Spotlight on Paris: FIAC and more!

Sarah Belden, Artscapy’s Head Fine Art Advisor, has been to explore the latest on the art scene again and has shared her highlights from Paris this time, which we are delighted to share it with you below!

The International Art Fair circuit has gone from zero to one hundred in what seems like the blink of an eye and it has been quite a change of pace transitioning from sedentary, lockdown-induced FOMO mode to running from one art fair to the next.  As IRL fairs come roaring back to life with back-to-back events scheduled across Europe this Fall, SBFA is pleased to bring you on-the-ground coverage with everything you need to know.  After Basel and Frieze, we barely had a chance to unpack before jumping on a flight to Paris to check out FIAC; Paris Internationale; Françios Pinault’s Collection at the stunning new Bourse de Commerce; and German art star Anne Imhoff’s “art mosh pit” for her carte-blanche take over of Palais De Tokyo.


FIAC is back, but now temporarily located at the Grand Palais Ephémère instead of the fair’s usual location, the historic and much-beloved beaux-arts Grand Palais, which is currently under reconstruction.  On October 20th, VIPs showed up for the perennial Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC)  at the Champ-de-Mars overlooking the Eiffel Tower to a shiny new €40 million temporary structure which will also host Paris Photo next month.  This engineering marvel was executed by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, and was assembled over three months during the pandemic.

“The Grand Palais Éphémère responds to today’s environmental concerns, the principles of anti-waste and the circular flow of goods and materials, which is central to the way we must rethink the world.” 

-Jennifer Flay, Director of FIAC 

Apparently, the modular construction is made of repurposed, more sustainable materials which can be taken down and reused for future venues.  Perhaps with the recent lockdown, we have learned to be a little more cognizant of the degree to which the “art fair industrial complex” has an impact on the environment.  It appears that Post-Covid, Galleries have also become more eco-conscious, many stating they plan to cut back on participating in so many art fairs.  Let's hope we see this as a growing trend going forward.

Arriving at the fair, I was quite impressed with the new digs.  The airy, white bubble filled with art was positioned squarely atop a vast green lawn overlooking Le Tour Eiffel.  Not too shabby for a temporary pop-up.  Well-heeled VIPs filed into the fair in a much more civilized manner than that of Frieze, London the previous weekend, which felt like much more of a crush, but by mid-day FIAC was teeming with collectors eager to score their next acquisition. The waft of expensive Hermés Cologne filled the air (or whatever scent that is that seems to follow me through every European fair I go to) and the mood was buoyant. There was much anticipation and talk of FIAC, Paris taking over Frieze’s dominant place in the art market, due to post-Brexit complications and the bevy of galleries decamping from the UK to set up shop in Paris, but at FIAC it appeared sales were not quite as brisk as the UK fair, despite all the hype.

While Basel saw less American collectors in town than usual, Artnet news’ Naomi Rae reported spotting a few major collectors at FIAC including, Don and Mera Rubel from Miami and Brad Pitt, who was seen in the early moments of the fair eyeing work by elusive anti-fashion designer Martin Margiela at the booth of Antwerp’s Zeno X. Margiela seems to have made quite an impression on the art world and apparently three of his sculptures that caught my eye were later snapped up by a major museum.  The director and vice president of Louis Vuitton Delphine Arnault, and the billionaire businessman Xavier Niel were also both at the opening. 

Daniel Templon, who had a very strong presentation, apparently sold quite well, including a $500,000 painting by Kehinde Wiley and a work by Senagalese painter Omar Ba for €115,000. But as usual, I was much more focused on the Younger Gallery Section rather than the Mega galleries, hawking all the usual suspects, so instead of recapping all the sales from the top galleries, (which FYI were still very healthy, despite David Zwirner's comment that after the “vibrancy of Frieze,” he was “a little disappointed” with sales at the Paris fair), I will instead focus on some of my top picks from younger galleries here.

Semiose Gallery, which seems to capture my attention at every fair and has an excellent program and consistently well-curated booths exhibited French artist Françoise Pétrovitch and sculptor Stefan Rinck from Berlin.  Since the 1990s, Françoise Pétrovitch has produced one of the most powerful bodies of work on the French art scene. She has explored ceramics, painting, print, video and drawing. The paintings she showed at FIAC  were “carried out in single strokes, without pentimento, alterations or laborious superimpositions, showing that her technique is that of a master craftswoman.”  Stefan Rinck also had one of his motley and comical stone obelisks on view - part animal, chimera and part monster, and just in time for Halloween, the artist also had two of his large stone creatures on display at the Hors les Murs outdoor exhibition organized in association with the Musée du Louvre at the Jardin des Tuileries.

