Aaaahhh!!! Calouste Gulbenkian would be proud of hosting such an art fair

Stefano Pirovano

Paris Internationale is becoming great contemporary art fair. Born just three years ago from the ashes of Paris Officielle, now it looks not only like the promised land for art galleries and emerging or yet-to-be-discovered artists. It is also one of the few art fairs – the other is Condo, in London – that is seriously trying to change the exhausted pattern of these institutions. Some temporary “white walls” are still here of course, and it will be very hard to find a substitute for them in the near future. But the outstanding interiors of the four story building hosting PI this year turned the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. Lavish marbles, widespread panelling, precious handles and window frames, elegant light switches, not to mention the monumental bathrooms. Wisely French authorities asked to cover the original parquet with carpet, in order to protect it from the visitors’ steps, nevertheless the former Parisian residency of the Armenian born mega rich oil entrepreneur and art collector Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955) kept almost untouched its patrician allure.


The kind of sensations that you have here, at 51 rue d’Iena, are totally different from the ones you have, for example, visiting the Liste art fair in Basel. While this latter shabby post industrial interiors may appear diminishing rather than cool, Goulbenkian’ maison has the so called fisic du role. Despite years have passed since the tycoon passed way, it’s still in good shape. And to make it clear we may add that a similar difference exists between the monumental Grand Palais’s iron architecture hosting the Fiac and the temporary plastic shed where Frieze and Frieze Masters takes place.


Moreover, Paris International is not only about it’s winning location. Crèvecoeur, High Art, Antoine Levi, Sultana and Gregor Staiger, that is to say the five brave art galleries that founded the fair ‘as a collective attempt to develop an appropriate model for fostering new advanced initiatives in contemporary art’ (as said by the art fair statement), are proposing a very interesting selection of galleries, hence a selection finally free from the yoke of the established galleries. It may cost them Fiac’s selection board enmity, but likely it’s the kind risk they have to take if they really want to be take contemporary art into the future.


And, again, contemporary art at PI is at its best. To start with, we would mention the Nicolas Party outstanding wall drawing, a bright metaphoric tribute to this building, that used to be a kind of enormous treasure chest where Goulbenkian and his wife squeezed their endless art collection until 1936, when a main corpus of 30 paintings were sent in London to National Gallery and the collection of Egyptian sculptures went to the British Museum, probably in order to protect these precious pieces from the threat of the upcoming Second world war.


Oliver Laric solo presentation at Tanya Leighton also deserve to be mentioned. The Austrian artist is having momentum – he has also a piece at the opening show of the new Fondation Lafayette temporary location, in Le Marais (refurbished by Rem Koolhaas in the same style as the Fondazione Prada in Milan). Laric is probably the artist who is successfully using the new 3D printers, and according to Instagram pics some early smart collectors have already noticed it.


Similarly, they may have noticed the two effective small paintings by Orion Martin that Bodega is presenting (both already sold). In the realm of painting “Unicorns” are extremely rare, likely the 1% of a huge number of talented, sometimes very talented artists. What we may say is that Martin – born 1988 in Los Angeles, where he is currently based – at the moment seems to have some chances to become one of them. If you agree and you don’t have it yet you may like to know that he is preparing a new body of six works to be presented at Art Basel Miami next December.


Party, Laric, Martin. It seems that the revival of figurative art announce two years ago is finally taking place, not only thanks to most wanted Anne Imhof – who is exhibition a corpus of 5 paintings from ‘Angst’ at Isabella Bortolozzi’ Fiac booth and has two more monumental black etchings at the Fondation Ricard Prize –, or to her model and partner Eliza Douglas, who also has two nice paintings at the Fiac (with Nueu Alte Breuecke). We may add to this company Lucie Stahl, who is presenting some 3D collages at Queer Thoughts – the gallery opened four years ago in Tribeca by Luis Miguel Bendaña and artist Sam Lipp -, and Max Brand, who also is exhibitiong in the basement of Goulbenkian building, at Galeria Marta Cervera. And if you like his wild painting you may like to know that Brand is among the founders of Berlin based gallery called The Duck, that is also taking part to PI (top floor) with works by Nik Geene, Eric Sidner and Victoria Colmegna. Last but not least, who would like to include in this realm the series of small gouache on paper works by Louise Sartor presented by Galerie Crèvecoeur inside what was probably the studio of Goulbenkian himself. Like Imhof, Sartor has also been shortlisted fir the Prix Ricard. Her small ripped papers and broken protective glasses represents the kind of monumentality we like the most, that is to say the monumentality of the smallest ideas.


We would like to conclude by suggesting to more artists. The first one is Polish sculptor Gizela Mickiewicz, presented by Stereo gallery. She was in residency at Gasworks in London in 2014 and was included in a group show at Bureau last year. The wall made of different kind of bricks she is exhibiting in Paris is the best object based piece we have seen this week so far. The second artist is Ad Minoliti, that is on show at Agustina Ferreyra. Located in San Juan, Porto Rico, the gallery last year won the prize dedicated by Arco Madrid to South American galleries. Minoliti work is dedicated to a French architecture icon, Le Corbusier, and his Modulor, which stems from the idea that this pivotal anthropometric scale of proportions has been designed for male European white man. But as a matter of fact most of the people currently living in Le Corbusiers’ “machine a habiter” are nor white, and sometimes neither European citizens yet.

October 26, 2016