Portrait of Geoff Dyer Talking, Francis Bacon (1966) at FIAC, Paris
If Frieze opened willing to court the unavoidable media speculation about sales or the lack of them: FIAC, and the exhibitors it houses this year, have in the early stages proved characteristically reticent. Not to mention laconic. At least on the surface. This morning there was little sign that much of Paris and beyond would descend on the Grand Palais and the Cour Carrée du Louvre at noon.
Visitors to FIAC at Grand Palais, Paris
More text and images after the jump….
Marclay’s Bike, Dominique Blais
The Jardin des Tuileries however opened its gates at 7.30am. The works now being exhibited alongside the garden’s permanent residents include Dominique Blais’ Marclay’s Bike, more fleeting events like Prinz Gholam’s Air, and the ethereally shifting audio recordings of Susan Philipsz’s Woods so Wild. Jim Dine, who is also being shown just outside the Grand Palais’ sequestered heart. The joint presentation of modern masterworks by 10 of the most important galleries, is currently straddling, with at Tuilieres, these two very different spaces. Where the organizers of Frieze Art Fair used interventionist strategies with an educational emphasis to offer alternatives within the fair, the freely accessible structures at FIAC’s Tuilieres are discreetly incorporated. Parisians seemed to be following their habitual routines amid quietly changed surroundings.
Large Parrot Screams Color, Jim Dine (2007)
White boards located at the exits of the Jardin des Tuilieres serving as monumental wall texts are among the sparse commentary on offer to accompany these temporary works- the organizers here harnessing the pleasant dispersal inherent in this particular venue, in contrast to the concentrated hub of the fair. School boys took the opportunity to provide an unauthorized, but invited, soundtrack to Kader Attia’s piece Untitled, 2009 by throwing stones. The theme generally though seems to be quiet discernment rather than overt, or violent intervention.
School boys took the opportunity to provide an unauthorized soundtrack to Kader Attia’s Untitled, 2009 by throwing stones.
Inside the Grand Palais a marked lack of text and conventional apparatus is also evident from the open arena of Luhring Augustine, which devotes the space in its entirety to Rachel Whiteread, and without commentary about individual pieces.
This bold move is in part a conversation with the unignorable though discreet center of the fair. The cloistered joint presentation of modern masterworks by 10 galleries: Acquavella Galleries, Galerie Beyeler, Galereie Louis Carré et Cie, Gagosian Galleries, Galerie Krugier & Cie, L+M Arts, Malingue, Pacewildenstein, Richard Gray Gallery and Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG. Though separated from the rest of the fair, the presentation is unique in that here the galleries to not present themselves as individuals, self-contained. In one room you can see three Francis Bacon paintings: Portrait of Geoff Dyer Talking 1966 exhibited by L+M Arts, Study for a Pope 1955 by Galerie Krugier & Cie, and Head III 1949 by Acquavella Galleries. Paul Gray from Richard Gray Gallery joked about this experience:
“This is a first! Quite interesting yesterday… with the ten of us walking around together in the same room, and sharing the same office… Some of us are very competitive.” In answer to the question of how the curatorial decisions were negotiated Gray continued: “Actually we hired a curator to do the installation so we wouldn’t have that to argue about. Well we hired an architect to design the space, and a curator to install the works. And we were here, but you know we didn’t exert that much influence.”
Kid with a Baseball Bat, Duane Hanson at Emmanuel Perrotin
Head, Alexander Calder (1929)
The Richard Gray Gallery seems to have been drawn to FIAC for this particular event: “I haven’t been to FIAC in many years but from what I understand it’s made quite a Renaissance,” and Gray has enjoyed walking around the other galleries which are presenting this year. In marked contrast to the general reticence regarding the recession Gray was very frank:
“2007 was the high water mark…2008 was a year when nobody knew exactly what was happening but most of us who have been in the business a long time felt that it was long past time for a downturn in the market…prices can’t go up forever. It doesn’t mean that the art doesn’t still sell, and doesn’t still make record prices but there are fewer people lined up. The thing is you don’t really realize how many fewer people are in the market because if a work sells it hides the fact that there may have only been one person to buy it. Whereas let’s say in 2007 there might have been ten, in 2008 there might have been only been one or two, and in 2009 in the beginning there were none. This was a very difficult year for contemporary art.”
