FIAC had the Hors-les-murs (off-site) section. Paris+ par Art Basel has Sites, which spreads out to four iconic locations this year.
At the Place Vendôme, one of Paris’ five royal squares, Alicja Kwade’s part spherical, part angular installation has become a TikTok favorite, even if it doesn’t quite match the surrounding facades.
Meanwhile, at the Jardin des Tuileries, the 21 installations on view almost completely blend in, except except for Niki de Saint Phalle’s bright blue obelisk. They are part of ‘La Suite de l’Histoire’ (The Continuation of History), an exhibition curated by Anabelle Ténèze, the director of the Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie Toulouse, which questions the role of art in public spaces.
Sites stretches down to the Left Bank of Paris, with wood sculptures by Thaddeus Mosley showcased at the Musée national Eugène-Delacroix and an immersive project put together by Omer Fast at the Chapelle des Petits-Augustins, which is part of the Beaux-Arts de Paris, for the first time involved in the program of Paris’s main international art fair. Students from the École du Louvre were assigned to guide visitors and inform them on the works on display.
Below is a pick of ARTnews‘ top 6 installations.
After Paul McCarthy’s dildo-looking “Tree”, which caused the artist to be assaulted by a 69-year-old bypasser, and Yayoi Kusama’s inflated giant pumpkin, which had to be removed at the beginning of 2019 FIAC for safety reasons, Place Vendôme welcomes a far less controversial and much safer installation by Polish-born and Berlin-based artist Alicja Kwade.
Entitled “Au cours des mondes,” (literally, “In the Course of Worlds”), this work consists of stone orbs trapped in concrete stair-shaped structures, which remind one of Dutch graphic master Maurits Cornelis Escher’s mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints, but in fact questions the idea of anthropocentrism.
“We have to face the absurdity of being placed all together on a spinning globe flying around in the void,” Kwade said in a statement. This imposing installation, taken over by TikTokers from day one, also points out the escalating impact of climate change upon the world.
Next to the Place Vendôme is the Place de la Concorde, where you can access the Jardin des Tuileries, home to “La Suite de l’Histoire” (The Continuation of History), an exhibition of large-scale works curated by Annabelle Ténèze, the director of Toulouse’s Les Abattoirs museum.
On the left side of the hexagonal fountain at the entrance stands a 5.6 ft tall concrete sculpture of a Greek-nosed man engrossed in his phone. He is as straight as an arrow with the typical tech neck. Is he looking up an unpronounceable French word, watching the end of a show on Netflix, or setting up his camera for a selfie? The work, “Phone User 4” by Judith Hopf, is part of the German artist’s reflections on on energy consumption.
The lesson here: don’t wait for your battery to die in order to slow down, stop, look around, and enjoy your surroundings.
Niki de Saint Phalle
Keep walking straight and you will come across a dazzling sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle. No, it is not a permanent work, as you could hear random wanderers wonder out loud. Brought by Galerie Georges-Philippe and Nathalie Vallois, “Blue Obelisk with Flowers” is part of a series of obelisks the artist produced to campaign against HIV and AIDS discrimination.
The phallic shape pays tribute to those who tragically died from the virus, calls for the use of condoms, and alludes to the Luxor Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde nearby.
Beyond the political dimension, there is the striking materiality of this installation, made of fiberglass, resin, stained glass, mirrored glass, and steel armature. Take the vivid palette all in. It’s almost all the color you will get.
Don’t focus your gaze on the Tuileries’ central alley. On your left, in the middle of a lush lawn, is a monumental painting by Bouaké, Ivory Coast-born Roméo Mivekannin, who Sites curator Anabelle Ténèze featured at the Abattoirs de Toulouse earlier this year. His installation titled Les Noces is a 1:1-scale reinterpretation of the Louvre’s emblematic Wedding Feast at Cana (Nozze di Cana), which depicts the story of Jesus turning water into wine.
Architecture, which Mivekannin studied in Toulouse while experimenting with painting and sculpture, plays a great part in Paolo Veronese’s 1563 masterpiece. The main difference between the works lies in the choice of palettes. If the Italian painter took great care in picking his colors – that is why the work of the restorer who dared to repaint the intendant’s red coat green has given rise to much controversy – Mivekannin’s decided to recreate the biblical scene not only in black and white, but also with people of color. This is his way of rewriting art history and canonizing those whom western iconography kept leaving out … until now.
Sites continues in the 6th arrondissement; and the “Suite de l’Histoire” program, at the Musée Delacroix located on Place Furstenberg, one of Paris’s quaintest squares. Past the entrance, right up the stairs is Eugène Delacroix’s former bedroom where he died from tuberculosis. “And yet this is the most dynamic space in the museum,” one of the lighting engineers said, while adding final touches to the display. This is where contemporary art keeps rotating.
Last week, it was filled with work by Beaux Arts de Paris students. Now it welcomes Thaddeus Mosley’s very first show in the French capital, which essentially consists of a new body of sculptures. Unlike the bronzes gathered in the garden, the walnut pieces inside are unexpectedly small.
The 96-year-old African American artist, known for his monumental formats meant for outdoor spaces, has drawn inspiration from Constantin Brâncuși, but also from West and Central African traditions. The starting point of his works are fallen trees which he then carves with the sole use of a mallet and chisel into biomorphic shapes, a process he compares to Jazz improvisation. Painter Sam Gilliam, who died earlier this year, once said he sees Mosley as a“jazz critic, postman, father, keeper of trees anywhere -/ old trees, round trees, big trees, heavy trees.”
Welcome to the Beaux-Arts de Paris’s Chapelle des Petits-Augustins, built for Queen Margot (1553-1615), Henri IV’s first wife. Contrary to the Tuileries Garden, Place Vendôme, and Musée Delacroix, this venue was not part of FIAC’s off-site circuit in years past. The brand-new location welcomes various installations by Omer Fast, Israeli-born, Berlin-based video artist who addresses images in their materiality.
Copies of sketches by Germain painter Max Beckmann (1884–1950) and ghost-like sculptures lead up to Andrea del Verrochio’s “Colleone,” a monumental rider standing before a replica of “The Last Judgement” by Michelangelo.
In the room on the right is the hologram of an actress recanting the answers given by “Karla” — which the piece was named after — a young woman in charge of filtering offending content for the online platform of a tech company. Next to this floating head is a screen showing the recording process of the interview. All to be watched while standing next to or sitting on a white bed (it is forbidden to lie on the bed). The mixed-media display explores ideas of authenticity, time, and reality.