Swap Meet


Left: French minister of culture Christine Albanel. Right: Berlin-Paris project director Cédric Aurelle with Andrea Crews's courtisanes. (All photos: Lillian Davies)

“GIVEN THAT BERLIN is considered the center of the art community—all galleries, all artists, want to go there—I wanted to show that there’s also this interest in Paris.” French curator Cédric Aurelle, coordinator of a recent Berlin-Paris gallery exchange, took a tough position in the grand top-floor reception hall of the French Ministry of Culture early Friday afternoon. Christine Albanel, Nicolas Sarkozy’s culture minister, was kicking off the Paris leg of the project, delivering a short speech about the “construction of a European culture through opportunities of mutual discovery.” Fleeing as quickly as she arrived, Albanel left her guests to discuss the logistics of visiting all thirteen Parisian galleries opening shows with German counterparts later that afternoon.

Initiated by the French Embassy in Berlin, the project was developed in partnership with twenty-four galleries—thirteen from Paris and eleven from the German capital. The goal was “to present the French art scene and to overrun all those clichés,” according to Jean d’Haussonville, a Berlin-based French cultural adviser. He alluded to “the French touch,” asserting “France is not just a country of classic moderns.”

Left: Esther Schipper's Christophe Weisner and dealer Edouard Merino. Right: Dealer Johann König with curator Elena Sorokina.

For Aurelle, the most difficult aspect of the project was persuading participants: “Like a cake, I need to find good ingredients, otherwise it explodes.” Apparently a good cook, Aurelle managed to amass an impressive group of galleries from each city, at once supporting existing partnerships and initiating a few unexpected exchanges. Aurelle selected the Berlin-based galleries first, each of whom then chose Parisian galleries with which they wanted to work. Berlin’s very contemporary Galerie Mehdi Chouakri selected a historical French gallery, Galerie 1900–2000. For Johann König, the choice of a French gallery was made “more according to artists. We wanted to work with Taryn Simon and Haim Steinbach.” Edouard Merino, cofounder of Air de Paris, saw the gallery’s partnership with Esther Schipper as an obvious match. “We had artists in common, and we really like the work of Angela Bulloch. This was an opportunity to connect.”

I started my tour late that afternoon in the Marais, where Lucile Corty was hosting an exhibition of artists from Sassa Trülzsch. German artist Dieter Detzner, standing with his pair of shiny pink wall-based sculptures, Jean and Baptiste (named after eighteenth-century French painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze), was working in the spirit of the project. “It’s a lot more fun than an art fair,” Detzner smiled. In Belleville, Balice Hertling and castillo/corrales drew crowds for Isabella Bortolozzi’s artists Jay Chung, Q Taeki Maeda, and Danh Vo. Across the Seine, in the thirteenth arrondissement, dealers Olivier Antoine and Giti Nourbakhsch were in good spirits at Art:Concept. Antoine explained that he and Nourbakhsch had been “friends for ages.” Presenting work by France-born Vincent Tavenne, Nourbakhsch quipped that she was “bringing the French back to the French—but German-style.” Around the corner, on rue Louise Weiss, gb agency director Solčne Guillier was hanging out with Berlin dealers Henrikke Nielsen and Oliver Croy. Guillier seemed pleased with the project and the smart—very gb agency—show in a temporary second space across the street from the main gallery by Croy Nielsen artists Nina Beier and Marie Lund, Judith Hopf, and Roman Schramm. “The thing I like about this project is that it’s not about the ‘French scene’ and the ‘German scene’—it’s individual projects and individual people working together in unique ways.”

Left: Dealers Giti Nourbakhsch and Olivier Antoine. Right: Artist Danh Vo.

A little after 8 PM, I finally made it to Saint Germain, where a well-heeled crowd was gathered at Kamel Mennour. The dynamic Parisian dealer was opening a show of work by Yona Friedman with Berliner Jan Wentrup. The dealers admitted that collectors had introduced them to each other, and the two maintained a jovial spirit of competition. “My gallery’s a little bigger,” Wentrup pointed out. A few blocks away, I met artist Kalin Lindena outside In Situ/Fabienne Leclerc, where the artist had installed her solo show, presented together with Christian Nagel. The lights were already out by the time I arrived, but Lindena graciously dashed in and flipped on the power for me, dancing through her sculptures and hanging tapestries that had “finally found their home.”

Inexplicably, art tourists were forced to choose between two separate dinners. Dealer Natalie Seroussi and the Saint Germain galleries were hosting their fete at Le Wagg (née Whisky ŕ Gogo). “I think a dinner at Wagg doesn’t really represent the Parisian scene,” complained dealer Denis Gaudel. Meanwhile, the “Right Bank” dinner, hosted by castillo/corrales, Balice Hertling, Gaudel de Stampa, and gb agency, was at the elegantly understated L'Oiseau Blanc La Capucine, tucked into a suitably discreet side street in Belleville. Both sides of town reunited at an afterparty at Regine’s, where art collective Andrea Crews’s cast of courtisanes and bodybuilders gave everyone someone to stare at. “What are they doing?” asked one French collector. “Is this something to do with Yinka Shonibare?” The evening pushed into the early morning, DJs Twin Twin and Kolkoz keeping the party on its feet.

For many, the tour of the Berlin-Paris shows continued on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday, most of the art set departed central Paris for the Ile des Impressionistes. There, Sylvie Boulanger and Daniel Kurjakovic, curators at cneai, Centre National de l’Estampe et de l’Art Imprimé (National Center for Print and Printed Art), hosted an afternoon of performances for “We’ll Know Where When We Get There,” developed with husband-wife artists Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth fame) and Leah Singer. The project, featuring an exhibition, a Radio France program, and a limited-edition vinyl, incorporates prints, texts, and sound pieces by Ranaldo, Singer, and a group of friends and collaborators. John Giorno opened the event, presenting several poems, including his very recent “It Doesn’t Get Better,” a glorious surrender to fate and the financial crisis. Ranaldo and Singer, in from Stockholm that afternoon, took the stage at the end of the day, lauding the collaborative, international, and multidisciplinary nature of the project. “We’re just sending our tentacles out,” Singer said, “and then bringing them back in.”

Lillian Davies

Left: Poet John Giorno. Right: cneai curator Sylvie Boulanger with artists Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer and cneai curator Daniel Kurjakovic.

Left: Dealers Kamel Mennour and Jan Wentrup. Right: Dealers Isabella Bortolozzi and Alexander Hertling.

Left: Dealers Denis Gaudel and Oraine Durand. Right: Dealers Mari-Blanche Carlier and Natalie Seroussi.

Left: Auctioneer Pierre Cornette de Saint Cyr and curator Jean-Hubert Martin. Right: Artist Kalin Lindena.

Left: Artist Dieter Detzner. Right: Artists Marie Lund, Nina Beier, and Roman Schramm with dealers Henrikke Nielsen, Nathalie Boutin, Oliver Croy, and Solčne Guillier.

Left: Cédric Aurelle with dealer Lucile Corty. Right: castillo/corrales's Benjamin Thorel and artist Raphael Zarka.

Left: Almine Rech's Thomas Dryll and Johann König. Right: A courtisane with DJ Twin Twin.