On 15 October 2020 Paris’s contemporary art week was meant to have kicked off, which would ordinarily have accompanied the great French Fiac fair, with its plethora of all kinds of events, conferences, exhibitions, and salons… But it’s been cancelled due to Covid. However, there are certain events of a more modest size still due to take place – if the ever-changing public health regulations will allow it.
The most intriguing project, in these strange times, has been organized by a group of younger galleries. Paris Internationale (Internationale with an e) is a collective created in 2015 when the Fiac didn’t have enough space to host all the new French art trade talent at the Grand Palais. So they created a new offshoot fair, one that was informal and itinerant.
This year, in compliance with the rules, there are only 26 participants (half the usual number) who will be occupying a former supermarket in the 9th arrondissement from 22 to 29 October. The show takes the format of an exhibition-sale across 350m2. Visitors are accepted with prior booking and groups of 20 will be admitted every half hour.
Federation of small galleries
According to the fair’s co-director, Clément Delépine, the average prices displayed at Paris Internationale oscillate between 7,500 and 10,000 euros. The participants have all been selected through a system of co-option, like forming a federation of small relevant galleries around the world. The artistic curator of the operation is Claire Le Restif, who is also the director of the Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry, le Credac.
“It’s an opportunity to travel and to make great discoveries,” she says. “A number of the emerging artists presented by the galleries are associated with a naïve, artisanal form of painting, which seems to be at odds with all the digital that we’ve been inundated with in recent times.”
She cites the sensual work of 26-year-old American artist Louis Fratino, presented by the Parisian gallery Ciaccia-Levi. He creates scenes from everyday life and homoerotic images in pastel in a sinuous cubist style, on sale for between 3,500 and 5,000 euros. He has just been exhibited to great acclaim by the Sikkema Jenkins gallery in New York.
Antoine Levi says there is a strong demand for the artist.
In a similar vein, Claire Le Restif also notes the presence of paintings by the Mexican artist Pia Camil (born in 1980). She has taken advantage of the lockdown to produce brightly coloured drawings depicting intimate scenes featuring female bodies, sold for 13,500 dollars by Paris’s Sultana gallery.
But as Guillaume Sultana – who has promoted her since 2013 – explains: “she is primarily known for her performances denouncing the sexism in Mexican society, like the one that took place in November 2019 at the Guggenheim in New York.” Camil is also represented by one of the most powerful galleries in Mexico, OMR.
Consumers of contemporary art often complain about the current market’s prohibitive prices. The Japanese gallery Kayokoyuki counters this idea. For their first time taking part in Paris Internationale, they are not travelling to France – which is also the case for the majority of the foreign galleries taking part in the event – but like the others, they are relying on the fair’s website alongside well-documented labels in the gallery space to put them in touch with potential clients.
They are exhibiting, among others, Daichi Takagi (born in 1982). He creates stunning landscapes that merge the Japanese printing tradition with a pared-back western style reminiscent of pop artist Alex Katz. The paintings are on display for 2,000 dollars.
One of the current high-profile artists working with this new so-called naïve painting is the American Jill Mulleady (born in 1980), who was exhibited at the last Venice Biennale with scenes from haunted houses and at Art Basel in June 2019 (see the report on Art Basel). She is represented by Robert Fitzpatrick, a gallerist from Los Angeles who now works in Paris but does not have a gallery space there at the moment. At Paris Internationale he has chosen not to display her recent works. We can, however, see them in Brussels until 14 November, at the space of the influential Gladstone gallery, where she is one of the new recruits (on sale now for between 18,000 and 80,000 dollars).
This time though Robert Fitzpatrick is exhibiting Mathis Altmann (born in 1987) who was part of the Nuit Blanche 2020 program in Paris. His sculptures and installations are an acerbic commentary on society (on sale for between 10,000 and 15,000 euros). At the fair-exhibition his presence is marked by a 2-metre-long neon work, an allusion to the co-working space company WeWork which has been the subject of a financial scandal. The artist has written in luminous letters: “We won’t work”. A declaration that reaffirms the end of certain working conditions in a world engulfed by the coronavirus.
Paris Internationale . 12 rue de Montyon. Paris VIIIe. From 22 to 29
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