Friday, October 21, 2016


The Fisheries, by artist Mark Dion, displayed at FIAC.

A great way to escape the autumn greyness in Paris is to surround oneself with the colour and gaiety (some would say absurdity) of the annual International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC), and this year, there is enough brightness to last for weeks.

Running from Oct. 20 to 23 in the French capital, the fair has brought together 186 galleries from 27 countries for its 43rd edition, and it has expanded from its historical venue – the Grand Palais – to the twin building across the street, the Petit Palais, with a series of sculptures and installations.

Colored Vases by Ai Weiwei.
Both buildings were constructed for the 1900 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) and designed by the same architect, Charles Girault, so FIAC’s expansion is reviving “the historical unity” of these two landmarks, says the fair’s director Jennifer Flay. 

The On Site part of FIAC at the Petit Palais makes the most of the building’s gallery, pavilion, garden and esplanade to present playful and memorable artwork, “entering into conversation with the permanent collection”, Flay adds.

In the Grand Palais meanwhile, exuberance fills the vast space, as the various galleries show their most striking and off-beat works. The Fisheries by American artist Mark Dion drew visitors to the Nagel Draxler Gallery stand on opening night, many taking photos of the multi-hued “fish” hanging from a horizontal pole.

Viewing Piangiamore's artwork.
But nearly every gallery at the fair has presented a talking point, whether from renowned or upcoming artists. Eye-catching vases by Chinese master Ai Weiwei are on display at Lisson Gallery, while around the corner, Rome’s Magazzino Gallery exhibits the weighty works of the Italian Alessandro Piangiamore.

Piangiamore collects all kinds of flowers, arranges them on a background and then covers them with plaster and bits of iron, not knowing what the result will be.

Viewers of the artwork can see the outline of the flowers and their colours, trying to break free from the plaster. The lightness of the blooms get weighed down by the other materials, and each piece requires quite a bit of muscle to lift it.

“No, no, they’re not heavy,” said a gallery representative on opening night, raising one a few centimetres from the floor. But they are, for the average art-lover – heavy and intriguing.

Schifano's Giallo.
“Lightness” at the gallery comes in the form of the bright-yellow, monochromatic painting of Mario Schifano. He creates textures by first putting broad swathes of paper on canvas, and then painting over them. So, it’s not just a square of yellow that one is looking at, even if the work is titled simply Giallo.

At several other galleries, monochromes are also a feature, with red and orange being the colours of choice. The effect is that when one leaves the fair, it’s as if one takes the sun outside to the drizzly fall weather. - Text and photos by Tasshon

A sunny welcome at FIAC 2016?