Unlike our previous articles about art fairs, this will not be able to provide you with any names or recommendations of galleries’ booths to visit. It is about the experience of an unusual art fair…
In a brownfield site of 3000m2 in the centre of Paris, the first edition of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is born. The art fair set out with an initiative to annually promote contemporary creation in empty buildings of the French capital, in partnership with a real estate group which provides the venue. This unique event features works created by more than fifty artists especially for this purpose including large-format photography, sculptures, video installations and urban art.
Committed to redefining obsolete codes of traditional art fairs, EXPERIENCES Art Fair offers an innovative and immersive panorama to reconnect the public with the artworks. At the same time, it aims to change the [normal] economic model of an art fair since all works are available for rental as well as for sale, and the organiser is directly funding art projects without galleries as the intermediary. In addition to selected French and international artists, this first edition of the art fair has also invited young Israeli contemporary artists while it presents simultaneously ten French artists in a hotel venue in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The venue and ways of display have lived up to the expectation of being unusual as the name of the fair may have denoted. The exhibiting venue is three storeys and can be described as shabby (but in a cool way, with hipster aura) compared to the usual setting of major art fairs (which can be bright and grand but perhaps more intimidating). The first floor is a large, dimly lit, long space, scattered with installations throughout. I was mainly fascinated by Alena Gaponova’s paintings in a room at the very end because they give different visual representations when colours of the lights in the dark room change –at one point you see a woman’s face painted on the canvas but the next moment it changes and you see a man’s face only.
On the brighter second floor, which is mainly dedicated to photography works by various artists, Maximilien Franco’s “InsideHEADphones” project stands out. It invites visitors to put on the headphones fixated in front of each photograph that depicts an anonymous passer-by in the street listening to music with his/her headphones. By listening to the same music to which the portrayed strangers were listening when the photos were taken, we can suddenly intrude into each of their personal worlds, as if a strange intimate link between the viewer and the subject is created through the music or songs.
At one moment during the vernissage, while fair-goers were chatting with friends and enjoying their glasses of wine in front of photography works, the light was suddenly dimmed and a team of performers came down the stairs, with the majority of around ten women wearing only underwear but each of them tied to an ironing board. They lined up in the middle of the exhibition space and started to perform [the act of] struggling to free themselves from their ironing boards while all visitors gathered around and paid full attention with the aid of mobile phones or cameras… This live performance, as I perceived, was probably about the emancipation of women from their family roles and social stereotypes. Besides the live performance art, observing other people’s reactions could be seen as part of the interesting “experiences”.
The top floor is for larger sculptural and installation works, but unfortunately, I have to say that the display on this floor did not seem as carefully curated and exposes incoherence. This can be a slight weakness when such an art fair is without any booths and artists just bring their own works to be exhibited next to one another in the same space, unlike any curated exhibition. On the other hand, several rooms at the back provide wonderful spaces of creativity, where one artist occupies and designs the setting and display of each whole room.
On the whole, the concept of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is innovative and has provided an alternative experimental platform to traditional art fairs. It has also demonstrated the creative energy in Paris, still being a breeding ground for young talents and an indispensable contemporary art scene. So come to experience this unique art fair from 28 November to 6 December 2015, it’s free entry anyway – also unusual for an art fair!