Show Boat

Kate Sutton around FIAC

Left: Martin Hatebur, curator Simon Castets, collectors Phil Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons, and curator Cay Sophie Rabinowitz. Right: Artist Alex Israel. (All photos: Kate Sutton)

EVEN IN AUTUMN, Paris plays like a summer pop song: slick, dirty, a little cheesy—but you just can’t help singing along. Last week at FIAC, people were feeling young, even in the midst of October’s punishing back-to-back fair schedule. Following Frieze, the French fair felt like a breath of fresh air. Dealers everywhere were beaming (or at least attempting to), reporting actual sales and not just the “record figures” promised in postfair press releases.

FIAC week unofficially launched in the suburbs of Paris, with a high-profile Anselm Kiefer showdown in two new spaces: one (Thaddaeus Ropac) in a former boiler factory, the other (Gagosian) decadently lodged in a private airport. (“Duty free,” the dealer cracked, shamelessly quotable.) I chose to forgo both of these heavyweight events, kicking off my week in the very center of the city, with a Monday evening pleasure cruise along the Seine. “This feels like prom!” writer Zoe Stillpass yelped, stepping down into the mahogany-paneled hull of our handsome riverboat. A quick glance around the well-heeled room—adviser Patricia Marshall; collectors Shelley Fox and Phil Aarons, Alain Servais, and Josef Dalle Nogare; a smattering of artists and dealers who could get away from the fair install—confirmed that I had underestimated the dress code. Island party or not, this was still Paris.

The boat was taking us to Ile Seguin, the site of the old Renault plant, now pending rebirth as “R4,” an all-purpose cultural hub designed by Jean Nouvel. At present, the island is host to little more than a tent circus and R4’s temporary public arts program, which has commissioned seventeen artists (Spartacus Chetwynd, Ida Ekblad, Jonathan Horowitz, and Rob Pruitt among them) to contribute to “an original and unprecedented Art Walk.” An astute choice of adjectives.

Left: Artist Helen Marten and collector David Simkins. Right: Dealer Isabella Bortolozzi and critic Michele Robecchi.

We docked right under the bridge to the island, where the giant Renault sign still looms over the circus tents. Rather than walk this bridge, we were methodically marched, single file, up a series of platforms leading to the parking zone, where we were loaded onto buses. (“Next it’s the train,” artist Nick Mauss groaned.) Our forty-second transit across the bridge culminated in a muddy lot riddled with murky puddles that may or may not have been spouting from the Oscar Tuazon. The rest of the work was parked at odd intervals around an aggressively angular path. The map’s lazy description of most work as “mixed media” only complicated the hide-and-seek aspect. “I still don’t understand what part of what I’m looking at is the Virginia Overton,” a curator grumbled, surveying an overgrown lot. Still, Nicolas Party’s fruit sculptures played nicely in the grassier areas, while Pruitt’s cosmi-chrome dinosaurs looked perfectly at home on the route toward fresh extinction.

Back on the boat, we were treated to champagne and molecular gastronomy, the très chic experience of taking perfectly acceptable finger food and rendering it inedible (à la dipping salmon cubes in green sauce and dry ice). Thankfully, the on-board Shana Moulton performance proved more palatable. Once we reached the mainland, we dashed to the Palais de Tokyo for the public openings of its next installment of “Imagine the Imaginary,” which shuffled solo projects by Neïl Beloufa and Helen Marten into a preexisting mix of exhibitions that included Ryan Gander’s crowd-pleasing carousel of objects and a retrospective of the fashion brand Chloé. Upstairs, an “Immaterial Auction” was in full swing, with crowds there to bid on intangible experiences schemed up by various artists. For the right price (presumably, any price at all), one could enjoy a Belgian slumber party with Wim Delvoye, go for a midnight ride in Bertrand Lavier’s Ferrari, or indulge in a “heclectic” (?) night on the town with Francesco Vezzoli. I bumped into artist Xavier Veilhan, whose lot—a voyage on his “nautical sculpture” followed by lunch at the studio—was to be the penultimate. “Are you nervous?” I prodded. “Honestly?” he responded. “I feel a bit like a prostitute.”

