FIAC and Paris Internationale 2017: the artist is dead

Stefano Pirovano

Puppies Puppies tries to shock Paris’ contemporary art week with the corpse of a painter, but the killer is unknown. Who will be the next one?

How is the contemporary art week in Paris doing? ‘So far so good’ seems today to be the art dealers’ preferred answer to this primordial question. It means that international collectors are in town, some pieces are sold, the night cultural life is vibrant and gallerists are generally positive about the next days. Taking into account that expectations for 2017 edition of the main European contemporary art weeks were not that high, we would say that Paris is doing well.

The week officially started on Tuesday morning with the opening of Paris Internationale. The fair founded three years ago by a pool of emerging art dealers including Gregor Steiger and Antoine Levi takes place in a new venue, close to Place de la Republique. The converted multi-storey car park used to house Liberation, which left it a year ago. Rumors say the building is on the way to become an innovative luxury hotel. French businessman and art collector Bruno Ledoux is apparently involved. Meanwhile, it is hosting the best emerging art fair around, and the only alternative to the ‘system’ established by the main art fairs. Moreover, let’s keep in mind that 80% of the art gallery’s market is made at the art fairs (Claire McAndrwes, Art Basel Art Marlet Report 2017).

In comparison to the Goulbenkian family’s building – where the fair took place last year -, we had the feeling that this new venue better suits Paris Internationale. Everything has been removed from the building which now is a bare architecture; it is cosy, clearly less decadent and with a better lighting. We couldn’t explain how, but it created positive expectations for the future, instead of representing the lost glory of a stellar collector from the past. The art buyers may feel it, too.

There’s a nice group of paintings by Salvo at Norma Magione gallery. Most of them are already sold. If you’re interested in the artist, you may ask for the drawings. Norma has some beautiful pieces which are not on exhibition and she told us that gallery Mehdi Chouakri in Berlin is organizing a dedicated show about this yet to be discovered part of the artist’s practice.

We would also recommend to stop by at Deborah Schamoni’s booth, and have a look at the three elegant black floor ceramic pieces by Davide Stucchi (the black pillow is part of the work). They are intended to be toys for dogs, but they could also stand for more complex constellation of ideas, such as those coming with physics and astronomy. They can be linked to the couple of delicate terracotta floor sculptures by Sonia Kacem presented by Gregor Steiger. They are part of a new body of pieces the artist has been developing during her residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. The pieces have no title, so they’re ‘open’ to interpretations. Also in this case the physics of the entanglement, or super strings related theories, could provide an interesting intellectual frame to the work. At Gregor Steiger you will also find two nice small new paintings by Vittorio Brodmann, who recently signed with Gavin Brown. They’re both beautiful and in the artist’s best style.

At The Sunday Painter’s booth we noted two ceramic pieces by Emma Hart. The Max Mara Art Prize for Women‘s winner of last edition is proving to have a vigorous poetic and she is keeping the medium more and more under her control. Athena Papadopoulos is also presenting an interesting body of new works, at Emalin gallery. Her two monumental burgundy women legs (in high heels) will certainly get a lot of attention, not only by the many avid instagrammers. She is also our favourite among the shortlisted artists for the new edition the Max Mara Art Prize. Also Beppi Bottrop is displaying a new works at Jan Kaps. A light placed behind the canvas is the new element.

Two more artists to check out at Paris Internationale: Nils Alix Tabeling at Gianni Manhattan and Louis Fratino at Antoine Levi. This latter’s panting is extraordinarily expressive considering the artist is only 23. Have a look at his self portrait, or ask to see the portrait of a man with a glass (which is not on display). Next November the gallery is dedicating him a solo show. Fratino is from Baltimore… is John Waters anywhere behind him?

But if you’re not into figurative painting you will probably like, at the FIAC, the most iconic, irreverent and autobiographic piece on show this year. It’s by Puppies Puppies and it’s on display at Balice Hertling booth, in the FIAC’s Salon d’Honneur section. It represents the dead body of a painter, his eyes closed, mouth opened, the top of the head uncorked like if it was a bottle cap. The brain has been removed by the killer from inside the skull. No blood is around. The rigor mortis is keeping brush and colours in the artist’s hands. Still, we wouldn’t call the sculpture a splatter one. Rather, the piece is wittily shocking as some early works by Maurizio Cattelan were at the turn of the last century. The sculpture was still available when we asked, unfortunately. Does this mean there are not brave enough collectors around to take up the challenge?

Under the natural light of the Grand Palais they prefer not to step out of their comfort zone and are more prone to spend half a million for the relaxing Carlo Bove sculpture at David Zwirner (albeit, still available), or for the outstanding nocturne landscape by Wolfang Tillmans on display at Galerie Buchholz (sold). The mighty Berlin gallery is also exhibiting a couple of pieces by Anne Imhof that certainly don’t look as convincing as her Venice Bienniale performance. They seem to confirm there is no adventure at the ground floor. The killer is around.

October 19, 2017