FIAC, Paris Internationale, and Paris Roundup

Claire Moulène

October 23, 2015
Paris Internationale, Paris
FIAC, Paris

Emancipation. Such could be the keyword of this FIAC week in Paris. Since its 2003 takeover by the duo Martin Béthenod and Jennifer Flay (and then by the latter, on her own), the grand old lady that is FIAC has regained the golden splendor of the Grand Palais and the heart of the French capital. This move also allowed FIAC to return to the chessboard of the major international circuit, skillfully playing on both the modern and the contemporary tables. Yet this year the fair, upright on its two legs, flamboyant but not flambé, has been stabbed in the back. It was not betrayed by its detractors or by the “refusés” (and many were excluded from the final selection, which decreased to 172 from last year’s 191 participating galleries) but rather by new and timely independent initiatives in Paris, shaped by the desire for an overhaul of the landscape.

The first breakaway operation is Paris Internationale, which leaves all the other off fairs in the dust. Even FIAC’s sister fair, “Officielle”—founded in 2014 to host younger galleries—has a grim look this year, with the exception of a small handful of stands. Among them is Paris’s Galerie Olivier Robert, which presents a solo show by Jeroen Fraeteur, and the Municipal Fund of Contemporary Art which is exhibiting emerging young French artist Lola Gonzàlez, among others. Located a few hundred meters away from the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris—where we can see “I ♥ JOHN GIORNO,” the John Giorno retrospective masterfully conceived by Ugo Rondinone and the exhibition “CO-WORKERS – The Network as Artist,” curated by DIS Magazine—Paris Internationale (a nod to the Situationist International) occupies an old, abandoned townhouse that hosts 34 galleries and seven non-profit spaces. The atmosphere is relaxed, cool, and friendly in this trashy fortress, its three levels arranged around a courtyard.

A big crowd attended the opening night, and the fair was likewise packed on Wednesday evening for performances by Renaud Jerez and La Femme, among others, programmed by curator Vincent Honoré. Spirits were high among this new generation of French galleries, joined by an international selection including the minimalist Lulu from Mexico City, Oslo’s 1857, Chapter from New York, and Pristina’s LambdaLambdaLambda. Mexico City’s Proyectos Monclova has one of the most beautiful spaces in the salon (we’re talking about rooms rather than stands), presenting split stone tables by French-born, Mexico-based artist Adrien Missika (Sinking Island, 2015) and draped photos by Martin Soto Climent suggesting a vulva (Espuma de Mare, 2015). Glasgow’s Koppe Astner—located under an attic with barely enough room to swing a cat—managed nonetheless to present three artists, Niall Macdonald, George Henry Longly, and Matthew Smith, who displayed an excellent collection of mutant vases (“Fat Tulip,” 2015). For the local galleries, Galerie Crèvecoeur presents works by Erica Baum (Untitled (Small A) and Blackboards, 1996) and Renaud Jerez’s robot (BDS, 2015), and Sultana shows British artist Celia Hampton’s sexy-feminist paintings.

Passing from one space to another, it’s possible to identify a family resemblance: the same taste for a somewhat raw abstraction, reclaimed materials, but also handmade objects and painting in all its forms. Birgit Megerle’s portraits at Emanuel Layr, Vienna, are a must see, including that of the director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde (Living Currencies, 2015)—a woman of power in a masculine world of money—as are the engraved paintings by Iranian artist Mirak Jamal at 1857.

FIAC, which stretches over the ground and upper floors of the Grand Palais, has risen to the challenge with a high-caliber edition. Under the glass and steel dome we encounter the regular unavoidable presences—Gavin Brown and its salon hang, stashed behind a red curtain by Martin Creed (work no 2580, 2015); Kamel Mennour with a clear-cut scenography; and Chantal Crousel, this year celebrating its 35th anniversary—alongside the flag bearers for a new scene. Among the treasures of this year’s edition are the politically charged flower arrangements of the Canadian Kapwani Kiwanga at Paris’s Jérôme Poggi (Flowers for Africa, 2014); Benoît Maire’s Peintures de nuages (2015), echoing the cloud-filled background of classical landscape painting, at Paris’s Thomas Bernard, and amusing animal compositions (Companion, 2015) by the Canadian Liz Magor at Marcelle Alix, also from Paris. Belonging to the more established category, but no less pleasing for it, is Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s deliciously withered presentation at New York’s Andrew Kreps.

While FIAC continues to play the leading role, collateral events have sprung up around it that allow us to feel that a new wind, freer and bolder, is blowing through the French capital and the French scene in general. Worth signaling are the display of Berliners Lothar Hempel and Uwe Henneken at “Appartement” (a season of art events taking place in the loft of collector Nathalie Miltat); Hub Lafayette Anticipation’s invitation to Ryan Gander to make boutique cocktails, which foreshadows the 2017 opening of the Lafayette Foundation; and the third act of Tarek Atoui’s sound performance at the Louis Vuitton Foundation (From Architecture, 2014/15).

The week’s hostilities were opened by an extraordinary new project by Neïl Beloufa (nominated for the 2015 Prix Marcel Duchamp alongside Melik Ohanian, Davide Balula, and Zineb Sedira) and gang. Far away from the Grand Palais and the riverside museums, it was in Villejuif, a quasi “Grand Paris” suburbia, that a new generation of artists transformed his studio—a derelict industrial building of 500 square meters—into a “contemporary art center.” The result is a vibrant group show presented against the backdrop of a Hollywood film lot (the reconstruction of the “Occidental Hotel” in faux concrete and 1950s latticework, built for Beloufa’s latest film of the same name). It was there, in its bar and alleyways, in the neocolonialist lounges, and in the crude unfinished environments that this group presented the work of the thirty or so artists who have, over the course of the years, used this space. Away from the diffuse moroseness and flashy investments of the art fair, artists Neïl Beloufa, Jonathan Binet, Camille Blatrix, Crystele Nicot, and Emile Vappereau (to name just a few) used what was at hand to make something grand. This spectacular artist-led show is also very ambitious on a formal and conceptual level. It gives voice to a coherent, supportive, and enthusiastic new guard, emerging from the same hothouse (many of them attended School of Fine Arts of Paris) but now exploding internationally. Their key principle is the reconciling of exhibition and living space, professional circuit and real economy. The title of this exhibition, which has already gained cult status? “C’est la vie.” Enough said.

Art Market

Claire Moulène is a French art critic working for the weekly cultural magazine les Inrockuptibles and the chief director of the biannual magazine Initiales, published by l’Ecole des beaux-arts de Lyon.

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