“Etrangers Partout,” reads one of the white walls in the nave of Paris’s Grand Palais. The shocking-pink neon sign, a 2006 work by Paris-based collective artist Claire Fontaine, could not be more appropriate.
From U.S. film director Sofia Coppola to Chinese collectors Adrian Cheng, Qiao Zhibing, and Thomas Shao, “foreigners [were] everywhere” yesterday at the opening of the 41st edition of France’s leading contemporary art fair.
“About 30 Chinese collectors are here from Hong Kong but also Shanghai and Beijing,” said Alexandre Errera, founder and chief executive of the Hong Kong-based online art marketplace Artshare. “They buy a lot of contemporary art, not only Chinese but also Occidental.” Zhibing was spotted at Michael Werner looking at works by Hurvin Anderson, Aaron Curry, and Peter Doig.
At the booth of Guangzhou’s Vitamin Creative Space, Chinese artist Hao Liang’s works were sold out within a few hours of the VIP opening at 10 a.m., according to Hong Kong-based art advisor Jehan Chu. “I love it. I want to move here,” he said of the fair. “It’s critically strong as well as formally beautiful.” Did he buy? “Working on it. Most of my clients are not here so I’m waiting for the right time zone.”
The exhibitors at the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, or FIAC, which runs through October 26 in the stunning Grand Palais, along the River Seine, are also becoming more international, with 65 percent of the 191 galleries coming from Europe, as opposed to 73 percent last year.
The galleries represent 26 countries, France leading with 48, followed closely by the U.S. with 45, then Germany (26), the U.K. (14), Italy (11), Belgium (9), Switzerland (5), and finally Brazil and Mexico (4 each). A few countries are also newly represented at FIAC—Norway, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, India, and Japan.
Athr Gallery from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is showing a large piece by Ahmed Mater, priced at €34,000 (about $43,000), consisting of three series of images he took from a View-Master and developed, from the 1960s, 1980s, and now, to portray the development of Mecca.
“The first day was amazing,” Aya Albakree, the gallery’s artist coordinator, said. “A lot of people didn’t know about us and are now starting to know about us. They showed a lot of interest because we’re a Saudi contemporary gallery—something different. I think many people are going to come back.”
Close by, the Indian gallery Nature Morte has a show of New Delhi-based architect-turned-artist Asim Waqif, whose work focuses on the absence of urban planning and the collusion between builders and politicians in India.
The first level of the fair, where these galleries are located, feels familiar and friendly compared to the grander nave, and prices are generally lower than at the blue-chip galleries downstairs. Many works here sold very quickly.
Right next to Nature Morte, New York’s Tilton Gallery sold Luca Dellaverson’s seven resin-and-mirrored-glass works within four hours of the opening at €6,000 each ($7,600). At Elizabeth Dee, another New Yorker, two large paintings by the Belgian collective Leo Gabin, reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg’s work, were also snapped up in the first four hours. They were priced between $20,000 and $30,000. At Paris’s Jocelyn Wolff, the same thing happened with Francisco Tropa. The works included Terra Platonica, made of 24 oil-pastel-on-sommelier drawings, which sold for €17,000 ($21,500). The only piece that was left by the artist was a heavy bronze stick painted to look like a shoot of bamboo, which had, until then, not been on view in the booth.
In the Secteur Lafayette on the first level, London-based Laura Bartlett was among the ten galleries selected to receive financial support to show work by emerging artists. FIAC and the Galeries Lafayette department store will present the Lafayette Prize to one of the artists in the sector, funding the acquisition of their work and guaranteeing them a show at a Paris institution during the fair next year.
Bartlett is showing British artist Lydia Gifford. The majority of her works (paintings and a sculpture) made of wood, cotton, oil paint, gesso, and nails, were sold, priced between £3,500 and £15,000 ($5,600–$24,000). “We sold very well, very early in the day,” Bartlett said.
Moving down to the nave, on the ground floor, familiar blue-chip gallery names appear. And it looks like sales are taking a little longer here.
New York’s Nahmad Contemporary and Helly Nahmad Gallery are showing a $20 million oil-on-canvas Picasso from 1972, as well as a $4.8 million Fontana, a $1.6 million Calder, and a drawing by Basquiat priced at $2.4 million. Two more works by Basquiat could not be discussed without the owner present. All the works were unsold.
At Pace, a huge Donald Judd sculpture consisting of six pieces of brushed aluminum, priced at $7 million, and a stunning oil on canvas by Jean Dubuffet from 1961 at $4 million, were also available. At White Cube, a large steel cabinet (€1.4 million, or $1.77 million) and a butterfly work (€750,000, or $950,000) by Damien Hirst were still awaiting buyers.
Before leaving the fair, don’t miss the stand of Berlin-based neugerriemschneider, where a luminous sculpture by Olafur Eliasson (on reserve for an undisclosed price), made of stainless steel, aluminum, colored glass, paint, and halogen, in the form of an oloid, hangs from the ceiling in a round room. You might then find yourself on the way to the newly opened Fondation Louis Vuitton—to see Eliasson’s huge site-specific glass-and-mirror installation.
This year the fair also launched a new event, (OFF)ICIELLE, which focuses on young galleries and artists as well as on the rediscovery of artists that haven’t, or haven’t often, been shown on the international art market scene.
It’s a busy week in the French capital. The Fondation Louis Vuitton opens to the public October 27; after five years of renovations (and delays), the Musée Picasso reopens October 25; and the national mint, the Monnaie de Paris, which has been closed for its own renovations since 2011, reopens the same day, with a new chocolate factory from Paul McCarthy, which one imagines will be better received than his monumental balloon Christmas tree.