Over at NY-based Downs and Ross Gallery another painter caught my eye, Ivy Haldeman (b. 1985, Aurora, CO). She had a couple of curious and colorful works on view featuring jewel-toned women’s disembodied, double-breasted suits.  Haldeman has been included at the Dallas Museum of Art, Denver Museum of Art, ICA Miami, Yuz Museum Shanghai, and X Museum, among numerous others.

At Klemms Berlin I discovered an intruiging new artist Émilie Pitoiset (born 1980  in Noisy Le Grand, FR).  An artist and a choreographer, Pitoiset analyses popular culture to understand the urgency that exists in times of social, economic and political crises to produce new forms of existence and resistance through music and dance.  Émilie Pitoiset's fascination with dance marathons, which have their origins in the U.S. during the Great Depression were the artistic inspiration for this stunning series of photographic works entitled Tainted Love. There were many other notable artists on view at FIAC such as Ettore Spalletti (who has become my most recent art crush), shown at Vistamare Gallery, Milano/Pescara and Ludovic Nkoth at François Ghebaly Gallery, but there is never room to mention all the great works I come across, and I have not even delved into Paris Internationale yet.

Paris Internationale

On Saturday I headed over to the young satellite fair Paris Internationale, which featured a well-curated range of younger galleries, exhibiting solo or duo presentations, salon-style, in an intimate and welcoming setting that changes every year.  This year for its seventh edition, the fair took place in a decadent, Haussmann-style residential building on Avenue Victor Hugo in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, west of the Eiffel Tower and featured 36 galleries from 21 countries. It was much quieter than FIAC, but it was a great setting for talking to and getting to know many young galleries, some of whom I knew well already and others who I was discovering for the first time.  This was my first time visiting this fair and there was a lot of engaging work on view.

The first room I entered was Georg Kargl Fine Art from Vienna who was showing an arresting piece by Jakob Lena Knebl, (Austrian, b. 1970).  Knebl’s life-size figure titled Ursula made of pink leather - was something between a mannequin and a sex toy, or perhaps her version of the surrealist fetishization of the female body. Her figure wore customizable and adaptable female and male sexual organs on a chain around her neck and a small child slung over her shoulder like a handbag.  The ceramic head of the figure was reminiscent of the classicism of a Picasso or Modigliani, the pink leather body, on the other hand, referenced contemporary fetish aesthetics, but also reminded me of Louise Bourgeois's pink felt figures.

In the next room at Crèvecoeur, Paris, it was impossible not to be drawn into an installation featuring the much-hyped Argentinian artist Ad Minoliti  (b. 1980), who was exhibiting another life-size figure, this one with a furry cat head.  The room was painted with her signature geometric patterns in bright red, orange and green with her triptych “Three Kitties,” a series of abstract-figurative acrylic canvases on view.  Minoliti’s techno-feminist figures without origins, gender or class, are midway between Donna Haraway’s cyborgs and the robots of her childhood manga cartoons.


Also worth mentioning, although I've written about him before, is Detroit-based conceptual artist Michael E. Smith, whose work was presented by Berlin-based KOW gallery. I was lucky enough to catch his solo show just before it closed this past weekend in Berlin (post-FIAC), and it was definitely worth the trip just to see this significant exhibition of new works by this important young American artist. Also of note at Paris Internationale was a duo presentation at von Ammo co (hailing from Washington, D.C.), who presented a two-person installation by Tony Hope and Alex Bag.  Bag had a video presentation on view along with her Margiela Suicide Dolls, a group of modified dolls in hand-tailored miniature Maison Margiela couture. Margiela seemed to be everywhere in Paris over the this a comeback?

Anne Imhoff at Palais de Tokyo

The previous evening I had tickets at Palais de Tokyo for the much-anticipated polyphonic performance and exhibition Nature Mortes by Berlin-based Anne Imhoff (Born 1978, Frankfurt), best known for large-scale performances with troupes of collaborators.  After seeing her performance Angst at the MAC in Montréal, Canada in 2016, I had also seen her work Faust at the German Pavilion for the 57th  Biennale di Venezia in 2017, for which she was awarded the Golden Lion Award, so I could not miss her take-over of Palais de Tokyo while in Paris.  

The performance was supposed to start promptly at 6 pm, but instead, there was a massive queue (even with pre-purchased tickets), where we stood in line for almost an hour. Mostly a younger crowd, people started to drink their own store-bought booze and smoke copiously while standing around waiting.  It felt like we waiting in line for a rock concert, but considering Imhoff's reoccurring themes of sex, drugs, and rock and roll and the fact that her partner and main protagonist Eliza Douglas is a musician herself, this tactic didn't seem to be too far off.  We were told by the museum "bouncers" who were checking Covid-19 green passes and QR code tickets that the wait was "all part of the performance."  Clearly, the artist meant to leave us there in anticipation for dramatic effect. If I had known that beforehand I would have shown up an hour later rather than running from the fair.

