Charlie Wood’s FIAC diary

FIAC this year opened with renewed vigor against a backdrop of a supposed tussle in the art market power dynamic between Paris and London, amid the imminent Brexit cliff hanger. This sentiment was further underpinned by mega-gallerist David Zwirner taking over the Marais space formerly occupied by famed French dealer Yvon Lambert, and reports of a number of other blue-chip galleries opening Paris spaces, including White Cube, Pace, Hauser & Wirth and Esther Schipper.

Wednesday: FIAC opening day

On Wednesday the Grand Palais opened its doors for VIP visitors to explore the 199 galleries participating in the FIAC’s 46th edition. The works on offer unsurprisingly skewered with a distinctly European taste. Gagosian Gallery took this quite literally with a French Riviera themed booth displaying works by Fernand Leger, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Nahmad Contemporary had a strong silver and candy-striped Daniel Buren painting, no doubt in homage to the Buren Columns, Les Deaux Plateaux, at the Palais Royal. Works by Jean Dubuffet and Pierre Soulages were also ubiquitous throughout the fair as galleries sought to appeal to the local collector base.

Some of the most arresting presentations were those devoted to artists from other continents—namely South America, Africa and North America. The booths in the fair’s Lafayette Sector for emerging galleries were also unanimously strong. A personal favourite was Mendes Wood DM’s solo presentation of works by São Paulo artist Antônio Obá, whose ominous scenes question racial and political memory through a most exquisite and sensitive palette.

Antônio Obá, Quando dois ou mais…, (2019), at Mendes Wood DM booth

Antonio Obá, trampolim – banhista, (2019), at Mendes Wood DM booth

Artwork highlights included a wonderful flushed Roni Horn glass sculpture at Xavier Hufkens, which reportedly sold for in the region of $1 million. Gladstone Gallery exhibited a Sarah Lucas tights sculpture, Bunny Gets Snookered #13, a 2019 work, yet unmistakably harking back to her iconic 1990’s compositions. Kerlin Gallery took an exceptional Sean Scully pastel work on paper, unusually comprised of red and ochre tones rather than the typical gray scales typically populating this medium, as a testament to this, the work was sold before the fair.

Sarah Lucas, Bunny Gets Snookered #13, (2019)


Sean Scully, Red Doric 7.15.19, (2019)

Several galleries opted for curated hangs with small-scale or miniature works that introduced some dynamism to their booth design. Gavin Brown created an almost salon hang, resting small scale works on bookshelves with some beautiful Alex Katz paintings. Waddington Custot displayed a mixture of tiny sculptures by Barry Flanagan and Alice Anderson alongside miniature paintings by Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso with remarkable effect. Nahmad Contemporary, however, exceeded in elegance with a fantastic wall of works on paper by Jean Dubuffet and Cy Twombly next to a miniature Alexander Calder and Joan Miro painting, one of the strongest walls of the fair.

Nahmad Contemporary Booth

Waddington Custot Booth

Dealers and gallerists noted a bigger contingent of committed collectors than in years past compared to reduced visitor numbers and gallery participants at Frieze. This was compounded by an expanded ‘FIAC Week’ with robust programming beyond the fair itself. Several satellite fairs exhibiting younger emerging artists, such as Paris Internationale, the Outsider Art Fair & Asia Now, vied for attention.

Thursday: Gallery night and the evening sales

On Thursday evening dozens of spaces participated in a Gallery Night opening until 10pm, populating the streets of the Marais with artgoers whose step count would have far exceeded the norm following a busy second day at the fair to see the rehang. Commercial shows included Raymond Pettibon at David Zwirner, Mona Hatoum at Chantal Crousel, Ugo Rondinone at Kamel Mennour, and Ali Banisadr, Arnulf Rainer and George Baselitz across Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s multiple spaces. A particular favourite was Campoli Presti’s exhibition of Katherine Bradford paintings, an artist with a typically American collector base deservedly expanding into Europe. This was supported by a solo booth of her work at FIAC shown by her US gallery Canada.

