thierry Ehrmann: “October sees two of the world's biggest art fairs almost back-to-back: the Frieze in London and the FIAC in Paris. But they're not just close in time and space – with just two-weeks between them and 2 hours on the Eurostar – they also have to contend with competition from simultaneous prestige sales that are threatening to steal their limelight”.
Artprice takes a look at new challenges facing the FIAC and the Frieze today.
Our preview of the FIAC 2017 reveals some interesting omissions: to our knowledge, the fair will not be presenting works by Njideka A. Crosby. The young Nigerian painter has been the world's brightest star in auction rooms (see Artprice's latest Contemporary Art Market Report). Despite her recent success, her main gallery, Victoria Miro, has decided to show Conrad Shawcross, Secundino Hernández and Doug Aitken.
Similarly, the principal galleries representing Adrian Ghenie (Pace, Thaddaeus Ropac, Plan B) have no works by the young Romanian superstar at the Grand Palais this year. Even more surprising… Jean-Michel Basquiat is also absent from this year's FIAC! Have galleries decided to present ‘other artists'? Are they seeking an alternative posture from the auctioneers… a more ‘one-step-ahead' positioning?
Of course, there's still plenty of crossover: David Zwirner will be presenting works at the FIAC by Sigmar Polke and Wolfgang Tillmans, two of the auction market's top-selling signatures at the moment. Polke's Tänzerin (1994) attracted uninhibited bidding at Phillips' Contemporary Art sale on 6 October 2017 in London and fetched $4.4 million. Another important Polke canvas, Was machen die Russen in Mexiko (1982) will be offered at Christie's in Paris during the FIAC. Twice sold at auction, the work fetched $170,500 at Sotheby's in New York in 1988 and $178,500 at Christie's in 1997. It is now estimated between $3.5 million and $4.7 million and will be included in the Jean-François & Marie-Aline Prat collection sale on 20 October in Paris.
Christie's decision to organize this highly prestigious sale during the FIAC is no coincidence. In recent months, the British auction firm has clearly shown it sees the majors fairs as an excellent wave to ride, hence the postponement of its London Post-War & Contemporary Art sale from June to October to coincide with the Frieze. The results of that decision were generally successful, but the sale was marred by a pass on its star lot, Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971 by Francis Bacon. Estimated between $78 million and $104 million, the work would have set a major new auction record for Fine Art in Europe.
That failure – and the very good results for Basquiat, Doig and Gormley – once again confirmed a trend we have already highlighted: Contemporary Art is today the most dynamic segment and the primary growth driver of the Art Market as a whole; a role it appears to have been definitely seized from Post-War Art.
FIAC: a mixture of major international and local galleries
The FIAC remains first and foremost a rendezvous for the major Parisian galleries, including Chantal Crousel whose stand greets visitors at the entrance. In the main walkways, visitors will find Perrotin, Lelong, Mennour, Obadia, Almine Rech, Daniel Templon, Karsten Greve and Thaddaeus Ropac among others.
But the FIAC is also a Parisian rallying point for prestigious Anglo-Saxon galleries: Gagosian, Zwirner, Lisson, Sadie Coles, Marian Goodman, Victoria Miro, Paula Cooper, Simon Lee, White Cube, Skarstedt… plus a number of top European art dealers, including the German galleries calier | gebauer, Konrad Fisher and Sprüth Magers; the Italian Massimo Carlo and Continua, and the Belgian Xavier Hufkens, Zeno X and Jan Mot.
For the second year running, Hauser & Wirth is one of the rare prominent galleries (along with Lévy Gorvy) who have decided to show at the Frieze, but not at the FIAC. The proximity of two major European fairs doubles the risk involved for those who make the trip. However… after the 2016 editions, the Paris director of the Gagosian Gallery declared: "We thought this year would be a gamble because of the gap between the Frieze and the FIAC, but we are very pleased with the results and contacts we've made. There was a strong international audience and we made sales to new customers. Paris is becoming the capital of art. The quality of the presentations was outstanding."
In 2016, the FIAC hosted 72,080 visitors in 5 days, +0.5% more than the previous year. For comparison, Frieze London and Frieze Masters jointly hosted just over 60,000 visitors at the recent 15th edition (from 5 to 8 October 2017).
By raising the number of galleries to 192 for this 44th edition (vs. 186 last year and 173 in 2015), the FIAC has diversified its exhibitors without compromising on prestige. Over the years, the famous Parisian cultural event has manifested its ambition to present a ‘parallel art scene' alongside the major international galleries. The fair welcomes an ensemble of ‘local' galleries, representing artists who are already recognized in their country and seeking to take advantage of the FIAC's international visibility. For these galleries, the FIAC represents an excellent opportunity to bring these artists to the attention of major collectors. In this respect, the Lafayette zone is particularly interesting, hosting galleries like LambdaLambdaLambda (Prishtina, Kosovo), Truth and Consequences (Geneva, Switzerland), or Gypsum (Cairo, Egypt).
Among the galleries promising superb discoveries… Nadja Vilenne from Liege in Belgium, the Hungarian gallery Kisterem and Japan's Tomio Koyama. The latter will add a touch of Asian art to the Grand Palais in a fair where the overall presence of Asian, African and South American galleries remains discreet.
On site and the Marcel Duchamp Prize
At the Petit Palais on the other side of Avenue Churchill, a show entitled On Site focuses on sculpture. Given the success of Frieze Sculpture on the other side of the Channel, with its dozens of monumental works scattered throughout Regent Park, the FIAC wants to embark on a similar adventure.
The list of sculptors at the On Site show is particularly diverse and appealing. It includes signatures that are well-known to the French, like Arman, as well as Minimalism pioneers like David Nash and Richard Nonas. On site makes a superb juxtaposition of works by the Austrian Erwin Wurm, the Belgian Joelle Tuerlinckx and the Cameroon artist Barthélémy Toguo. It also rediscovers the three-dimensional work of Antoni Tapies.
But the real highlight of the FIAC – one that distinguishes it from other art fairs – is its prestigious Marcel Duchamp prize, which since 2000, has been awarded by the ADIAF (Association for the International Diffusion of French Art). The award has already revealed a number of interesting artists including Thomas Hirschhorn, Dominique Gonzales-Foerster, Tatiana Trouve, Latifa Echakhch and 2016 winner Kader Attia. This year, the four shortlisted artists are Maja Bajevic, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Charlotte Moth and Vittorio Santoro. Their work will be presented on the 1st level of the Pompidou Center from 27 September 2017 to 8 January 2018.
As its Marcel Duchamp Prize suggests, the FIAC is intended as a serious and prestigious annual appointment in the global Art Market calendar. The Paris fair, directed by Jennifer Flay, is therefore different from the Frieze which each year offers new shows and parallel events. At the recent Frieze (15th edition) a new section called "Sex works: Feminist Art and Radical Politics" proposed a new way, among others, of approaching the fair and its galleries.
Copyright thierry Ehrmann 1987/2017
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