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Performance of Ora-Ito on the opening night of FIAC 2003

Hartmut Wilkening
George W. Bush
Galerie Sfeir-Semler

Stephane Pencreac'h
Venus XXI
Galerie Beaubourg

Zhang Huan
Family Tree (detail)
Galerie Albert Benamou

Xu Yijui
Vendu a L'Unite
Chinese Contemporary Ltd.

Xiang Liqing
Rock Never (detail)
ShanghART Gallery

Photo portraits by Celine van Balen at Galerie Van Zotendaal

PerfectlySuperNatural: Aphrodite or Arles, Anne, Simone, Anna, Isabelle, Andrea, Nina (detail)
Galerie Patricia Dorfmann
Fast and Furious at FIAC
by Jill Conner

FIAC: Paris International Contemporary Art Fair, Oct. 9-13, 2003, at the Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles

For its 30th anniversary, the Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain in Paris, otherwise known as FIAC, showcased 175 galleries from 22 countries at the high-tech Paris Expo complex at the Porte de Versailles, where the fair has been since 1999. The YBAs -- Young British Artists -- seemed in short supply, though post-war American modernism was everywhere, ranging from paintings by Josef Albers and Robert Motherwell to sculptures by John Chamberlain and Carl Andre.

FIAC 2003 opened with a performance by Ora-Ito on a large wall erected in the plaza in front of the fair. On the wall was a furnished apartment, turned sideways; for the performance, and two couples dressed all in white hung horizontally on ropes and performed everyday actions to a disco soundtrack. Titled Network House, this mind-boggling piece caricatured daily life as a kind of vertiginous dystopia.

Inside, an eye-catching painted polyurethane sculpture by Hartmut Wilkening of crouching George W. Bush, disguised as a member of the Taliban in jeans and red headdress, was drawing amused attention at the booth of Galerie Sfeir-Semler. Though American clients were scarce, Sfeir-Semler reported selling 10 works priced between 2,000 euros and 20,000 euros. Nearby, Stephane Pencreac'h had planted his bronze Venus XXI at Galerie Beaubourg. In this goofy statue, a Playboy-style pinup torso emerges from a truncated replica of the Venus de Milo.

More important, perhaps, was the strong presence of Chinese contemporary art at FIAC. With 2003 being "L'Annee de Chine" in Paris, Chinese artists were given high profile by several galleries.

Zhang Huan, a star of the touring exhibition "Inside Out: New Chinese Art" that came to P.S.1 and other venues in the late 1990s, exhibited a multi-panel photographic portrait titled Family Tree at the booth of Paris' Galerie Albert Benamou. Chinese Contemporary Ltd. from London featured two sculptural installations by Xu Yihui that consisted of "Anti-Form" heaps of multiple porcelain casts of Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book. And the Patrice Trigano Gallery (Paris) reported the sale of four large canvases by Chu Teh-Chun for about $122,000 each.

At the booth of ShanghART from Shanghai were four large photographs by Xiang Liqing that collage several apartment building facades into an image that is suggestive of the kind of endless density that characterizes China's cosmopolitan centers. ShanghART was also celebrating the award of the third annual Video Cube Prize of 5,000 euros to Yang Fudong for his video Flutter, Flutter, Jasmin, Jasmin (2002). As a critically acclaimed artist from this year's Venice Biennale, Fudong is beginning to be seen as a major video talent.

Photographic portraiture was all over the place, with the usual handsome but anonymous individuals gazing out at the viewer. At the booth of Van Zoetendaal Collections from Amsterdam were photos by Celine van Balen that use subtle color and focal isolation to confront the Postmodernist issue of the identity of the subject. She also uses black-and-white film for similar representations of African subjects, as if to point up questions of racial difference.

At Galerie Patricia Dorfmann, Paris, was a six-panel work by the orthographically irregular LawickMller titled PerfectlySuperNatural: Aphrodite or Arles, Anne, Simone, Anna, Isabelle, Andrea, Nina (2002). A collection of several digitally enhanced portraits of women, each image is made to look like the Venus de Milo set within current modes of vanity -- with a frizzy, permed hairdo, for instance, or pierced ears and nose.

Sales at the fair were good, even though American and British collectors were said to be scarce (saving themselves for the first Frieze Art Fair, no doubt). Art & Public from Geneva reported selling works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Gerhard Richter for more than $1 million each, as well as a Richard Prince work for more than $400,000. And the Michael Schultz Gallery (Berlin) sold a piece by Georg Baselitz for about $174,000.

Guy Pieters Gallery (Belgium) reported its highest turnover ever at FIAC, finding buyers for every single one of the works by Jean-Pierre Raynaud and Robert Indiana on offer at its booth. Emmanuel Perrotin (Paris) sold about 20 works priced between 4,000 euros and 20,000 euros, while Anne de Villepoix (Paris) sold eight works, with the most expensive going for 60,000 euros.

The Paris Gallery 1900-2000, which features classic Surrealist and Dada artists like Hans Bellmer, Francis Picabia and Man Ray, sold nearly everything in its booth by the end of the fair's four-day run.

New York's I-20 Gallery also garnered attention with Joo Onofre's video, in which an Italian pop singer does Madonna's Like a Virgin. The video is titled 'Baldessari sings LeWitt' re-edit 'Like a Virgin' extended version (2003).

New to FIAC this year was the Guelman Gallery from Moscow. The opportunity to connect with Western collectors was the primary attraction, according to Guelman, which was the only Russian gallery at the fair.

By all accounts, FIAC 2003 turned out to be a success, bringing together cutting-edge galleries with a large numbers of European collectors who were eager to invest in contemporary art.

JILL CONNER is a freelance writer for NYArts, Sculpture magazine and other art publications.