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Letter from FIAC

by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
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Following the frenzy of Frieze Week in London, the art dealers at FIAC 2011, Oct. 20-23, 2011, the Foire Internationale d'Art contemporain in Paris, seem to welcome the traditional Gallic reserve, with collectors who take time with the work, ask questions and make their purchases. Call it the art fair for grown-ups.

Not that all the collectors are French -- though François Pinault and Bernard Arnaud arrived first thing the morning of Oct. 18, 2011, before the VIP opening at 10:30 am. Belgian collectors in particular have apparently adopted FIAC as their fair of choice.

The fair was accommodating if a little inefficient at the preview. Of the 6,000 RSVPs, enough showed up to leave a mob that couldn't get in waiting outside in the cold. At least closing time was extended from 10 to 11 pm.

As usual, art stars from Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, London and, of course, Paris can be seen in the fair's mostly European galleries. Swiss dealer Eva Presenhuber, occupying one of the first booths by the main entrance of the Grand Palais, boasts a terrific new work by Doug Aitken that spells out the word NOW in letters made of 3D mirrors. The price: $150,000, in an edition of 3.

New York dealer Paula Cooper has gone all minimalist, filling her booth with pared down Carl Andre sculptures and a suite of lovely Monochromes after Seurat by the inimitable Sherrie Levine. Made in 2011, the price for the suite is $200,000. Are we seeing a surge of interest in abstract painting of the geometric sort? "I hope so," said Paula.

At Blum + Poe is a painting by the hot new Los Angeles artist Julian Hoeber, a kind of Stella-esque composition of nested right angles in a spectrum of colors ranging from yellow to dark blue. The picture comes with a matching stool, and is sold at $40,000. Also sold: Paintings by Zhang Huan priced at $200,000 each. Poe said it was the gallery's second year at FIAC, which compared to Frieze is quieter and seems more selective. London is now seen as a party.

Almine Rech, who operates galleries in Paris and Brussels, shows off a brand new painting by Ugo Rondinone, Ersterjunizweitausen -- which translates as "First of July 2000" -- featuring an unblemished black surface with a few discrete, long horizontal stripes, yours for CHF 250,000.

Galerie Thomas Zander from Cologne has a late (1972) painting by John McLaughlin (1898-1976), an abstraction of black bars on white that was on offer for €150,000 (about $206,000). David Zwirner Gallery also has works by McLaughlin, and art advisor Patricia Marshall said she had bought a 2008 lavender wall plank sculpture for a client for $500,000.

Galeria Elvira Gonzalez from Madrid has a refreshingly sophisticated presentation of Robert Mangold paintings, including a 1975 work priced at €370,000. At Paris' own Galerie Frank Elbaz, three of the signature brightly colored abstractions by the French artist Bernard Piffaretti have sold, at prices ranging from €7,000 to €29,000.

The 45-year-old Swiss Galerie Gmurzynska has returned to FIAC after a five-year absence, since the fair organizers have once again embraced early modern art. The Gmurzynska booth is designed by Karl Lagerfeld, and boasts a bold black Lucio Fontana painting priced $1.1 million. Also on hand are new photographs by Lagerfeld himself, who is represented by the gallery.

New York artist Allan McCollum was at the fair with Jean Gabriel Mitterand, who is giving him a show at his JGM Galerie in the Marais. Collectors spotted at the fair include poker player Jean Louis Tepper, fashion designer Daniel Hechter, German museum founder Ingvild Goetz, and Susan and Michael Hort.

Relatively little photography or video is on view on the ground floor, but upstairs, where younger, less established artists can be seen, it is another story.  The L.A. gallery Cherry and Martin was getting attention for the pornography-derived photoworks of Robert Heinecken, selling the largest example to a European collector for something like $120,000.

The L.A. gallery Marc Foxx had a booth at Frieze and subsequently came directly to FIAC, where it partnered with Taxter + Spengemann to show Carter Mull’s photo-based works. These included an iPhone video converted into 1,800 images, which were printed on mylar and are now scattered on the booth floor. Yours for $18,000. Foxx gallery co-owner Rodney Hill said that he was “quite happy" with the results of the gallery's debut at FIAC, even after just one day. 

HUNTER DROHOJOWSKA-PHILP is the author of Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s (Henry Holt, 2011).