FIAC Report: First-Time Participants Bring Flair to the Paris Fair

Galerie Balice Hertling's booth at FIAC 2012
(Photo © Nicolai Hartvig)

PARIS — While there are some galleries here with several FIACs under their belt, many of them are setting foot in the historic Grand Palais for the first time, as newcomers to the French art market. ARTINFO France spotted many with only one to five years of experience — though some have much more. With emerging artists, creative presentation, and interesting collaborations, these newcomers have injected new life into the fair.

Among the galleries that are brand new to FIAC, Dubai’s The Third Line is a favorite. It has been in existence for seven years and has already participated in Frieze four times. The gallery’s first visit to FIAC has brought new challenges and brisk sales. What’s the secret to The Third Line’s success? It’s very simple: very good and very young artists. ARTINFO France especially likes Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum’s conceptual work, between minimalism and modernism: geometrical and colorful pieces using different scales of folding, sometimes on paper, sometimes on metal. And we love Hayv Kahraman, an extraordinary Iraqi painter who is inspired by Arab illuminated manuscripts and who paints scenes of men and women on wood with incredible grace. Another terrific discovery is the work of Iranian-born, New York-based artist Pouran Jinchi. Originally a calligrapher, she has sculpted in coded Persian lettering and in three dimensions a phrase from Sadegh Hedayat’s novel “The Blind Owl” (which was considered a classic of Surrealism by André Breton and was made into a film by Raoul Ruiz in the late '80s). Finally, the adjustable sculpture by Monir Shahrouly bursts with a thousand lights, like a true Berber jewel.


It’s also the German gallery Kamm’s first time at FIAC. Usually relying on a circle of loyal German collectors, the gallery decided to embark on a French adventure, and brought work by painter Christoph Meier, conceptual artist Bernd Ribbeck, and photographer Kathrin Sonntag. ARTINFO France especially liked Meier’s installation “Untitled (Discotheque),” which consists of long bars with neon lights at the ends (they are made from hospital transfusion trolleys). Ribbeck’s magnificent paintings, between geometrical abstraction and extraordinary color experiments, are also very winning.

Another winner is at the Glasglow gallery Mary Mary, with its wonderful director Hannah Robinson. For her first visit to FIAC, she has brought two artists: French artist Lili Raynaud Dewar and the very gifted Californian Alexis Marguerite Teplin. The gallery, which has been in business for over six years, has not sold a lot at the fair, but still considers it a successful undertaking. Teplin is a great painter from all angles, whether it’s small formats or canvases hung and cut up on the wall. A master of color, his paintings are not only beautiful but also convey mystery — especially the cut-up canvases, which fall somewhere between reclaimed objects and masterful abstractions.

Meyer Riegger, a gallery that needs no introduction, is also at FIAC for the first time. “We like French food,” director Thomas Riegger joked, before adding, “It’s Europe’s rising fair.” A terrific painting by Franz Ackerman, works by Helen Mivre and David Thorpe, and a piece by Jonathan Monk make this a really excellent booth, and we didn’t see anything we would change.

And we couldn’t leave out Balice Hertling’s first appearance at FIAC. Working closely with the Milanese design gallery Nilufar, this booth has enough space to show both furniture and art, as if in a real — and luxurious — salon. The gallery is showing work by young French artist Isabelle Cornaro, who no longer needs any introduction, and New York-based artist Kerstin Bratsch. But it’s Oscar Tuazon who surprised us the most with his double doors: one opens onto his Paris gallery’s booth, and the other onto his New York gallery’s booth, Maccarone.

São Paulo’s Luciana Brito also stands out, and has brought work by international artists such as Alex Katz and Anthony McColl along with Brazilian artists. A large fresco by Regina Silveira is striking because of its political content: huge scissors, a Kalashnikov rifle, and a corkscrew burst forth from images of political personalities including Margaret Thatcher. Like a mural of over-sized shadows, the piece has a certain dramatic flair while still remaining in the realm of the absurd.

For the second year, Antwerp’s Baroque Gallery is at FIAC, with works by two artists, Leigh Ledare and Aaron Bobrow. Ledare’s diptych is captivating: on newspaper pages enlarged to human size, the artist has photographed a naked woman with her legs spread, in a play on the contrast between text and image, as if this woman’s most personal life was dissolved into current events. Is it a reflection on the hybrid nature of the contemporary world or an examination of the obscenity of current events? It’s up to the viewer to decide. Bobrow’s abstract paintings make less of an impression; it’s hard to tell if they have been made to establish a connection with the senses or as artistic marketing.

