FIACs Cour Carre So Good Its Scary

A Metro stop away from the Grand Palais, the younger portion of FIAC housed in the Louvre’s Cour Carrée is off to a great start.

Major collectors were spotted at the 80-gallery-strong section’s VIP preview on Tuesday afternoon, including London’s Fatima Malaki, who bought the cover lot Chris Ofili painting at Sotheby’s London last week for £577,250 ($939,648).

Shireen Gandhy longtime director of Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road Gallery could barely contain her excitement as Malaki exited her booth.

“It’s fantastic,” said Gandhy, whose stand was devoted to photographs, “because we came here with a lot of apprehension, but we’ve done so well today, it’s back to the times when I sold big-ticket items to big collectors.”

Gandhy had already sold Rashid Ranas Rothko-esque C print What Lies between Flesh & Blood 2 (2009), from an edition of five, for €55,000 ($82,500), and Jitish Kallats Cenotaph (A Deed of Transfer) (2007), comprised of 20 lenticular prints depicting a slum street in Mumbai “to a big French collector” for €22,500 ($33,800).

Gandhy also sold Vivan Sundarams Metal Box (2008), a large digital print on archival paper, for €8,000, and two 2009 digital prints by Tushar Joag, The Races and Yet Unbridled, for €9,000 apiece.

“I don’t even apply to Frieze,” says Gandhy, “because it’s very hard to do two fairs back to back — and besides, I sell mostly to French collectors.”

New York art adviser Thea Westreich, stopped in a corridor, also raved about the fair. “This is so good, it’s scary. There cannot be enough time to investigate how many artists are so appealing. The quality here is extraordinary.”

Sales were widespread. At London’s Bischoff/Weiss, an untitled sculpture by Matt Golden sold for €1,800 ($2,700), two drawings by Nathaniel Rackowe went for €2,000 apiece ($3,000), and four drawings by Maya Hewitt sold for €600 ($900) each. All are from 2009.

Another London stand, Herald Street, one of 14 that received a 50 percent subsidy for the fair from the Galerie Lafayette Group, had almost instant success, selling Donald Urquharts An Alphabet of Paris (Arletty to Zizi), a set of three drawings in ink on paper that pay homage to French artists, made especially for the Cour Carrée, to a European collector for £7,500 ($11,255).

Paris dealer Frank Elbaz sold three unique works by British sculptor Susan Collis, who was featured in the Frame section of the Frieze Art Fair last week by her London dealer Seventeen Gallery. Her work looks like found objects but are carefully fabricated using exotic materials. She Falls Down (2009), a reference to a Giacometti sculpture, is made of cedar, walnut, oak, American holly, white gold, yellow gold, silver, smoked topaz, granite, and aluminum, and sold for €3,500 ($5,250), as did Untitled, a trompe l’oeil version of screws cleverly mounted in the gallery stand wall, done in platinum, turquoise, and white sapphire.

“We sold four things in the first few hours, including a work to a trustee of the Pompidou,” said New York’s Perry Rubenstein. Among them was Robin Rhodes latest work, Necklace, a series of 16 C prints in an edition of five featuring the artist skipping rope, which sold for $75,000. It’s based on a 2005 performance at the Museum of Modern Art.

The dealer also sold several works by the painting collaborative team Faile, including Faile Wonderland (2009), a 64-by-40-inch work in acrylic and silkscreen ink on wood and framed in steel, “to an important French collector” for $50,000, and a smaller work for $40,000.

Curiously, Cour Carrée had a more international flavor and representation than its big brother at the Grand Palais, at least a third of whose exhibitors are Paris-based, leading some to grumble that this year’s FIAC was too Frenchified.

All was not rosy over at the Palais, especially for the few dealers whose stands were obscured and made largely invisible by the big structure housing the 10 blue-chip dealers in the new Modern Project section.

“I’m very upset about my spot,” said Brussels/Paris dealer Paolo Vedovi, “hidden behind this big mausoleum. Thank god my clients were looking for me.”

Apparently so. Vedovi sold his petite Alexander Calder stabile/mobile, Untitled (1956), for around $600,000 and Joseph Alberss Homage to the Square R-1 (1968) in oil on masonite for €120,000.

One thrilled buyer couldn’t resist dragging this reporter to see his new purchase at New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery. “I love American paintings,” gushed John Sayegh-Belchatowski, “and my girlfriend is American too, so I guess its kharma.” The Parisian collector and private dealer had snatched up an untitled Barnaby Furnas painting from 2009 featuring goth poster boys The Cure performing against a fantasy background. The huge work, measuring 104 by 168 inches, gobbled up one wall of Boesky’s booth.

“We gave this lovely man a friendly discount,” said Boesky, as the collector kidded her about the painting’s all-over yellow hue. “He’s ruthless.”

The asking price had been $275,000.

Judd Tully is Editor at Large of Art+Auction.