Katherine Bradford, Campoli Presti

Thursday night proved busy as Christie’s evening sale got underway, with Sotheby’s sale thriving the previous night. Strong prices were seen across both houses for their Impressionist and Modern Art auctions, however, most noteworthy was the sale of a Nicolas de Staël painting at Christie’s which sold for €20 million ($22 million), a once-unimaginable price at a sale in Paris. Such a headline further stokes the fire that perhaps Paris is being viewed as a more solid and stable sale location by collectors, in light of uncertainty in the UK.

Christie’s Paris, Evening Sale Viewing Rooms

Friday: Hors les Murs outdoor exhibition in the Jardin des Tuileries, Francis Bacon at the Centre Pompidou and Fondation Louis Vuitton

The sun finally began to shine on Friday morning which encouraged a visit to the Jardin de Tuileries where 20 sculptures responding to the garden’s features were installed temporarily until 30th October as part of the FIAC programme. Particularly picturesque was Noël Dolla’s colourful installation of umbrellas submerged just under the water in a basin by the Musée de l’Orangerie, which uncoincidentally holds a group of Monet’s Water Lily paintings, a beautiful dialogue between works.


Noël Dolla’s Nymphéas Post déluge (2019)

Monet’s Nymphéas: Le Matin clair aux saules (c. 1915-1926) at the Musée de l’Orangerie

After passing through a set of Jenny Holzer benches and a monumental Alexander Calder sculpture, Sylvie Fleury’s Mushroom set a more light hearted tone, bookended by a group of Alex Katz bathers frolicking in the final fountain before you reach the Louvre. This sculpture programme was also extended to Place de la Concorde which displayed award-winning architect Odile Decq’s, Le Pavillon Noir!, a structure made of one-sided mirror where visitors are rendered invisible from the outside, and Place Vendôme with an installation of Yayoi Kusama’s largest yellow dotted pumpkin to date. I notably avoided Jeff Koons’ controversial giant bouquet, Instagram providing me with a suitable alternative viewing platform.

Alex Katz, Chance (2016)

Sylvie Fleury, Mushroom Autowave Rich-Gold Petzold silber F14 (2008)

With the good weather short lived it was time to see what institutional shows Paris had to offer. Undoubtedly the first port of call was the Francis Bacon show at the Centre Pompidou, densely packed with other similarly minded visitors. The show focused on his post-Pope period from 1971 until the artist’s death in 1992, and brought together a remarkable group of works, notably all three of Bacon’s Black Triptychs, painted after the death of his lover, George Dyer, in 1971. This exhibition was divided into six sections each dedicated to different authors, Aeschylus, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Michel Leiris, Joseph Conrad and T.S. Eliot, all of whom powered Bacon’s vision.

A single panel from one of Bacon’s Black Triptychs, Three Portraits – Posthumous Portrait of George dyer; Self Portrait; Portrait of Lucian Freud (1973)

A Miniature Recreation of Bacon’s Studio

In addition to this blockbuster show, Giuseppe Penone had a monumental work, Matrice di Linfa (Lifeblood matrix) installed at the Palais d’Iéna and the architectural work of Charlotte Perriand was on view at Fondation Louis Vuitton. However, I chose to end my visit in the quintessentially Parisian St Germain area to view a group of new Glenn Brown works at the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix, inspired by the museum’s namesake. A mixture of sculpture, paintings and works on paper were displayed in Delcroix’s old studio. A standout work, Drawing 2 (after Delacroix/Raphael) (2019), inspired by multiple compositions by both prodigies, revealed Brown’s mastery of draughtsmanship. The homage to Paris’ art historical masters felt like a fitting way to conclude a week of exploring Paris’ rich and varied contemporary art scene which is seeing somewhat of a renaissance.

Glenn Brown at the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Author: Charlie Wood, Art Associate
Cover image The Grand Palais

Photographs Author’s own 

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