One of Paris’s most iconic buildings, La Monnaie, serves as the setting for the eighth edition of Asia Now Paris, an ambitious art fair that has brought together more than 75 galleries from across Asia.
For its first fair since the start of the pandemic and its first in La Monnaie, Asia Now expanded in size. It’s also gotten buy-in from top galleries like Almine Rech, Perrotin, Richard Saltoun, Frank Elbaz, and P21.
“This edition is special,” Asia Now director Alexandra Fain told ARTnews at a preview on Thursday.
In addition to well-presented booths, the fair has a program that includes numerous talks and performances, as well as various site-specific commissions. Among them are a durational live-painting session by Ayako Rokkaku and a special project of ceramics that incorporate hemp by artist Natsuko Uchino, who is collaborating with 91530 Le Marais, a farm about 40 minutes outside Paris founded by Victoire de Pourtalès and Benjamin Eymère.
But most importantly, it is showing truly cutting-edge work from artists active across Asia. (The fair uses the definition of the continent provided by the Asia Society in New York, which accounts not just for East Asia but also for the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.) Be prepared to learn about artists who have yet to come across your radar; it makes for a wonderful experience.
Kathy Alliou, the fair’s artistic director, said that one of the fair’s goals is to present “different kinds of booths that go beyond just the simple white cube.” Many are solo or duo booths, which is part of a larger goal of creating a more curated fair. It makes for a very different experience from Paris+, where dealers often show works by several artists on their rosters. Also of note at the fair is its commitment to being environmentally friendly. To fulfill that mission, various walls are formed from little more than bare pieces of wood.
By showcasing the “diverse art scenes” of Asia, Alliou said, Asia Now hopes to be a new kind of art fair, one that is “exploratory, committed, curated, ambitious, and welcoming.”
Below a look at the best booths at Asia Now Paris, which runs until Sunday.
Key Hiraga at Loeve&Co
One of the most historically significant artists at Asia Now, Japan’s Key Hiraga, is being presented in a stunning yellow-painted booth from Loeve&Co. Highlighting works made between 1966 and 1972, the booth surveys during the period when he lived in Paris. Hiraga was obsessed with Dubuffet, and he draws on the artist (and the Art Brut of which Dubuffet was a part more generally), Pop, and manga to create some of the most bawdy and rollicking paintings on view in Paris right now. Works from one series here, titled “Window,” reference the voyeuristic nature of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window (1954). Elsewhere are sexually explicit works depicting two of his alter egos (Mr. H or Mr. K, depending on his mood) engaging in fanciful, genderbending sexual acts. Hiraga was considered a significant artist during the height of his career, but his popularity has waned in recent years. As this booth makes apparent, his fascinating oeuvre is long overdue for a proper museum retrospective.
Park Chae Dalle + Park Chae Biole at Anne-Laure Buffard
Twin sisters Park Chae Dalle and Park Chae Biole, both 25 and based in Paris, share this stellar booth. Though they create art and write poetry independently, the two often present their work together, which draws inspiration from the late Etel Adnan. On one wall hang six intense, highly saturated paintings: views of the Himalayas by Dalle that reflect on the tradition of going to the mountains when one is nearing death as a way to ascend to the next life. Also by Dalle is an incredible corner installation of various pieces of canvases that have been hand-knitted together and then painted.
“Mingei Asia Now,” Curated by Nicolas Trembley
When you ascend the stairs to the upper level of Asia Now, the first booth you encounter is not quite a booth at all. Instead it is a curated display. Most works are on loan from private collections, and some for sale. It’s been organized by Nicolas Trembley, the curator of the private Swiss-based Syz collection. Titled “Mingei Asia Now,” this presentation is inspired by the concept of Mingei, which derives its names from the Japanese words “minshu” (people) and “kogei” (crafts), and is often considered to be a form of Japanese folk art that got its start in the early 20th century. Trembley shows that this is still fertile ground, mixing objects from various time periods without creating a hierarchy of styles or forms. Mining the movement’s ethos of seeing the beauty in the everyday, leading contemporary artists—Lee Ufan, Ai Weiwei, and Mai-Thu Perret, to name a few—have lent works to this presentation that sit alongside ones that date back as long ago as the 18th century.
Excalibur at Sato Gallery
The Tokyo-based artist collective Excalibur was founded in 2007 by Yoshinori Tanaka and now consists of roughly 13 members, whose output ranges from digital animations to NFTs to more traditional art objects. At Asia Now, the group is presenting three black kekejiku, or traditional hanging Japanese scrolls, with a twist. Merging a love for video games and an 8-bit aesthetic, these pixelated works are beautiful to behold. Dig a little deeper, however, and there’s much more going on. At top of each reads the “stage” (or level): 1945, 1991, 2022. The first two refer to the end of World War II and the Gulf War, respectively, while the final one refers to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Also depicted are sloping mountains that allude to the spikes and dips in the stock market as each war progressed.
Golnaz Payani at Praz-Delavallade
In a delicate new body of work, French Iranian artist Golnaz Payani looks at the essence of textiles by undoing them. Here, swaths of unraveled raw canvas cascade out of found frames. One seems to form the silhouette of a figure, whose ethereal presence is deeply felt—the memory of what was once there. Nearby hang two related pieces in which Payani has unraveled intricate jacquard fabrics, pointing in the process to the colonial history between France and Iran. (The craft of jacquard was learned by Iranians in France, who then brought it back to their home country, where artisans reinvented the form adding their own motifs.) Taken together, Payani is upending the traditional mode of painting by creating its inverse: instead of adding to the canvas, she is taking away from it. The effect is spectacular.
Correction, October 22, 2022: An earlier version of this article misidentified the artist of these works it is Golnaz Payani, not Pauline Bazignan.
Kenji Gomi at AIFA
Currently based in Kasama, Japan, about an hour north of Tokyo, Kenji Gomi cut his teeth in the southern islands of Okinawa, where he learned how to mold clay to create traditional Japanese ceramics of the kind for which the region is best known. But he soon departed from creating functional wares—though he does make those still—to create hefty, amorphous blobs of ceramic that appear like stones and are marked by a signature blackness toward the bottom. His presentation at Asia Now marks his first in France, a coup for the accomplished ceramicist, who has taught generations of students at the Kasama College of Ceramic Art.
Yang Semine at Marguo
Currently based in Dijon, France, Korean artist Yang Semine presents a recent body of work that evinces an interest in entomology, with a special focus one dragonflies. These highly saturated paintings toe the line between abstraction and figuration, at times looking like dragonflies, women wearing traditional hanbok, or even talismans. To make these works, Yang often meditates and then creates numerous digital drawings before selecting which ones she’ll adapt to canvas. It’s a way to think about the dichotomies and affinities between the digital world and the natural world.
Kanaria at quand les fleurs nous sauvent
To create her paintings, Kanaria often works in small sections that are roughly outlined. She’ll start on one side and paint part of a rabbit and other figures, and then move to a wholly different part of the canvas, repeating this process until the images are stitched together via paint. The overall effect is like that of a puzzle coming together. Working in oil paint and color pencil, she depicts edenic visions of the world that imagine humans, animals, and plants living together in harmony. She points out although all this flora and fauna may look very different, it all shares the same roots. There’s also a soft eroticism to these works that is both celebratory and poignant.