PARIS—The 38th edition of the FIAC (International Fair of Contemporary Art), held in Paris at the Grand Palais (Oct. 20–23), drew big crowds and major buyers. Fair organizers said attendance was up nearly six percent to 68,079 this year, placing FIAC ahead of the recent Frieze art fair in London, and only slightly behind Art Basel. Although dealers may have been fearing the impact of the weak economy on sales, strong FIAC results—with numerous sales over €1 million or more—confirmed the market’s buoyancy and energy.
Adding to its success, the fair welcomed more visitors than in the past despite having scaled back—this year’s fair became smaller, more concentrated and more international. The space in the Louvre’s Cour Carré was unavailable due to construction, so all of the gallery booths were centralized in the Grand Palais: major galleries on the ground floor, and younger, emerging galleries above, on the first floor.
FIAC’s artistic director Jennifer Flay noted that “we passed from 194 galleries in 2010, to only 168 this year. Most of the galleries graciously accepted to reduce their stands.” She added that there were not only fewer galleries and smaller booths, but, more specifically, fewer French galleries—only 33 percent. While Europe represented 75 percent, the rest of the exhibitors included galleries from Brazil, Turkey and South Africa.
Major names to recently join the fair included New York’s Gladstone Gallery, which ceased exhibiting at Frieze after it opened a gallery in Brussels, and Gagosian Gallery, which opened a gallery in Paris last year and now does both fairs. About a dozen other galleries have opted for Paris over London in the last four years, but, as opposed to a drift, it’s been more of a game of musical chairs as galleries leave and then return to FIAC, as they did this year.
Buyers hailed mostly from French-speaking countries—though they also came from as far afield as the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Mexico—some skipping Frieze to make the trip. “We welcomed international collectors we hadn’t seen before,” said Paris dealer Kamel Mennour.
Overall, dealers had positive feedback and reported robust sales. David Juda, owner of Annely Juda Fine Art, London, said that this edition was widely considered “the best FIAC” ever, and “particularly exciting, thanks to the quality of collectors.”
Galleries reported major sales for high-profile contemporary artists. These included Where Will It End, 1993, a cabinet of fish in formaldehyde by Damien Hirst, which sold for $2.8 million at White Cube, London. Galerie Vedovi, Brussels and Paris, sold Ed Ruscha’s word painting titled We Didn’t Care and Neither Did She, 1974, priced at $1.2 million. Galerie Perrotin, Paris, showed an enormous stainless-steel Brussels tower by Wim Delvoye, as well as a nine-foot-long mural of a Chinese lion dog by Takashi Murakami, a departure from the artist’s usual manga aesthetic. The mural titled As the Interdimensional Waves Run Through Me, I Can Distinguish Between the Voices of Angels and Devil, 2011, sold for $2 million. Paris gallery Jeanne-Bucher/Jaeger Bucher reported selling two paintings by Nicolas de Staël, each priced at around €2 million ($2.8 million).
New York’s David Zwirner gallery reported sales of $2 million for works by such artists as Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and John McCracken. A three-part, red-white-and-blue neon sculpture by Flavin, Untitled (to the citizens of the Republic of France on the 200th anniversary of their revolution) 2, 1989, sold for $550,000.
Simon Lee, London, sold works by artists including Michelangelo Pistoletto and George Condo, priced up to €250,000 ($345,165) each.
Hauser & Wirth, London, Zurich and New York, presented works by rising African-American artist Rashid Johnson, all five of which sold for up to $95,000 each. Paris dealer Hervé Loevenbruck found buyers for work by late Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp who died in 1973. Szapocznikow’s resin sculptures from the 1960s, including Autoportrait and Lampe-bouche, priced at €340,000 ($470,000) and €320,000 ($441,800), respectively, both found buyers. Classic modern art was on display at the booth of New York’s Van de Weghe Fine Art, with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Prince.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris and Salzburg, reported sales including: an oil on canvas by Georg Baselitz, In der Tasse gelesen, das heitere Gelb, 2010, for €430,000 ($597,270); an oil on bronze by Baselitz, Pace Piece, 2003–4, for €475,000 ($659,775); a steel piece by Tony Cragg, It is, It isn’t, 2010, for €475,000 ($659,775); a bronze by Marc Quinn, World of Desire, 2010, for £150,000 ($239,200); and a Robert Longo graphite and charcoal mounted on paper, Untitled (Tiger Head 2), 2011, for $300,000. In the Tulieres Gardens, the gallery’s installation of three sculptures in a row by Antony Gormley, Another Time II, 2006, sold for £185,000 ($295,000).
Romanian-born artist Mircea Cantor, represented by Yvon Lambert, won the Marcel Duchamp Prize during the fair for an installation made of hooks, toy airplanes, yarn and fishing net. The artist’s Monument of the end of the world, 2006, a wood sculpture of a miniature cityscape with a windchime hanging from a crane, fetched €60,000 ($83,340).
Additional reporting by Colin Gleadell.