Even after the art market crash, the dollar’s slide and nonstop upheaval around the globe, Paris continues to be a place of creation and an aesthetic watering hole par excellence. Which is why on a calendar chockablock with art fairs, FIAC remains "le must."
WHAT: The International Contemporary Art Fair
WHEN: October 22-25
WHERE: The event’s 36th edition draws 196 galleries hailing from more than 21 countries. A staggering amount of newcomers — 60 total — make their FIAC debut. • "Le Projet Moderne" promises excitement, with dealers like Gagosian, Acquavella, PaceWildenstein, and Louis Carré exhibiting modern masterworks of museum quality in the center of the Grand Palais. • FIAC’S design section is back after a short hiatus, and will include six dealers showcasing works on the ground floor. • This year marks the debut of the Prix Lafayette, an emerging-artist competition sponsored by the famed department store Galeries Lafayette. • Once again, the Tuileries Gardens play host to contemporary in situ projects, such as Ugo Rondinone’s Sunrise East. • Spirits are very high among dealers this year: "While most fair weeks leave you feeling drained, FIAC week is a pleasure and I always leave feeling I need one more day," says London art dealer and director of Art Dubai John Martin. "The Grand Palais is easy to get to without spending an hour in the metro or stuck in a traffic jam," adds Serge Le Borgne, the Paris gallerist. Roland Augustine, partner in the New York-based Luhring-Augustine Gallery, will be showing a number of seminal works by the British artist Rachel Whiteread. "It’s an extraordinary venue, like the Armory Show in New York, and the building is such an architectural jewel," he says.
Serge Le Borgne, whose gallery is located in the well-heeled art stomping ground of the Marais, sends artists and collectors to stay at this former multistory car park, "because it’s out of the so-called%C2%A0fashion system in Paris." The 172-room hotel, designed by Philippe Starck in 2008, is also a favorite of John Martin. He loves the in-room iMac computers which also serve as TVs and DVD players and the outdoor eating area. It’s located in the bustling 20th arrondisement in the northeast of Paris, so expect to find hidden spice and food markets and cultures of every sort. This is a Paris one rarely sees.
109 Rue de Bagnolet
Hotel du Petit Moulin
In 2006, Christian Lacroix lavished the digs of one of the oldest bakeries in the Marais with his signature bright colors and flair. Dating back to 1615, the 17-room hotel is now home to such touches as faux-book-lined wallpaper that makes the lounge resemble a library; dramatic red-tiled bathrooms with heart-shaped mirrors; and bold, eclectic patterned fabrics. Each room is created in a different style, such as Baroque, Scandinavian and ’60s.
29/31 Rue du Poitou
This historic inn was once a boarding house where both Jean-Paul Sartre (room 10) and Simone de Beauvoir (room 68) resided and a home away from home for Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Today it’s the lodging that gb agency’s Solène Guillier recommends to visitors since it’s a short walk to the Louvre and centrally located. With 80 charming rooms, the hotel maintains its ’50s decor and is only a few steps from the groovy Bar du Marché.
60 Rue de Seine
This hotel is close to the Grand Palais in both location and splendor. Its unique Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture, wood-paneled walkways and one-of-a-kind views of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower make it the choice for those who appreciate Paris’s old-world sights.
17 Avenue Kléber
This 1930s eatery is famous for its traditional brasserie-style food. Marble-topped tables provide an easy, old-time atmosphere. Milk-fed lamb and confit du canard are house specialties, so too is grilled veal kidneys. "I’m Italian, so I like to eat," says Roland Augustine, who frequents the restaurant, as do many fashionistas. "Paris is like Rome, you have to work to find a bad meal."
32 Rue du Vertbois
Serge Le Borgne says he will bring visitors to this grande cuisine restaurant near the Bastille "for its very-but very!-French food, and because the owner is a performing artist of sorts." The clientele consists mostly locals who head over for traditionally made country specialties like the hot sausage and goose confit; the decor itself is rustic with three separate dining areas.
106 Rue de la Folie- Méricourt
Known for serving elegantly prepared and extremely fresh fish for over 30 years, Le Duc, located in Montparnasse, was visited often by the late president François Mitterrand. It remains a haunt of Parisian power brokers, like the billionaire art collector and fashion magnate François Pinault.
243 Boulevard Raspail
With dishes like chilled creamy avocado soup, buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad, and ewe’s milk ice cream, this small bistro near the Centre Pompidou is popular with vegetarians and carnivores alike. Meat eaters recommend the pan-fried foie gras served over a smooth potato purée; other specialties include rillettes de lapereau alongside pumpkin and chestnut soup. Solène Guillier, a fan of Le Hangar, notes that while it can get very busy, the crowd is laid-back and unpretentious.
12 Impasse Berthaud
Decorated in all wood, the Breizh is a taste of Brittany, with authentic fare such as artisan-smoked herring, farm-fresh cream, apples right off the trees and 18 varieties of cider. Simple and easy is chef Bertrand Larcher’s philosophy. "I like that you can have crepes and galettes with cider from 12 a.m. to 11 p.m.," Le Borgne says about the café, which is located just next door to his gallery in the Marais. "And it’s really delicious. I was born%C2%A0in Brittany, so these are my comfort foods!"
109 Rue Vieille du Temple
Situated atop the Centre Pompidou, this sleek eatery is spectacular at night because of the view, says Le Borgne. The Georges is a great option for a late night drink and — for those who may not want to climb the Eiffel Tower — a chance to see the city from atop a French monument.
Level 6 of the Centre Pompidou, Place Georges Pompidou
From Michael Jackson T-shirts to the ION turntable for converting LPs to MP3s, if it’s cool, it’s at Colette. Since its opening in 1997, this boutique has captured the world’s attention with its well-edited collection of quirky merchandise. Last spring, it hosted The Selby pop-up shop, featuring products by people photographed by the blogger and fashion darling Todd Selby.
213 Rue Saint-Honoré
If Colette has a rival, it’s this ultra-hip concept emporium, which is three boutiques in one: a footwear shop specializing in runway-worthy styles for women and men; a women’s boutique focused on directional Scandinavian labels like Carin Wester; and a vintage store where art and fashion books are on offer along with apparel divided up under such labels as "Bohemian" and "Rock and Roll." Giorgio Armani has been spotted among the racks, as has the former Madame Sarkozy.
66 Avenue de Champs-Élysées
One of the most beautiful inner city waterways, the Canal Saint-Martin is often described as a "leafy ribbon" running through the northeast section of Paris. On the weekend, bring a bottle, a baguette and some friends and sit and savor.
"When in Paris for... FIAC" originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Art+Auction. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Art+Auction's October 2009 Table of Contents.