The (Art) Show Must Go on
There hasn’t been much good news in France of late. In fact there hasn’t really been any news, as journalists and broadcasters join the general strikes that have brought the country to a standstill. After recent terror alerts, the country has had to deal with demonstrations against the government’s new pension reform, and witty barbs from foreigners who believe they should just get on with it and stop moaning. Flights are being cancelled, trains disrupted and petrol is in short supply, while exuberant youth are burning cars in the suburbs.
Despite this, galleries and other venues have been scrubbing their white spaces to greet the international art world glitterati. The 2010 Fiac – Foire internationale d’art contemporain (international contemporary art fair) – opens to the public today, and is generating a fair amount of “bruit”. In its 37th year, the Fiac has carved itself an important place in the Paris art calendar in recent years, moving from the less auspicious exposition center at Porte de Versailles, on the western edge of the city, to the prime location of the Grand Palais and the courtyard (Cour Carré) of the Louvre. This year the fair boasts 3500 artists and almost 200 galleries.
The Grand Palais’ monumental 19th century glass roof shelters more established galleries, while the temporary structure in the Louvre courtyard houses younger outfits. The Louvre courtyard also includes stands dedicated to the artists shortlisted for this years Prix Marcel Duchamp. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Cyprien Gaillard, Camille Henrot and Anne-Marie Schneider are in the running for France’s most prestigious contemporary art prize.
The buzz of the Fiac has also spawned numerous satellite fairs: the Slick Art Fair and Show Off, both celebrating their fifth year, Cutlog, a fair in its second year, dedicated to young galleries and emerging artists, and newcomer the Chic Art Fair, which launches its first edition tonight. Unlike the other fairs which are located in central and western Paris, the Chic Art Fair is held in the east of the city, in the innovative Seine-side structure of the Cité de la mode et du design (design and fashion center). To encourage visitors there is a BatoCHIC – a boat which will travel along the picturesque river, carrying people to more central locations.
There is even a “not the Fiac” show (“ceci n’est pas la Fiac” borrowed from Magritte’s famous “ceci n’est pas une pipe”), an internet platform for digital artists, which offers a more democratic image than the flashy VIP (pronounced in French to rhyme with quip) events surrounding the other fairs.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are also numerous exhibitions and events timed to coincide with “Paris art week”, including sculpture and installations in the Tuileries gardens (linking up the Fiac’s two venues), the sell-out Monet show – the largest ever retrospective of the artist, uniting over 200 works, and a major Basquiat retrospective.
As well as the overwhelming abundance of art, people-watching opportunities abound. The viewing public at the Fiac reflects the ambience of the split venues – men in scarves, women in fur sipping champagne at the Grand Palais and young hipsters drinking colorful Ricard cocktails at the Louvre.
The mighty Larry Gagosian, recently named the “most powerful figure in the art world” has also just added a Paris venue to his string of international galleries (bringing his total to 9). Gagosian Paris is a stone’s throw from Christie’s and Sotheby’s and across the road from the Fiac.
Often seen as lagging behind London and New York, contemporary art in Paris seems to be making a bid to catch up.
The Fiac is on at the Grand Palais and the Cour Carré du Louvre, October 21 through 24. The Slick Art Fair is on at the esplanade of the Palais de Tokyo, The Show Off is on at the Champs Elysées, Cutlog is on at the Bourse de Commerce, also October 21 through 24. The Chic Art Fair is on at the Cité de la mode et du design, October 22 through 25. Monet is on at the Galeries du Grand Palais through January 24. Basquiat is on at the Musée d’art moderne through January 30.
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