Tickets for the first official VIP slot were rare at this year’s 38th edition of Parisian art fair FIAC, allowing the 168 participating gallerists to spend quality time with each collector. Paris dealer Karsten Greve spoke of a “successful start” at the opening, but some gallerists were irritated at the tactics of some of their colleagues, who snuck French billionaires and art collectors Bernard Arnault and François Pinault a day early, during the fair’s gala dinner hosted at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. “At Art Basel this would mean the exclusion of the gallery that had given the collectors access,” Berlin gallerist Martin Klosterfelde told A.i.A.
Axel Haubrok, a German collector who this year opted to buy at FIAC instead of at London’s Frieze, praised the fair. He called the atmosphere during the early VIP opening “relaxed, not the terrible hype you get on other art fairs.”
Sales were reported by White Cube (London), which sold a Damien Hirst glass shelf with over 100 dead fish, Where Will it End? (1993). Paris big-gun Galerie Perrotin sold a large-scale painting by Takashi Murakami. Both changed hands on the first day for over $2.5 million.
FIAC is looking to expand its influence beyond its western European roots, and the fair might do well to improve the selection of Eastern European galleries. And while Chinese collectors Budi Tek and Qiao Zhibing were spotted, FIAC could certainly stand to attract more collectors from Asia, most of whom didn’t make the short trip across St. George’s Channel from the Frieze fair. In a sign of international growth, one London gallerist told A.i.A. Latin American buyers like Carlos de la Cruz or Santiago Barberi Gonzalez were present and visited the booths of Kurimanzutto (Mexico) and Jan Mot, the Brussels-based gallery that opened a second space in Mexico City last August.
For the first time since 2006, the younger galleries returned to the Palais. In a section titled “upper galleries,” Galerie VidalCuglietta (Brussels), Galerie Jocelyn Wolff (Paris) and HOTEL (London) had their booths on the reopened mezzanine of the glass domed Grand Palais on the Champs Elysées. Although the 64 galleries on the first floor were designated as “young,” Ellen de Bruijne Projects (Amsterdam), Galerija Gregor Podnar (Berlin) and ProjecteSD (Barcelona) and other Art Basel participants where there, which lured the big collectors upstairs. Johann König Gallery (Berlin) showed new works by young British artist Helen Marten in a solo presentation and sold out within hours of the VIP preview opening. A highlight was the booth of Laurent Godin (Paris), which showcased two new dust-and-rubbish sculptures by Belgian artist Peter Buggenhout.
On the ground floor, non-participants Tim Neuger (neugerriemschneider, Berlin) and Rafael Jablonka (Jablonka Galerie, Cologne) were spotted early. Karl Lagerfeld went by the booth of Zurich’s Galerie Gmurzynska, whose booth he designed. Barbara Gladstone chose FIAC over Frieze this year, bringing a stunning solo presentation of Georgian artist Andro Wekua. She complimented the Parisian effort for its location, size and precise organisation. “This is a beautiful environment, especially with the daylight flooding the main hall. It’s not huge. This is manageable,” Gladstone told A.i.A. In 2012, the fair is set to expand by 4000-sq-ft with the addition of the Salon d’honneur, the 55-ft high glass-roofed space also situated within the walls of the Grand Palais.