Paris: International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC)

FIAC in Paris, the essential International Contemporary Art Fair

JPEG Through the FIAC, Paris is now a world leader in promoting international contemporary art. The 36th International Contemporary Art Fair, which took place from 22 to 25 October 2009, provided an opportunity for artists and art lovers from all walks of life to meet, at the fair itself and through the many exhibitions that were held concurrently.

In spite of the economic crisis, the FIAC took up position in the centre of Paris… And in grand style. The International Contemporary Art Fair was held in the Cour Carrée of the prestigious Louvre museum, in the Tuileries gardens and in the Grand Palais. Emerging art galleries exhibited their first pieces in the precincts of the biggest museum in the world, while more established ones unveiled artworks by leading artists a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées.

A meeting place for collectors and buyers from all over the world, the FIAC has made Paris a nerve centre of artistic creation, attracting over 210 exhibitors in spite of the significant cost of taking part in this contemporary art event. Whether they come from Montmartre, London, New York, Florence, Brussels, Berlin, Moscow or Shanghai, galleries have to pay between 350 and 440 euros per square metre to present the work of more or less recognised and therefore more or less sought-after artists.

In the centre of the Grand Palais, some ten big-name galleries – among the most prestigious in the world – joined forces to show around twenty exceptional works of art by great masters. In a closed space of 300 m² protected by a high security system, visitors were able to see sculptures and paintings by artists such as Brancusi, Picasso, Calder, Mondrian or Fernand Léger up close. In more accessible areas, the work of Cindy Sherman, Daniel Buren, Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons or Andy Warhol could be seen in their simpler settings. A little further away still, paintings, installations and photographs by more recently discovered artists such as Hernan Bas or Ellen Kooi caught the eye of many art lovers.

This year, the FIAC drew nearly 80,000 visitors to see the over 4,000 artists on show, an increase in footfall over the year before of 23%. Nearly half of these visitors (40%) came from abroad. And these figures do not include the events held concurrently with the FIAC! The event has spawned a whole host of initiatives related to contemporary art, such as the small exhibitions of young artists in the “Show Off” tent under the prestigious Pont Alexandre III, or those held in the Auditorium of the Louvre museum or the Centre Pompidou.

Until the end of the year, the managers of the National Museum of Modern Art are holding a festival of performance art of all kinds and until March 2010 they are also devoting an exhibition to Pierre Soulages, known for his paintings using tar. Le 104, a new art space in the north of Paris, was not to be outdone, and it put on a programme of meetings and exhibitions. Art lovers were also invited to go and see, in the highly trendy Azzedine Alaïa gallery, around fifty artists supporting the Aids foundation, or to visit the Paris suburbs for an exhibition devoted to the thought-provoking work of British artist Simon Starling. And until 13 December, the gardens of the Palace of Versailles will be dotted with multicoloured installations by Xavier Veilhan, an up-and-coming young French artist.

Paris keeps up with what is going on in contemporary art in its most lively aspects. The Marcel Duchamps Prize, established by French collectors and awarded during the FIAC since 2000, was this year given to Saâdane Afif. The State does not hesitate to make its own acquisitions during the Fair. The Ministry of Culture and Communication, for instance, announced that it had bought 24 works of art exhibited at the fair. The Mairie de Paris has been keen to exhibit the latest acquisitions of the municipal contemporary art collection on one of the stands at this key international art fair.

Anne-Laure Bell - Actualité en France - N° 41 - novembre 2009

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