any text. Bortolami’s Sales Director, Simone Battisti explained that they took less risk here than at Frieze last week where they decided to go with a statement, showing a challenging selection of three videos: works dedicated to public institutions, but the business went well. Ostoya has not yet shown in France but a selection of international curators already know her work and at FIAC, French curators as well as private foreign collectors discovered it. Close by, Franco Noero’s stand was given over to the contemplation of the Greeks: Pablo Bronstein created a temple that oscillates between stage set and architectural model.

Praz-Delavallade’s stand adopted a minimal, chromatic harmony of white, black and grey tones. Phillipe Decrauzat’s hypnotic series of stripes paintings underlined the whole display. Counterbalancing this at Nelson-Freeman, Mel Bochner’s colorful text painting opened up another pictorial and conceptual space. This well-curated booth leads us back to more talkative and overtly political works. Fluxus artist Robert Filliou turned a little glass dome into a shelter for his utopian, imaginary as well as parodic state: Galerie Légitime (1968–70), a collaborative piece which also includes works by Filliou, Olivier Mosset, Al Hansen, Daniel Spoerri and Chieko Shiomi. This simple but powerful artwork evokes real political situations, territory occupations as well as metaphorical and poetical spaces that art negotiates or invents.

Further narratives included Richard Prince’s dark joke painting at Gagosian (who opened his first Paris gallery space a year ago just before Prince’s exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale) and Raymond Pettibon’s drawings and collages at Sadie Coles, in keeping with the subversive attitudes inspired by the roman noir. Other slices of life include the sexually implicit or explicit allusions unveiled in Leigh Ledare’s photographs at Office Baroque. And last but not least, a surprising discovery on the upper floor: the experimental filmmaker and performance artist Barbara Hammer. KOW Berlin had sharply selected works from the early and late seventies including documentaries of feminist and lesbian performances, a non-narrative fiction inspired by Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and an autobiographical, psycho-symbolical interpretation of Hammer’s sexuality from childhood until coming out. These works somehow echo Diane Arbus’s partial retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, but also Ryan Trecartin’s first France exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Down the Seine, at the Palais de Tokyo–where the FIAC week really began on Monday–is another show to recommend, Marc-Olivier Wahler’s last exhibition of his programme, which has seen him invite Swiss artist John Armleder for the Carte Blanche: “All of the Above”. Other things not to miss outside the fair include Blair Thurman’s solo exhibition at the new gallery Triple V, next to Liam Gillick’s solo exhibition at Air de Paris in the Louise Weiss area. A good conclusion to the FIAC journey is to pass by the Museum of Natural History where a set of Mark Dion’s sculptures have been disseminated in the beautiful garden as part of the public sculpture programmed of the fair.

Money & Finance, Minimalism & Post-Minimalism

Caroline Soyez-Petithomme is an independent curator and writer based in Paris. She recently co-curated “The Rise and Fall of Matter” at Collective/David Roberts Arts Foundation, Camden, London. She has been the Co-Director of the not for profit La Salle de bains in Lyon since January 2009.

October 24, 2011

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