FIAC 2010 in Paris – A ramble unearths some deep thoughts

Despite nationwide strikes that continue to hobble the country the french international art fair, FIAC, came to town (Oct. 21-24th) for a week and enabled collectors and artists get down to the business of selling art. Not a riot could be heard within its walls, and business was brisk. Attendance was up. Prices were up  5.4% ( after a 42% plunge  in 2008/09).  Art is more affordable now then during the boom, and the volume sold is stable, according to the Financial Times. Good news, then,  since the crisis broke.

Alfredo and Isabel AQUILIZAN's "Exodus"

The fair was spread out over 3 spaces. The Grand Palais was the central, mother ship, space and housed the blue chip galleries and works while to the west and east were her satelites.


To the West was Slick housed in a big tent and offering the youngest and rawest works of the fair. To the east was an open air sculpture area as well as the  Cour Carre housing the players whose feet are almost in the door of the Grand Palais. A quick survey proved this not to be a binding rule. Market value determined the grid.Though not as comic strip and drawing-oriented as in last years  the fair had a juvenile and even regressive undercurrent.

Notable tendencies were double-faced guitars, plastic objects deformed by heat, and muslim prayer rugs. With a smattering of  faux weapons the fair felt like The Bazaar of All Nations. A lot of works for under 10,000 euros were on offer. Your average artist can’t collect at those prices but the still-affluent can.

There were a few arab artists tackling Islamic subjects and calligraphy. The two notable ones were both women. Mounir Fatmi’s “I Like America” is an American flag transformed into a  giant Pick Up Sticks game

" I Like America" Mounir FATMI

and then Latifa Echakhch’s “Frames” which are Muslim prayer rugs with their centers cut out. Thus the praying must touch the “unclean” earth.

130 frames 2006
Bring the faithful back to earth.

The theme continued with Mounir Fatmi’s  prayer rugged skateboards in a traffic jam.

I can feel the Fatwa...

As a counterpoint is this carpet piece by Gedi Sibony that speaks above all about the sculptural process. Two pieces of the same  carpet underside to underside go  vertical and become like a door. The underside of the carpet,  ordinarily hidden, is the greater part of the piece. Both  strips are notched to create shoulders in proportion to their mass and suggests that they fit into a specific  place.  Where would that be? You can still feel its rolled-up-ness and smell the factory it came from. Simply flipping, notching and hanging prefab elements surprisingly and successfully confirms the sculptural process here.

Gedi Sibony

The door hits the floor  in this curious piece by Roman Ondak

" Door Leading To Many Directions"

I am always on the lookout for a potential boat. This inverted podium by Amalia PICA suggests that there cannot be winners without losers. Here the winner is the ballast.

Amalia PICA at the Galerie Diana Stigter

For as much as I love to find beauty in machines and the utilitarian I have yet to meet a beautiful weapon:

This year's gun by Frank Perrin.

But I am tired of seeing pictures of Taliban soldiers crouching on a craggy outcrop of rock.

Taliban Chair by Emeric Lhuisset and Afghan artist Aman Mojadidi. This presupposes a beach. If terrorists went on vacation they might change their point of view.

Otherwise just give me what appears to be artistic vandalism such as Mr. Kintera’s cut lamp post:

Kristof Kintera's lamp is from Prague.

Only time will tell what will become of the 26-year old FIAC and ages-old human art in general. My favorite work was the 1,000-year watch. Designed by Patrick Bernatchez  in collaboration with a Swiss  horloger the 1,000-year  watch will complete a 24 hour cycle in 1,000 years. The watch is ticking and yet the movement of the hands is imperceptible. A future centenarian may see 5 minutes fly by in his or her lifetime.

Self winding, I hope.

Meanwhile someone will need to take out the trash. We are what we throw out. The holy receptacle so hermetic, the psychopomp between the new and the used deserves the sarcophagraphic touch by Blokhin and Kuznetsov:

"Sarcophagus" by Blokhin and Kuznetsov.

At the Gagosian Gallery  ( Mr. Gagosian was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur on Monday the 19th of October for opening a gallery in Paris)  there was a guard assigned to protecting a delicate Giacometti bronze that was clamped down to its pedestal with two big pieces of steel. Everyone’s attention was turned towards the guard. The price for dismissing the guard — $10,000,000 for that little Giacometti. A small black and blue Warhol of Jackie Kennedy in mourning  hung on the same wall as a 1930’s Picasso portrait of a woman. Warhol’s shadowing created the signature Picasso  trick of putting a profile of the sitter down the middle of the sitter’s face seen frontally. No photos allowed. Everywhere else people snapped away with great abandon.

Art and Design continue to honeymoon together. One confounding piece for me was  Sleeping Hermaphrodite by Barry X Ball. It is a re-rendering, slick up  in black marble of the original white marble work housed in the Louvre. The body has been buffed to our teen magazine standard of physical beauty. This is art meets interior decoration and it went immediately for 450.000 euros. That’s a good deal compared to the one in the Louvre ( not for sale).

Or is this like when Picasso sits down to repaint Manet's Dejeuner sur L'Herbe?
Or is this like when Picasso sits down to repaint Manet's Dejeuner sur L'Herbe?


While we are here let me thank all of the artists of the world who continue to work and produce culture fodder  for the world to engage and trade with on all levels. Most artists continue to do this against all odds and without going on strike ( because no one is asking them to work, really?). It is fairs like this that can fuel the hopes that at the end of the tunnel there could be cash.

"Erasure" by Adamo. The strikers believe that they'll get a stick like this for retirement. They're right.

Artists I spoke to said that it was getting harder and harder to get invitations to the FIAC while tickets cost 30 euros a piece. The FIAC is a real bazaar but you know it is an art fair when you ask “How much?”  The answer is never artist-as-collector friendly. Perhaps they should let artists shoot at pyramides of cans and fish for rubber ducks to try and win some tickets to redeem for high quality art?  Artists need other  artist’s art in their life spaces, after all.

At the FIAC it takes a leap of faith and bulging pockets to leave with anything . .  . and even with empty pockets  the guards asked us if we were stealing art as we left. This said, a gallery representing Louise Bourgeois was selling posters to some of her former shows for 35 euros. The Louvre Museum was taking orders for etchings by well known artists such as Tony Cragg and Guisseppe Penoni, price tag – 250 euros . . . unsigned of course. Worthless then? Yes. All the more reason, then, to buy one. It let’s you know what you like. I bought the Penoni.