Left: Dealer Alexander Hertling with Schinkel Pavillon's Nina Pohl at Squat #1. Right: Dealer Chiara Repetto and artist Nicolas Party.

We rounded off the evening at Squat #1, a swank apartment in the Sixteenth Arrondissement. A collaboration among Balice Hertling, Nilafur Gallery, and Dimore Studio, the enviable interiors were all impeccably outfitted, mingling furniture with artwork and design objects. “Did you see the Martino Gamper?” collector Iasson Tsakonas raved, as we stood under the Champagne chandelier created by Tuazon and Eli Hansen. Miuccia Prada and Rick Owens vied for champagne flutes by the fireplace, where Vezzoli’s embroidered portrait of his mother echoed Ingres’s blue-taffeta princess and took pride of place on the mantle. I was more enamored with The Hermaphrodite of the Alps, a breathlessly brutal bit of eroticism by Pierre Klossowski matched to a clean white couch.

The next evening, the Musée d’Art Moderne was hosting its annual fund-raiser gala, but I opted to return to the Palais de Tokyo for another look at Marten’s smart Evian Disease, an animated film exploring the implications of contemporary life in “the artificial forest.” I unpacked the imagery (hyperrealistic snails, lettuce leaves, a very disturbing baby) with curators Polly Stapleton and Jamie Stevens at a dinner at the museum’s restaurant hosted by Sadie Coles, T293, and Johann Koenig. After, we joined collector David Simkins, dealer Roberto Moiraghi, and artists Hanna Liden and Klara Liden at a nearby bar. We ordered Jamesons all around, only to have the waiter bring out glasses with little more than a swallow each. “We ran out,” he shrugged. This was, after all, still Paris.

Those awake by the fair’s opening would later breathlessly recount the heady 10 AM rush of collectors who first stormed the upstairs before seeping down into the main fair, where they were greeted by Basquiats and Boettis, Picassos and one very large Paul McCarthy. “Where was this work in London?” one collector cried, in a manner somewhere between exhilaration and exasperation. Capitain Petzel turned heads with its highbrow peep show of body-based works by John Stezaker, Christopher Williams, Christiana Soulou, and recent addition Diango Hernandez. Paris staple Emmanuel Perrotin sported several new artists himself, including ethereal painter Pieter Vermeersch, while upstairs Peres Projects was drawing crowds with the woven work of Brent Wadden, one of the two fresh entries to its roster. Across the aisles, Office Baroque and MFC Michele Dider both boasted the most recent series from Leigh Ledare, whose show at Wiels in Brussels was inspiring day trips among foreign collectors. (“You can take the train and be back by the afternoon,” Shelley Fox Aarons persuaded me. “It’s totally worth it!”)

Left: Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and artist Sturtevant. Right: Dealer Emmanuel Perrotin.

At Metro Pictures, Robert Longo’s five-meter drawing of an American flag unfurled across one entire wall, while Jonathan Horowitz had his own flags flying a few booths down at with FIAC virgin Gavin Brown. It seems the fair had been gentle with the New York dealer (or perhaps he had just been gentle with it?). I found Brown relaxing on a bench at the front of his stand, flipping through a Create-Your-Own-Rob-Pruitt-Smiley coloring book with another dealer. When I complimented the latter on her place in the Salon d’Honneur—a new section prestigiously placed in a nave overlooking the rest of the fair—she shot back: “What honor? This is just the fair’s way of saying they think you’re too loud and messy.” Intrigued by her description, I ventured upstairs to the Salon, where the dealer’s hypothesis was contradicted by breathtaking booths at the Approach, Jan Mot, and Kaufmann Repetto. When I reached the joint presentation of Elizabeth Dee and Jocelyn Wolff, the dealers were walking Pompidou curator Bernard Blistène around their impressive collaborative effort, which juxtaposed Adrian Piper with Franz Erhard Walther. “Loud” and “messy” were the last words I would have used to describe the scene.

