Paris is a favorite city for many people and now the art world has a compelling reason to put it on the calendar at least once a year. FIAC has come into its own and will become a growing force. The Fair included more international galleries this year, yet it’s size was very manageable.
The Grand Palais, which held the main fair, was spacious and beautiful, a refined environment for presenting and viewing the work. Business was steady for quality works such as two Basquiats sold by New York dealer Van de Weghe. David Zwirner sold out his show of Adel Abdessemed. Paris dealer, Kamel Mennour, reported a sold out booth and other gallerists reported considerable sales. The second section of the Fair of mostly younger galleries was held nearby at the Cour Carree du Louvre. It was short on highlights. I also breezed through two of the four satellite fairs. These fairs were mostly European with predominantly French participation.
The Tuileries, the lovely gardens between the two FIAC venues, was installed with both permanent and temporary sculpture. Among the standouts were Thomas Houseago’s bronze figure, “Lumpy Man”, an intriguing work of snakes by Subodh Gupta, an Ugo Rondinone tree in the main pool and a colorful sculpture by the consistently engaging Franz West.
There was much debate among gallerists and visitors over whether FIAC or Frieze is the more desirable fair, especially given the proximity of their dates one week apart. Frieze has gravitated towards younger, edgier, less expensive offerings, while FIAC is emphasizing substantial, established artworks within a highly aesthetic presentation. Some galleries did both fairs and a few collectors managed both of them as well. It has grown into a more heated competition.
In a nod to Paris, Larry Gagosian inaugurated a new branch of his gallery off the Champs Elysees during the Fair period. The opening exhibition was an impressive show of Cy Twombly paintings and sculpture. Among various speculation, word has it that Gagosian is establishing himself in the French capital ahead of Bernard Arnault’s museum, the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation, designed by Frank Gehry. The Foundation is expected to be a transforming addition to the contemporary art scene. Needless to say, it is also an opportunity for the gallery to exhibit unrepresented artists in the area and serve some very significant clients.
Whether it is Paris or London, these two world-class cities always have much to offer in terms of visual culture, not to mention food, fashion and architecture. In Paris, it is still a thrill to stand before the great works from art history such as Gericault’s “Raft of the Medusa” at the Louvre or Manet’s “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe” at the D’Orsay. The list is long. Many days can be filled with visits to stellar institutions including the Pompidou, the Musee d’art moderne de La Ville de Paris, the Palais de Tokyo, the Jeu de Paume, the Musee Guimet, the Palace of Versailles, and on. I did my best. And of course, the Eiffel Tower still melts even the most cynical heart.
Prior to my French visit, I spent a few days in one of our own world renown cities, Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago unveiled their new modern wing designed by Renzo Piano in Spring 2009. It is an outstanding addition that truly enhances the viewing of the collection. A new site-specific installation by acclaimed Mumbai-based artist, Jitish Kallat has just been installed on the grand staircase of the main building. It is the first major presentation in an American museum of his work, on view until January 2, 2011.
The Museum of Contemporary Art featured “Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance and Joy”. This wonderful convocation of sculpture housed an entire room of the ebullient Alexander Calder. Adjacent were seven contemporary artists, chief among them LA-based favorite, Aaron Curry, and Jason Middlebrook. The Luc Tuymans exhibition, previously at SF MOMA was upstairs.
A great Chicago pleasure is the architectural boat trip of the historic Chicago River and Lake Michigan skyline. This one-hour boat cruise introduces over 40 landmark buildings of modern American architecture and represents a historical chart of the power and wealth of Chicago. Between the architecture and the public sculpture, especially in Millenium Park, it is clear that Chicago is way beyond the “second city”.
Another significant architectural landmark, only 90 minutes by train, is the unique Quadracci Pavillion at the Milwaukee Museum of Art, designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Highlights of the building are the magnificent cathedral-like space of Windhover Hall, with a vaulted 90-foot high glass ceiling and the Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable sunscreen with a 217 foot wingspan that unfolds twice daily. I was fortunate to see it unfurl in all of its splendor.
BACK IN LA
“The Artist’s Museum” opened at MOCA on Oct 30 and runs through Jan 31, 2011. It is a survey show of 146 artists based in LA who have shaped the region and beyond since the museum opened in 1980. It is a pleasure to see some rarely exhibited works from the collection such as Mike Kelley’s, “Pay for Your Pleasure” and Stephen Prina’s, “Aristotle-Plato-Socrates” among others. But with the majority of artists represented by only one work, the extremely varied conceptual concerns, mediums and scales, it is a tough show to navigate with any clarity or cohesion. The exhibition certainly illustrates the explosion of pluralism of the last 30 years. But it raises the question of what aesthetic or intellectual contribution is made by a show like “The Artist’s Museum”? It has an aspect of generosity from the artist’s standpoint but runs the risk of feeling like an art fair without the sales component. For an opposite and very edifying experience, take another walk through the permanent collection which currently shares the space on Grand Avenue.