Wall Erosion Arch (2) at Emmanuel Perrotin
Cumshot in Blue, Ida Tursic & Wilfried Mille (2006) at Pietro Sparta
Gray was also illuminating on the subject of the benefits of FIAC:
“I think there’s something disingenuous about the idea that an art fair is about education, I mean they’re trying to, in a way, put a different bloom on the rose, which is ok, these events can be very educational but their core is the opportunity for people to see, and buy works of art.”
This sits oddly however with the rather frequent occurrence of works that were not for sale within the group presentation. Gray explained:
“Yes actually there are a number of things that are not for sale. Our purpose for being here is to improve our ability to do our business by making relationships with collectors, by showing the full breadth of the high end of what we do. I mean I chose to bring only one painting that’s not for sale. It’s a Rothko which is in the other room. Because I didn’t think there would be anything of that nature represented in this exhibition. I thought there should be something American post-war”
“Each of us, each of the ten dealers had their own motivations for bringing things. I wanted the works that we brought to represent the best of what we do but I also wanted to make my contribution to it in terms of the breadth of what we do, which includes American post-war as well as European pre-war….The intention was – not to call it something that it isn’t and to show that some galleries have pretty high standards when it comes to selecting the work and displaying it, and dealing in it. Yeah, I think we have pretty high standards.”
Pumpkin, Erwin Wurm
2 Picassos and 1 Chamberlain, Gérard Deschampes (2002) at Martine et Tibauld de la Chartre.
The Mezzanine floor is currently populated by smaller galleries, some of whom have been exhibiting at FIAC for a long time. ShangArt provided a marked contrast to the celebrated centre of the fair in their style of presentation. A spokeswoman for the gallery, which has been attending FIAC for seven years, lamented that the fair has changed: “It’s not so contemporary”. The Mezzanine does provide some quirkier offerings, Gérard Deschampes’ 2 Picassos and 1 Chamberlain 2002 at Martine et Tibauld de la Chartre for example. One passer by noted “We’re definitely in a more bizarre corner”.
Galerie Karsten Greve picked from their prestigious collection, showing amongst others works by Cy Twombly, Louise Bourgeois who has had a recent retrospective and Pierre Solange, who is currently enjoying one. However the gallery’s younger artists created the biggest stir amongst the public and the buyers. Despite noting that they had “experienced better opening days” the gallery was attracting a lot of attention, in particular with the work of Gideon Rubin and Claire Morgan. The latter’s Striking was, and will continue to be, consistently crowded around.
FIAC cannot be easily defined at this early stage, and there will be many conflicting and lively opinions over the next few days. It is a rarity that opinions are allowed to be individually formed in a public arena. Paul Gray brought it back to a more personal level:
“I think of what I do, not really sales so much as helping people to understand why they want to collect, and helping them to dispel the doubts that stand between them and doing what they want to do…It would be wrong to define a collector too narrowly because different people come to it for different reasons but I collect because certain times, and it’s fairly rare that it happens but occasionally I come across a work of art which speaks to me. That’s the kind of thing I want to own, something that moves me.”
Gideon Rubin at Galerie Karsten Greve
Striking, Claire Morgan at Galerie Karsten Greve
That old FIAC Magic [ArtMarketMonitor]
Warhol’s ‘Disaster,’ $40 Million Bacon star in French Art Fair [Bloomberg]
La FIAC 2009 [Le Monde]
FIAC Lures Iconic (and Expensive) Works to Paris [ArtInfo]
New Work by Faile for FIAC [World’s BestEver]
FIAC 2009 Art Fair Draws Contemporary Art Focus to Paris from 22nd October [FAD]
Battle of the Fairs: Paris vs London [WSJ]
Frieze vs FIAC: The Rematch [Marion Maneker via ArtMarketMonitor]
$24 Million Picasso Reserved as Arnault Joins Browsers at FIAC [Bloomberg]
Modern Masters Give FIAC a Boost [ArtInfo]
ArtPrice and FIAC Publish an Exclusive Report on the 2008/2009 Contemporary Art Market [Reuters]
- all images and text by Soraya Gilanni