Every year, FIAC snares young galleries in its web, and they are thrilled to be caught. As in previous editions, the second floor of the Grand Palais (except for the Salon d’Honneur) is reserved for them — especially the Lafayette section, where ten participants have been selected to receive financial support by a jury that includes Palais de Tokyo director Jean de Loisy and Sandra Terdjman of the Kadist Art Foundation.

Many of the young galleries have chosen solo shows in order to focus collectors’ attention on a single artist. This has created many great booths, coherent mini-exhibitions that can be taken in with a single glance (also, the space is more limited than on the ground floor due to financial imperatives).

At the head of the list, the black-and-white booth of Schleicher + Lange, which opened its doors in 2004, is entirely devoted to the Iranian-German artist Timo Nasseri. The booth brings together ink and pencil drawings (one, “I Saw a Broken Labyrinth,” was inspired by Borges), kaleidoscope-sculptures inspired by Persian or Islamic ornamentation (“Parsec 2 and 11”), and a wall drawing (“Horizon Oblique”), which is made of circles and arcs traced with a compass like geometrical gears. Nasseri’s work invents its own language — mathematical, formal, and indecipherable. The white (positive) shapes and the black (negative) shapes cancel each other out when placed side by side.

Crèvecoeur is another young gallery that has adopted the strategy of showing a single artist (an especially good strategy in a limited space). For its first time at FIAC, the gallery has set up a booth with exacting precision showing the work of Jorge Pedro Nuñez. A labyrinth of books, a metal plate pierced with geometrical shapes, a sculpture of concrete and wood: Everything has been skillfully calculated to provide the best presentation of the Venezuelan artist’s work, which borrows from geometrical abstraction and daily life.

The same holds true at Gaudel de Stampa, where we discovered the emerging artist Lina Viste Gronli through her elementary works, reduced sometimes to a simple nail splashed with colored pigment. And in a similar spirit, the young Paris gallery Marcelle Alix has designed a booth that is stripped-down but sensual, in various shades of gray and pink that play on the contrast of textures in the work of Varda Caivano and Ian Kiaer — two demanding displays that get extra points for risk-taking.

A more hard-hitting approach has been taken by Sémiose, which is showing only three works that speak to each other perfectly: art collective Présence Panchounette’s police officer (“Traffic,” 1985), Piero Gilardi’s landscape (“Bosca de Casterino,” 2011), and Laurent le Deunff’s trophy (“Noeud de Trompe V,” 2012). Considering the number of visitors squeezing their way into the small booth (one of the narrowest at the fair), the tactic seems to be paying off.

The slightly better-known gallery Polaris is showing the nomadic constellations of Bouchra Khalili and the sculpture “Concrete Palestine” by Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar.

As far as sales go, New York gallery Eleven Rivington is doing pretty well. According to the gallery’s Augusto Arbizo, sales started very early, on the Wednesday morning reserved for VIPs. The gallery sold a wood and enamel piece by Michael De Lucia to a French collector for $28,000. The next day, a collage by Valeska Soares was picked up by an American collector for $50,000. ARTINFO France had spotted the work earlier, a kind of hopscotch wall installation made of book covers. These two emerging artists are beginning to be better known in France.

The Brooklyn gallery Clearing, which opened just two years ago, has also gotten noticed at FIAC. Director Olivier Babin brought works by two New York artists to the fair: Ryan Foerster and Harold Ancart, whose in situ painting of a spurt of black pigment is unique. With furnishings by Konrad Dedobbeleer, the gallery has a hand in design as well as contemporary art.

And, finally, we’d hate to forget Samy Abraham, with a selection of remarkable artists: Emilie Ding and the duo Bevis Martin & Charlie Youle. Samy Abraham made an interesting choice of presentation: for the first two days of the fair, Ding’s work was positioned up high and Martin & Youle’s work was on the floor, and then the arrangement was reversed.

To see the works mentioned in this fair report, click on the slideshow.

To see all of ARTINFO's FIAC coverage, click here.