BRIGHT SUN, NO APPARENT STRIKES, and last week’s surprising announcement in the World Wealth Report that France is the European country with the most millionaires per square meter: All of this boosted enthusiasm for the opening of the thirty-eighth Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) in Paris. On Tuesday evening, the day before the fair’s official opening, some collectors and their consultants—many of whom described being discouraged by the prior week’s “lukewarm” Frieze Art Fair—began to snatch up any work measuring more than three meters and costing more than 100,000 euros. From rulers of Qatar to representatives of Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, there was not the slightest suggestion of crisis: Collectors were looking for the biggest and most expensive pieces they could find. After all, their famous architects are being recruited to build monumental museums that have to be filled with works suited to those high-ceiling cornice moldings! FIAC, which took place under the enormous glass-roofed vaults of the Grand Palais, was the perfect shopping mall for that clientele.
While all this was going on, seven hundred guests who had paid 750 euros a head were dining at the annual gala of the Friends of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The whole aim of the dinner was to raise enough money to buy a work by Peter Doig that cost upward of 500,000 euros. Guests included artists Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, who had just opened the latest iteration of their traveling show “Any Ever” on the floor above; designer Agnès b; Marisa Borini, mother of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy; and Colombe Pringle, the queen of Paris queen-and-king gossips.
The evening before, just opposite the museum, in the Palais de Tokyo, Marc-Olivier Wahler had presented “All of the Above,” a group show curated by John Armleder. It will be the last exhibition under Wahler’s direction before Jean de Loisy takes over in early 2012. Concurrently, collectors Chiara and Steve Rosenblum opened up their huge warehouse in the thirteenth arrondissement for the show “WYSIWYG: What You(ngs) See Is What You Get.” Dinner was organized by collectors Patricia Landeau and Philippe Cohen and honored the tenth anniversary of the first acquisitions of the French Friends of the Museum of Israel. Artists like Aaron Curry and Sterling Ruby, who had produced works for “WYSIWYG,” were accompanied by their respective dealers or advisors, including James Lindon, David Kordansky, and Thomas Drill, who now represents Phillips de Pury, France. With so much on the agenda, no one got much rest.
On Wednesday, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy gave birth to a baby girl, Giulia. The news went unnoticed, though, because it coincided with the opening of FIAC. At this year’s edition, all the galleries were in the same place, since the Louvre’s Square Court, which usually houses emerging galleries, is undergoing renovations and everything had to be moved to the passageways of the Grand Palais. This meant a dramatic cut in the number of exhibitors. No fun for them, but among visitors the tight selection was greeted with great appreciation. Some galleries, Gladstone among them, chose to participate only in FIAC and not in Frieze. The focus paid off for Gladstone: Her solo display of sculpture, drawings, and ceramics by artist Andro Wekua was truly striking. And then there was Galleria Franco Noero, the hands-down winner at the fair, with Pablo Bronstein’s giant, functional urinal in the shape of a Greek temple.
Since Paris would be nothing without fashion, Galerie Gmurzynska held a dinner in honor of Karl Lagerfeld to thank him for designing their booth, which had been titled “Rebels.” Lagerfeld built a space out of fences painted a grayish silver (to suggest “the Factory”?) and attached anachronistic labels to them—signs so big that even the most near-sighted person couldn’t miss them. The other dinner, an apparent must, which I attended, took place in the private salons of Dior, on avenue Montaigne. There, Delphine Arnault feted artist Anselm Reyle and his capsule selection of bags, shoes, nail polish, and eye shadow, created for Dior in the fluorescent camouflage pattern that Reyle is so fond of. The appetizer, which, like the rest of the meal, was prepared by Michel Guérard of the restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie, was “une surprise exquise de truffe noire sur une delicate crème potagère.” Artist Alicja Kwade, my table companion, found this creation very “Neue Küche,” which sounded to me like “Neue Wilde.”
Over the course of the meal, someone informed us that Greece’s debt had increased still more. Youpi! We all left to party at the home of art advisor Patricia Marshall, who received her guests royally in her penthouse on the Place d’Alma facing the Eiffel Tower. Her celebration is always unmissable, but this year Larry Gagosian gave her some competition by organizing a party at Le Baron on the corner of her building. Marshall upped the ante by hiring one of Baron’s DJs to play her event until whenever. A very happy Jennifer Flay, director of FIAC, was accompanied by her magnificent cousin Hannah O’Neill who, though unknown to the art world, is a dancer at the Paris Opera and was most recently in a Ratmansky ballet whose set was designed by Karen Kilimnik.
On Thursday, Qaddafi died. No one gave a damn, because it was the opening of the blue-chip galleries in the Marais: Perrotin inaugurated Takashi Murakami’s homage to Yves Klein (sold out), Almine Rech and Bernard Picasso held a large party for Aaron Young in their superb sixteenth-arrondissement apartment, and Patrick Seguin invited Massimo De Carlo to present a group show, titled “OH!” De Carlo’s show consists of huge works by artists such as Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, and Rashid Johnson, but their contributions seemed downright Lilliputian compared with the massive, thirty-foot canvas by John Armleder. (Oh! It sold too.)
Meanwhile, Thaddaeus Ropac was hosting a dinner for Alex Katz and Banks Violette at chez Maxim’s, and Guillaume Houzé was presenting the Galeries Lafayette prize to artist Helen Marten and taking advantage of the occasion to buy everything in Johann König’s solo presentation at FIAC. The evening was a massive fashion-art orgy with lots of booze. But I didn’t go, because I was attending Chantal Crousel’s refined dinner for Wolfgang Tillmans at the Chateaubriand, currently the best restaurant in Paris (advance reservation required), where only organic wine is served.
Further down the road, on rue Louise-Weiss, the few remaining galleries were opening their exhibitions and dining on blanquette de veau in corner bistros. Liam Gillick’s works at Air de Paris featured strikes, factories, and cinema, while Blair Thurman’s impressive show at Triple V dealt with America, painting, and sculpture.
On Friday, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was in the news with yet another prostitution problem. And that was the beginning of the end of the FIAC festivities. Pernod Ricard hosted their Bal Jaune dinner and titular award ceremony. This year’s winner was Adrien Missika, a French artist shown by curator Eric Troncy, who started his aperitif early in the afternoon at the same La Perle bar where Galliano had been found drunk. Needless to say, the Bal Jaune, where wine is replaced by anisette, is considered a true bacchanal. If you’re in detox mode like me, it’s the place to avoid.
My last visit during FIAC week was to the show “Mathematics, a Beautiful Elsewhere” at the Fondation Cartier. It really did seem like a beautiful elsewhere, since no one spoke of money; instead, intellectuals discussed the theories of Misha Gromov and the “artificial curiosity” being developed in robots at the INRIA laboratory. The environment for these robots was co-designed by Pierre-Yves Oudeyer, Ergo-Project Robot’s coordinator, and David Lynch. The latter also happens to be the artistic director of the new private club Silencio, which that evening hosted a concert by the Kills. But competition for the show was fierce, since Rihanna was performing in Bercy that evening. No one saw the Barbadian chanteuse around FIAC, unfortunately. Instead, the best celebrity spotting was the red-clad, unhappy leader of the French Socialist Party, Martine Aubry. She was with Chantal Crousel, who was admiring Wade Guyton’s enormous horizontal canvas in her booth (again, sold). And in another elsewhere entirely, Moody’s continued to lower Spain’s credit rating. But who cares . . .