Once inside, the Palais de Tokyo quickly became packed with a rapt audience that seemed to move on command with Imhoff's sonic cues. Imhoff's all-embracing, polyphonic work fused space, bodies, music and painting, her own works, and those of her partner and musical composer Eliza Douglas, along with thirty invited guest artists, including Trisha Donnelly, Cyprien Gaillard, David Hammons, Mike Kelley,  Klara Lidèn, Gordon Matta-Clark, Joan Mitchell, Oscar Murillo, Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, and Bunny Rogers amongst others.  Imhoff trained in Frankfurt am Main at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste-Städelschule, one of Germany’s most prestigious art schools, while immersed in the city’s club and music scene, and has established herself for over a decade as a prominent figure in contemporary art through her radical work. This Gesamtkunstwerk evoked the fleeting cycle of life and the disruptions of the present moment, in counterpoint to her Natures Mortes [still lifes]-memento mori. 

Bourse de Commerce - François Pinault Collection

Sunday before catching my flight home I had to check out Mega Collector François Pinault’s newest Parisian outpost at the new Bourse de Commerce that is finally being shown after a marathon 20-year wait.  I booked tickets well in advance, as the last time I was in Paris I was not able to snag a timed entry due to the high demand, with so many curious to see the collection itself and star Japanese architect Tadao Ando's transformation, which was completed in February 2020. The original building was erected in the 15th century as Catherine de’ Medicis’ palace,  impressive for its circular 18th-century design, capped in 1812 with a spectacular metal and glass dome. The building was then modified in 1889 to become the “Paris Stock Exchange.”

With two collections already on view at historical sites in Venice- the Palazzo Grassi and Punta Della Dogana, here in Paris Pinault chose to preserve and transform a symbolic Parisian building, part of the city’s historical heritage and to open it up to the public.  The collection is an exceptional ensemble of over 10,000 works by almost 400 artists, and features paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, installations, and performances and reveals the collector’s particular penchant for emerging trends. The current inaugural exhibition entitled Ouverture is an ensemble, dedicated to art from the 1960s to the present day. 

Upon entering the main gallery, the massive Rotonda, in the monumental heart of the Bourse de Commerce, Swiss artist Urs Fischer, presented Untitled (2011), a life-size replica of a famous sculpture from the Mannerist period:Giambologna’s The Abduction of the Sabine Women (1579-1582), shown for the first time in France. Fischer redesigned it to suit the scale of the space: a “public square” covered with a dome, reaching almost 40 meters in height. Composed of wax sculptures, the wicks are lit like candles and eventually melt, destroying the original artwork in the process.  The wax liquefies, and that which seemed perennial and genuine turns out to be fragile and fictitious.  

The section on painting began with the three monumental portraits by artist Rudolf Stingel, and continued throughout the galleries on the second floor, showcasing a mix of genre, origins and cultures, open to all generations of artists: (Marlene Dumas, Thomas Schütte, Miriam Cahn and Kerry James Marshall from the 50s), artists born in the late 1970s (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye), the 1980s (Florian Krewer, Xinyi Cheng, Claire Tabouret and Antonio Oba), and the 1990s (Ser Serpas).  Further on there is the “Picture Generation” with a room dedicated to the photography of Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine.

The best presentation, within the sweeping inaugural show Overture, was definitely that of David Hammons who took over the first floor galleries with a suite of some 30 seminal works.  A major artist of our time and a radical figure, African-American artist David Hammons has, because of his critical strategy and avoidance of the art world, hardly ever been presented in Europe in any meaningful way, thus this was the most comprehensive show of the artist’s work ever staged in Europe and a must-see. The exhibition included his found objects, appropriations, assemblages, performances, and paintings made from prints highlighting the artist’s lifelong practice of making sculptures from the highly charged detritus of urban African American life.

Before dashing off to catch my taxi to the airport I had one final work I had to see, which was located in the basement of the Bourse de Commerce,  Pierre Huyghe’s Offspring (2018), a “black box” installation as a sensory experience, that featured an AI, Self-generating system for sound and light, with sensors, that responds to its audiences movements and is influenced by its environment.  In a pitch-black room, the automated work creates shimmering light effects and reinterprets Erik Satie's Gymnopédie n°1. A perfectly poetic way to end an art-filled and enlightening weekend in Paris, the City of Light. Until next time..."Paris vous Aime."

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