Thursday, another marathon evening kicked off at the Tokyo Art Club, where an intimate crowd including Brown, Beatrix Ruf, and collector Redha Moali were treated to a conversation between Hans Ulrich Obrist and the inimitable Sturtevant. The conversation roamed from stupidity to Spinoza to (at Brown’s bidding) cybernetics. When asked about one of her alphabet projects, the artist cracked: “I’m just glad I didn’t get ‘A,’ as I would have said ‘All people are assholes’ and that’s no way to start a conversation.” It was no way to end one either, but the evening was only just beginning, with the relaunch of the Cahiers d’Art magazine (edited by Obrist, no less), the Chalet Society/Museum of Everything bash, and a slew of openings in the Marais.

Left: The Third Line's Sunny Rahbar, Art Dubai director Antonia Carver, and The Third Line's Claudia Cellini at FIAC. Right: Dealer Daniel Templon.

Capping off festivities were three separate birthday parties for dealer Sunny Rahbar and artists Alex Israel and Oscar Murillo. The last turned out to be not so much a birthday as a performance of a birthday—complete with a colorful invite, party favors, and an epic round of Bingo—held at the stately home of Cathy and Paolo Vedovi, just across from the president’s mansion on Avenue Gabriel. (“My cab driver was sure I had the address wrong,” dealer Karolina Dankow laughed.) Bortolozzi Gallery had brought in several branches of Murillo’s family tree—all natural-born Colombians living in London—for the occasion. The artist relegated the role of “birthday boy” to Eduardo, a cheerful fellow in a pink shirt and sunglasses, armed with a megaphone explicitly for Bingo purposes (This was a crowd who brought their own cards.) Dancers salsaed around the exquisite furnishings of the living room, dipping each other in front of the Peter Doig, while on the rooftop terrace revelers tucked into tamales, prepared in London by the artist’s aunt, who brought them in a suitcase on the Eurostar. “These are the only tamales to have traveled under the Channel,” dealer Ryan Moore assured me.

At the peak of the party, the birthday-boy MC belted bingo numbers into the microphone. The first “Bingo!” evoked emotions no one could have suspected. “Congratulations!” the MC boomed. “You win . . . this!” gesturing to the magnificent Picasso in the center of the room. The actual gift bags included cheap delights à la lollipops, taffies, “Angel” curling mascara, and “Secret Whispers” intimate wash. It’s a dangerous line Murillo is skating, offering up his home life as a readymade. But as my companion pointed out, Oscar’s family was having a blast, while we were busy worrying about whether it was “OK” to enjoy ourselves. (This, of course, is what champagne is for.)

Chalet Society and Silenzio were still on the agenda, but my next stop was the Toilet Paper bash at Maxim’s. The crowd spilled onto the street outside the iconic club—spilling seemed to be the operative verb that night, but against better judgment we ventured on. That’s one thing about a good pop song: Sometimes they’re infectious to the point of feeling inescapable.

Left: Artist Oscar Murillo (right) with friend at his “birthday party.” Right: Dealer Katy Erdman.

Left: Artist Xavier Veilhan. Right: Artist Bernard Frieze and curator Sinziana Ravini at FIAC.

Left: Dealer Jessica Silverman and artist Shannon Finley. Right: Dealer Johann Koenig.

Left: Dealers Shaun Caley Regen and Jennifer Loh. Right: Artist Oscar Tuazon.

Left: Dealer Raffaella Cortese at FIAC. Right: Laura Mitterand and dealer Javier Peres.

Left: Artist Shana Moulton. Right: Bugada Cargnel's Claudia Cargnel and Frederic Bugada at FIAC.

Left: Artists Michael Quistrebert and Markus Schinwald. Right: Dealer Alfonso Artiaco.

Left: Dealer Daniele Balice. Right: Dealer Elizabeth Dee, Centre Pompidou's Bernard Blistene, and dealer Jocelyn Wolff at FIAC.

Left: Almine Rech's Carlos Cardenas with artist Erik Lindman  Right: Dealer Atsuko Ninagawa.

Left: The Hauser & Wirth stand at FIAC. Right: Artists Ken Okiishi and Nick Mauss.