Five Must-See Displays at FIAC

Five Must-See Displays at FIAC
Subodh Gupta's “Titre à Définir,” 2010
(Courtesy of the artist & Galerie In Situ, Paris)

ARTINFO France wandered through the aisles of the Grand Palais and the other sites that FIAC has taken over for this year's fair and compiled a list of some of its favorite pieces on view, ranging from monumental sculptures to strange, Obama-themed performances.

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The Tuileries gardens are home to many of the sculptures displayed at FIAC. The sexiest one this year is no doubt an offering by United States Venice Biennale representative Allora & Calzadilla. The punny "Human Legacy" is composed of a lithe female leg made of wood, seductively stepping out of the trunk of a tree.

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Last month, Karl Lagerfeld filled the Grand Palais with the elegant topiary of Versailles for his Chanel show during Paris's Fashion Week, but Fabienne Leclerc has opted to bring a wilder vision of nature for FIAC. In the Tuileries lurks the work of an artist represented by Leclerc's In Situ gallery. Subodh Gupta's astonishing 2010 "Titre a Définir" ("Title to be Defined") is a 21-headed fiberglass snake, which balances on its lengthy body a giant egg made of stainless steel kitchen implements (one of the Indian artist's favorite materials). Leclerc told ARTINFO France that with the piece, Gupta is depicting a "quite violent break" of tradition from "the rampant globalization and economic explosiveness of India." In Situ offers another link in the natural chain of being with Mark Dion's 2001-2010 sculpture "Library for the Birds of the Tuileries" — a giant bird cage filled with live birds, a tree branch, old bric-a-brac, and books. "For centuries, culture tried to understand nature, but also to organize it and falsify it," Leclerc said of the piece. "The living birds are going to damage culture and take their revenge."

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Moving indoors, Théo Mercier's almost 10-foot "Le Solitaire" ("The Solitary One") at Gabrielle Maubrie's gallery attracted crowds all day long. "People were kind of fighting to get it," gallery staff told ARTINFO France. The colossus, which is a sad-looking seated monster figure made from ropey strands of spaghetti, carries a price tag of €40,000 ($55,000). "I don't know how much 'Le Solitaire' weighs," a gallery assistant said, "but it took nine of us to move it."

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For 11 years, William Pope.L has been working on "Cusp," his multimedia installation on view at the Mitchell-Innes & Nash booth. The piece contains over 500 drawings on paper, napkins, and packaging material. Three times a day, a 25-minute performance takes place. In the midst of drawing-covered rocks, three performers wearing Obama masks pour green ink on a fourth Obama-masked figure. "Obama is an icon and a liminal figure in this work, which is about larger questions of racism, the economy, community, and the father-figure that he represents," the artist told ARTINFO France. "But it is simpler to think of him as a hero. Since his election, many people fear an assassination." The performance uses everyday materials such as wine bottles and stuffed animals, with peanut butter spread onto two shapeless sculptural forms. For Pope.L, "alcohol in particular is a cheap spiritual ritual, just like cigarettes and fatty foods. I find these middle-class elements really interesting," he said.

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The collective General Idea was composed of three artists: AA Bronson, Jorge Zontal, and Felix Partz. When the latter two died of AIDS, AA Bronson took on the task of managing the group's work. At FIAC, three different galleries — Mai.36, Frédéric Giroux, and Esther Shipper — are each showing work by the collective from a different decade. The community spirit of the 70s inspired "Club Canasta." For the 80s, there is a painting that features one of the group's muses, their recurring character Miss General Idea. Finally, on a much more somber note, the 90s are represented by "One Month of AZT," in which a month's supply of the anti-AIDS drug is displayed. General Idea assumed the deadly epidemic as their subject in 1987, when faced with Ronald Reagan's marked silence on the disease as it ravaged a generation.