This year’s edition of FIAC seems to be more ambitious then ever, extending out past the majestic walls of the Grand Palais and spilling into the streets of Paris. It boasts an impressive series of dynamic supplementary satellite installations, an exhaustive agenda of events and performances, and a record amount of exhibitors—186 to be exact. The fair has collaborated with other private and public organizations, cultural institutions, and partnering museums throughout the city. In describing the mission of the fair’s 43rd edition, Director Jennifer Flay, borrows a concept from philosopher and artist Henri Michaux, to draw Paris out of “inertia.” It appears that Flay has given the event a more profound purpose, functioning as a catalyst to bring the battered city up to its feet and to reinvent itself as “a future-focused Paris.”
The scope of exhibitors is quite impressive, with special recognition for various gallery initiatives highlighted by their placement within the Grand Palais. FIAC’s organizers break it down for us—the Salon d’Honneur brings together galleries internationally renowned for their ability to discover and promote ground-breaking artists, the Upper Galleries feature contemporary and emerging art galleries, and the Salon Jean Perrin, inaugurated this year, showcases solo exhibitions of historical artists from the end of the 20th century whose work has been under the radar but is currently undergoing critical assessment.
The Salon d’Honneur exhibits a diverse selection ranging from minimalist and conceptual expression, to the figurative, and to the utterly bizarre (what would an art fair be without the bizarre?). Merlin Carpenter’s Andy Warhol pop art look-a-likes of Amy Winehouse and Audrey Hepburn gives us a sense of the familiar while Puppies Puppies (yes, that is the artist’s name) has prepared Spaghetti Condom (2016), a work that is exactly what it sounds like—two spaghetti-filled condoms lying on the ground. Some of my favorites included the photography of Josephine Pryde at Reena Spaulings Fine Art, the sculptural installations of Iman Issa at Rodeo Gallery, the multifaceted iconography within Paulo Nimer Pjota’s sheet-like canvases at Mendes Wood DM, and Mark Flood’s juxtaposition of popular culture (re: Justin Bieber) and traditional motifs at Peres Projects. In very different ways the works of these artists present captivating tensions and dialogues between the past and the present, personal heritage and history, popular culture and tradition, and intimate subjectivity and overt generalizations.
If the packed gallery on gallery atmosphere within the Grand Palais gets to be too much visitors may step outside and begin to explore everything that the fair’s joint Hors les Murs program has to offer. First stop, right across the street at the Petit Palais with On Site, presenting free entry to view sculptures and installations by contemporary artists. FIAC retraces the steps of Parisian history by bringing these two monumental buildings together again. Working in tandem the two museums revitalize their long relationship as spaces for art presentation and innovation, going all the way back to their construction in 1900 for the World Fair.
Some of the artists exhibited within the Petit Palais include: Etel Adnan, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Yoshitomo Nara, Ernest Neto, Do Ho Suh, and Not Vital, among others.
A second initiative, the “pedastrianisation” and closing off to traffic of Avenue Winston Churchill, completes the unity of the area surrounding the Grand and Petit Palais, mimicking the atmosphere of the location circa 1900. Artists Lawrence Weiner and Jacques Villegle transform the avenue into an additional space of expression where art and the city collide for new and original experiences. Both use words inscribed directly into the pavement to create either “statements” in Lawrence’s site-specific work or Villegle’s trademark socio-political typographic stencils. Henri Michaux’s quote is front and center “l’Art est ce qui aide a tirer de l’inertie” (art is what helps draw us out of inertia). The best part—these free public works located between the each Palais not only bridge the gap between art and accessibility but foster an understanding of the “genesis of modern art” and art’s evolution into the contemporary.
Other venues include the Jardin des Tuileries, National Eugene-Delacroix Museum, Place Vendome, the Cour Caree and Cour Lefuel at the Louvre Museum, Gare du Nord, l’Orangerie Museum, and the Palais de la Decouverte, which has opened for this first time. Visitors may watch performances, artist films, listen to conversations on the relationships between art, architecture, science, and diplomacy, and partake in special tours given by emerging art critics and curators via the Young Curators Invitational (YCI) program.
As in most art fairs the abundance of things to see at FIAC is dizzying and challenges the stamina of its visitors and professionals. While I enthusiastically tackled the fair head on, I soon began to loose steam, with every minimalist cube and abstract painting blending together. However, three booths did stay in my memory as I left: Natalie Seroussi with the “la femme visible” all-female theme, kaufmann repetto with Pae White’s floating golden popcorn and Andrea Bowers’s embracing pink gun, and In Situ Fabienne Leclerc with Otobong Nkanga’s earth and evolution themed hybrid performance-installation works.
FIAC is open to the public from October 20th to 23rd 2016, noon to 8pm.