The day after 200.000 people attended Frieze and Fiac someone have to make a decision

Stefano Pirovano  -  October 26, 2015

Today is the day of evaluation in Paris. The second half of the most crucial period of the year for European contemporary art ended as expected with the Grand Palais crowded with the kind of art lovers who will likely never buy a piece by Louis Bourgeois, Carol Bove or Nicole Wermers, but that still has the crucial role to assert that contemporary art is not only for the extremely exclusive circle of people who attend art fairs during, or sometimes even before, the vip preview. All the visitors who went to Fiac just for the sake of it – and who paid the ticket – prove that art is still down to earth, despite its sometimes ridiculous prices at auctions and the growing number of private museums in the world that inevitably end up celebrating the “big difference” our society complains about, so as a sport car roaring in a urban area full of traffic lights, narrow streets and pedestrians does.


According to official numbers the Fiac was visited by 71.717 people this year, 18.006 of which attended the fair during the opening day. While Frieze London and Frieze Masters have attracted, together, 105.000 visitors, with 50,000 visiting Frieze Masters, up from 37,000 in 2014. Adding to the total amount of the 13.165 art lovers who have visited Officielle, we are not far from number 200.000, that would be in the range of what the Venice Biennale generally makes in almost six months of opening (around 300.000).


A few days ago, reporting from London, we wrote that the amount of artworks that went sold at the art fairs is not correlated to the number of Ferrari you see in the streets around it. Reporting from Paris we may add that the amount of artworks that went sold at an art fair is on the contrary proportional to the number of visitors attending museums around it. Yesterday morning at 11 am the comprehensive Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun exhibition, whose entrance is just a few steps away from that of the Fiac, was packed, and a long queue was in front of the doors of “Picasso Mania”, that is hosted in the same building. At the same time people were queuing at the Musée de L’Art Modern for visiting “Warhol. Unlimited”, and the Palais de Tokyo’s intense tribute to John Giorno and Ugo Rondinone was also quite crowed. Not to mention “Splendour and Misery. Pictures of Prostitution, 1850-1910” at the Musée d’Orsay, or the Centre Pompidou, where you queue to enter even on a rainy Monday morning.


That is to say, despite how rich, expensive and hyper-professional London is at the moment, a city apparently better than Paris in terms of public transports, pollution and food, this latter seems nonetheless to be able to offer a better environment to culture, and as a consequence to art galleries. This year, even without the helpful opening of the Louis Vuitton Foundation (that in 2014 turned Paris into “the place to be” for collectors all over the world), many gallery assistants at the ground floor of the Grand Palais have been noticed re-hanging artworks on the walls, and smiling faces could also be spotted at the first floor, where the best of the emerging art is exhibited.


“At the Fiac it is very difficult to find buyers for pieces that cost more than €300.000” commented a dealer on Friday upon the beautiful Anish Kapoor’s marble at his booth, and this was probably true for the other galleries here exhibiting contemporary masters, too. But under €300.000 there were many red spots next to the captions, starting from the four sculptures by Michael Dean at Mendes Wood to the monumental canvas by Dashiell Manley at Jessica Silverman Gallery. No need to say that the two Jana Euler’s paintings at the fair was sold too (by Dépandance and Galerie Neu), and the hypnotic Victor Man’s at Plan B was not acquired during the opening just because the doors were open only to institutions. At David Zwirner an early wall sculpture by Donald Judd replaced the Jordan Wolfson’s piece sold during the opening, while Camille Henrot did very well too at Kamel Mennour. And good sales are reported also at Officielle for On Stellar Rays (Liam Everett and John Houck), Ribordy (Ross Iannatti) and Brand New Gallery (Josh Reames), just to name a few, despite the quality of the exhibiting galleries was sometimes questionable.


Due to unspecified reasons, next year the two main European art fairs now covering 15 consecutive days in the art calendar will be separated by almost ten days, and that will possibly mark a slight difference from the past. Collectors won’t probably be affected, but some dealers will have to make some choices, especially those who sell artworks under €300.000. So now the question is: how will the temporary and problematic Frieze London’s tent respond to this upcoming change of weather? Will the Parisian contemporary art week open the door to art auctions in order to stimulate the market and take over its rival? Let’s wait and see. At the moment water leaks are also lamented in the Grand Palais during rainy days, but what may sound as outraging in the aristocratic London, it may be regarded as romantic in the socialist and European Paris.