A woman jumps on ‘‘Sacrilege, 2012’’ by Jeremy Deller, on the Esplande des Invalides in Paris.
PARIS — Comparisons may be odious, but they kept cropping up as FIAC —
the French acronym for the International Contemporary Art Fair — opened
its doors Wednesday for a V.I.P. preview under the glass dome of the
Grand Palais here, hard on the heels of London’s Frieze show last week.
The quick spin of the global contemporary art carousel has put the
Paris-London rivalry in ever sharper focus, particularly since 2006 when
FIAC moved into the vast light-soaked arena of the 112-year-old Grand
Palais, bolstering its appeal.
“Much better than Frieze,” said Anke Kempkes, director of New York’s
Broadway 1602 gallery, who volunteered the comparison without being
asked. “London was too full, too hectic, too much going on. Collectors
want quality, they want concentration.”
Despite a sluggish economy and the threat of new French taxes on works
of art, the early turnout for FIAC — which runs through Sunday — was
strong. By Wednesday evening, a throng of well-dressed special guests
was pressing its way in and around 180 stands, from 24 countries,
spilling into a newly renovated space on the Grand Palais’s upper floor,
known as the Salon d’Honneur.
“I overheard someone say, ‘Everyone is here,”’ said Jennifer Flay, FIAC’s director. “Everyone.”
The suggestion, of course, is that some big-name collectors — from
Europe and beyond — had already been through. By late Wednesday, several
gallery owners were reporting positive results.
The Tornabuoni Arte gallery reported four early sales — including works
by Lucio Fontana and Dadamaino, one for €250,000, or $326,000. An
unnamed museum had already expressed interest in a large map of the
world, made of stitched pieces of cloth, by Alighiero Boetti, the
Italian artist honored this year by a retrospective show this year at
the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The Continua gallery of Italy reported that a 2006 work by the Chinese
dissident artist Ai Weiwei — a large ceramic bowl filled with pearls —
had sold for €300,000, and a work of sculpted figures by the
Cameroon-born artist Pascale Marthine Tayou had gone for €85,000. A
mesmerizing sculpture by Anish Kapoor in translucent red alabaster,
priced at £750,000, or $1.2 million, was still unsold.
At the other end of the scale, more modestly priced works were also
going fast: cut-outs artfully made from book covers by Georgia Russell, a
Paris-based Scottish artist, displayed at the Karsten Greve gallery, of
which three were already sold by Wednesday, at prices between €16,000
As in other years, FIAC has spawned a host of outdoor works across the
city. This year, a giant inflatable Stonehenge, a work entitled
“Sacrilege,” by the British artist Jeremy Deller, has proved to be an
attraction for all ages on the Esplanade in front of Les Invalides.
Sculptures, conceptual installations and performances will be held at
several outdoor Paris locations, including at the Jardin des Plantes,
and at the Tuileries Gardens, where a 14-seat cinema inside a shipping
container, known as a Cinéphémère, will show a dozen films by artists
daily during FIAC.
A number of galleries at the Grand Palais took the opportunity to
exhibit high-priced works by Pablo Picasso (seven in all), Joan Miró
(five), Alexander Calder (10), Kurt Schwitters (five) and other modern
At the stand of the Paris-based Galerie Denise René, a painting by Josef
Albers, with overlaid squares in tan, gray and turquoise, was quickly
reserved for €600,000, according to the gallery director, Franck Marlot.
“We have more important works this year,” Mr. Marlot said, “perhaps fewer, but more important.”
FIAC has long mixed its contemporary offerings with works of early
modern art, an historical approach, which until now, had distinguished
it from the Frieze fair in London. This year, however, Frieze added its
own look at the past, with Frieze Masters, a separate show at a
different location, which exhibited works made before 2000.
In years past, FIAC too had juggled with two locations, the Grand Palais
and the Cour Carrée at the Louvre. Since last year, the fair has
regrouped. “The galleries want to be together,” Ms. Flay said.
Gary Waterston, a London-based director of the Gagosian gallery, which
this year brought a 1946 Picasso, a Frank Stella and a painting by Andy
Warhol made from sprayed urine to FIAC, said the Grand Palais is a key
“All galleries enjoy this experience,” he said, waving his hand toward
the 45-meter, or 150-foot, ceiling. “You have a real sense of location.
You know you're in Paris.”
The addition of the Salon d’Honneur, opened this season for the first
time since 1937, has been used to focus on a subset of galleries from
different countries that have been in existence for 15 to 20 years.
“They are the tastemakers, the people known for discovering artists,”
Ms. Flay said. Among the exhibits in the Salon are a pair of
fast-spinning carwash brushes, a work by Lara Favaretto at the Franco
Noero gallery’s stand, and an installation of a bathroom, complete with a
half-empty wine glass, a bubble bath, spilled face powder and other
detritus from a night out, by Mac Adams at the GB Agency of Paris.
On the upper floor, in galleries linked to a grand staircase by a newly
accessible walkway, a younger generation of artists from all over the
world — including this year, from Dubai, Turkey, Hungary and Romania —
were showing less established, sometimes riskier works.
It was the Reena Spauldings Fine Art gallery’s first time at FIAC, with a
special showing of abstract art by the Cologne-based artist Michaela
Eichwald, who had hand-carried her large canvases to Paris from Germany.
“I thought everyone was playing it very safe in London,” said John
Kelsey, a director from Reena Spauldings, which is based in New York’s
Chinatown. “We wouldn’t have done this show there. It’s too risky,
there’s no consensus on the work. In London, you have to calculate
“Here in Paris, we don’t worry,” he added. “We just brought an artist that we love.”