Scene & Herd

Guest Host


Left: ArtParis's Jérôme Lefèvre. (Except where noted, all photos: Lumi Tan) Right: Choreographer Jonah Bokaer. (Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli)

AFTER AN UNUSUALLY LONG, cold winter, spring finally made its way to Paris last week, attended by a much needed injection of energy and an optimism that is rare among the city’s typically unimpressed inhabitants. On Wednesday afternoon, a sizable crowd gathered at the Grand Palais for the opening of ArtParis+Guests. In its previous incarnations, ArtParis was a relatively sleepy affair, overshadowed by its bigger and more glamorous rival, FIAC, which is held in the same space each October. This year, the spring event received a major makeover (no doubt prompted by the involvement of former Art Basel and shContemporary director Lorenzo Rudolf) and was reintroduced as a fair that allowed art to mingle freely with other disciplines, especially that of design: Galleries were invited to choose collaborative “guests”— other institutions, artists, fashion and furniture designers, dancers, musicians, writers, etc. Additionally, the “Platform” presentations focused on international groupings from Africa, Indonesia, Finland, and Ukraine, as well as the more familiar (and less far-flung) Left Bank and Marais districts of Paris.

The fair’s call to “eliminate our borders!” and promote cultural crossovers inspired some feisty juxtapositions; the highbrow booth of Librairie Flammarion shared a wall with a gallery showing baby blankets that moaned with pleasure when touched, as well as a video of dogs gnawing on dildos; meanwhile, the more reserved booths of galleries Christian Berst and Christophe Gaillard, both hosting the recently opened Arnulf Rainer museum, weren’t quite engaging with Alexis Lartigue’s cubicle flush with hyperactive street art across the aisle, which was stuffed with so many graffiti-inspired paintings and sculptures it looked as though it might explode. Amid the chaos, the more cohesive presentations were something of a relief, such as L’Appartement de Collectionneur, which used witty design pieces including Ettore Sottsass’s boxing-ring bed to mimic a flashy fantasy home. Lada Nakonechna’s work at the Ukrainian booth proved extremely popular with its homage to Felix Gonzalez-Torres: In her installation, gold boxes of chocolates were left open for the taking and were immediately pounced on by starved passersby.

Left: Members of the Kaba Modern Legacy dance crew, artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen, and 10 Chancery Lane's Katie de Tilly. Right: Dealer Laurent Godin.

It was a forced idea of progress, all this desire to move beyond the typical art fair (no one’s comfortable in their britches anymore), but most seemed to applaud the efforts. “It’s cheap, but not bad,” one Parisian curator cheerfully remarked, waving at an abundance of “arty” nude photographs of Kate Moss and Pamela Anderson. Dealer Laurent Godin, smoking a cigarette in a faux log chair by David Kramer in a refreshingly understated booth, was encouraging as a veteran participant: “It has a ways to go, but it’s in the process of an evolution.” Jérôme Lefèvre, the fair’s assistant director, sees it as a long-term project as well. He cited biennials as a model (why does everyone still have biennial envy?), and noted that subtle changes such as higher walls, fewer individual booths, and industrial steel beams allowed the galleries to show bigger work. (This was evident as he stood in front of the Visions booth, where a massive inflatable insect left little room for the gallery employees to stand.) He envisioned the fair as giving “the sensation of something very easy, very cool, and a big step up from what ArtParis was in the past.”

Saturday night brought a slew of openings in the city. I was a bit relieved to go see some work where borders weren’t looking to be so self-consciously eliminated. After a stop in Belleville for the opening of Bugada & Cargnel’s group exhibition “Ever Prosperity” and for Balice Hertling’s gorgeous show of new sculptures and film by Isabelle Cornaro, I headed down to the dependable Marais. Art:Concept inaugurated a new space on rue des Arquebusiers with a show by Los Angeles–based artist Nathan Hylden, whose complex, process-oriented paintings drew much support. Director Olivier Antoine was excited to leave his old neighborhood in the thirteenth arrondissement to be “among friends” in the Marais. (He also expressed delight at finally having an office that wasn’t just a transformed closet.)

Left: Artists Heather Cook and Nathan Hylden. Right: Artist Frank Perrin, Jousse Entreprise director Sophie Vigourous, and dealer Philippe Jousse.

I arrived at Daniel Arsham’s opening at Emmanuel Perrotin’s Impasse Saint-Claude space to be told I had just missed a performance featuring dancer-choreographer Jonah Bokaer, held amid an installation of polystyrene sculptures and gouache on Mylar drawings. Arsham, who has the incredible honor of designing the scenography for the last-ever performance of Merce Cunningham’s company in 2011, was also in France for the premiere of another collaboration with Bokaer and Judith Sanchez Ruiz, as part of a new dance festival, Avalanche-sur-Pompéi, in the suburb of Vanves, featuring a number of on-the-up choreographers like Miguel Gutierrez, Jack Ferver, Trajal Harrell, and others. From there, I went to see the always affable Peter Coffin at Perrotin’s main space, where I stood in wonder at his installation of animated masterpieces from the collection of the Pompidou. It was impossible not to feel a bit giddy seeing a singing Mondrian or a Magritte lit up like a burlesque dancer; it’s H. W. Janson goes to Broadway.

At the relaxed buffet dinner for Arsham and Coffin held in yet a third Perrotin space next door, the two artists drew a friendly group of artists, dancers, collectors, curators, and even a couple of robotic engineers. Stuart Heys has built robots for NASA out of his studio in Brooklyn, but he also programmed Coffin’s roving dining room table, topped with a champagne-glass pyramid, which had silently chased me around for much of the opening. “Working with artists is a lot more entertaining than NASA,” he admitted, surveying his lively surroundings. By the end of the night, he had not only met any number of parties interested in collaborating but also shared the dance floor with them at the kitschy, tropical-themed club (and former Edith Piaf haunt) La Java. Hopefully, the experience provided excellent fodder for future projects.

Left: Artist Peter Coffin, curator Claire Staebler, and artist Laurent Grasso. Right: Artist Daniel Arsham, dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, and choreographer Jack Ferver.