In terms of current artistic creation, ever since the 1970s France has been seen as a nation weighed down by its old traditions – a view particularly prevalent on the other side of the Atlantic – and therefore with little capacity for producing innovative artists.
But there is a noticeable reversal of this notion currently underway in New York.
It is happening at the same time as The Armory Show art fair.
This is a relatively critical period for this commercial event, which brings together close to 200 galleries, but whose director, a particularly effective Benjamin Genocchio, was dispatched a few months ago following accusations of harassment. He has been replaced by Nicole Berry, who ensures that the fair has both its location in the heart of Manhattan and its longevity going for it – in fact it has been running for 24 years.
Coinciding precisely with the opening of The Armory Show, the French gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin, who is also installed in Hong Kong, Tokyo,Seoul and next September Shanghai, has decided to open a whole building on the Lower East Side, which occupies 2300 m2.
It was launched with a large-scale exhibition of the artist known for his work with giant pearl-like structures made from coloured glass, Jean Michel Othoniel (born in 1964), who designed the famous entrance to the metro in the Palais Royal square in Paris. His works are on sale for between 50 000 and 400 000 euros. To confirm its assimilation into the New York landscape, the Perrotin Gallery is making a return to The Armory Show.
A few days ago, the gallery Ortuzar Projects opened in the Tribeca area, belonging to Ales Ortuzar, a former associate of the multinational Zwirner Gallery. Its first show is dedicated to one of the great figures of French conceptual painting in the 1960s, Michel Parmentier (1938-2000).
Following the opening, 7 of 8 pieces, all large-scale works, were sold for between 150 000 and 500 000 dollars according to the gallerist. The MSU Broad Museum of Michigan State University will be launching a Parmentier exhibition on 18 April.
The highly influential gallery from the Chelsea area, Matthew Marks, is presenting a retrospective style exhibition in 18 works by another French conceptual painter, Martin Barré (1924-1993). “He did a lot of things before everybody else,” observes the senior director Jacqueline Tran. The majority of the artworks are on sale for between 120 000 and 275 000 dollars.
Also in New York, as well as in Beacon, the highly respected Dia Art Foundation is dedicating yet another double large-scale exhibition to another French conceptual artist, François Morellet (1926-2016) (see the report on the subject).
The Dia Foundation is particularly well known for its support of the great classic talents of American contemporary art. At the fair, you can see one of Morellet‘s paintings from 2007 which, typically of his work, plays with geometry and chance, at the booth of the British gallery BlainSouthern on sale for 172 000 euros.
We could also continue this list of French artists in New York or at the Armory by mentioning an exhibition of the work of Robert Filliou (1926-1987), the major French conceptual artist, who is exhibited at Peter Freeman, and the more contemporary Anri Sala (born in 1974) at Marian Goodman.
At The Armory Show, the French artist Kapwani Kiwanga (born in 1978) is at the booth of the Parisian gallery Jérôme Poggi with her bouquets of reconstituted flowers. The idea is that these flowers were present in the photo at the moment of the signing of the historic treaties of African history; the artwork consists of a “protocol”, the description of the bouquet to recreate (on sale from 9 000 euros). Kapwani Kiwanga is currently taking part in several exhibitions in America, including one in Los Angeles at the excellent Hammer Museum.
Having noted the ubiquity of the media-friendly Parisian street artist JR at The Armory Show, including on the exterior of the building, we can move beyond the French subject by pointing out that in this 2018 edition of the fair the best booth is without doubt that of the multinational Gagosian Gallery.
The entirety of its space is dedicated to the Korean artist known as a pioneer in video art, Nam June Paik (1932-2006). An enormous installation composed of televisions broadcasting coloured images, in the midst of which a statue of a lion has been placed, is on sale for 1.5 million dollars. It’s one of the last works made by the artist. A series of drawings from his latter years resembling graffiti pieces are also presented for 30 000 dollars each.
The main rivals of the Gagosian Gallery, Hauser & Wirth and Zwirner, are not present at The Armory Show. It should be noted that, just like Gagosian, they have gigantic exhibition spaces at their disposal not far from there. This is, incidentally, the problem for fairs in New York more generally. Why take part in these great events in little cubicles when you can display in your own gallery in all its grandeur?
The answer comes from the New York gallery of Paul Kasmin, which is exhibiting a variety of artworks, from a magnificent abstract drawing by an artist who was first known as the wife of Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner (1908-1984) from 1968 (on sale for 275 000 dollars), to a diorama, a three-dimensional model-like installation by the American artist Roxy Paine (born in 1966) presented at the same price.
“People don’t really know Roxy Paine’s dioramas,” explains Paul Kasmin. “By taking part in The Armory Show, I am giving exceptional visibility in a short space of time to this artwork, comparable to the impact that it would have in a museum.”
55 000 people are forecast to attend over the 5 days of The Armory Show.