The late October sky may be turning grey, but Paris is seeing green this week as the FIAC—Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain—sets down in the Grand Palais on Thursday, October 22, giving the nomadic art fair circus ample reason to don an asymmetrical trench and make some deals. Money isn’t the only thing happening, here, either.
As the ever-growing mega-fairs like this one, London’s Frieze and Art Basel (both in Switzerland and Miami) prove, making the gallery scene has become its own form of tourism, too. And why not, when the art on view strives to become ever more museum-like? This year at FIAC, Names You Must Know include Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and of slightly more recent vintage, Niki de Saint Phalle, Lucio Fontana, Antony Gormley, and Daniel Buren.
Within this galaxy comes a bit of the unexpected: the late Louise Bourgeois is primarily known as a sculptor, but Brussels’ Xavier Hufkens gallery will be showing her colored gouache and pencils on paper. Berlin gallery Meyer Rigger’s pieces by the conceptual trickster Ai Wei Wei are brightly colored, unusually 2-D mixed media on paper collages. There are a series of oil paintings by the architect and industrial designer Le Corbusier. Who knew?
This year, with a premium on giving the normally overstuffed Grand Palais room to breathe, the square footage of smaller spaces has gone up, and with it, the prices. The move shut out a host of young galleries who had exhibited last year, like Belleville’s Galerie Antoine Levi. They have not taken it lying down. Levi and 40 other up-and-comers from Berlin, Los Angeles, Zurich, New York, London, and elsewhere have set up a temporary space in a bourgeois hôtel particulier a stone’s throw away from the Grand Palais in the 8th arrondissement.
They’re calling it Paris Internationale, “a name that’s sort of militant-socialist, and also like a bad travel agency from the 80s,” Levi says. “I understand FIAC’s decision, and they did offer us a slot in their ‘off’ fair”—called Officielle, held for its second year across town at the Cité de la Mode et du Design, served by shuttle every 30 minutes from the Grand Palais—“but the idea of paying more than I did last year to be down in the 13th arrondissement wasn’t that interesting.” A quick call to friends in the same situation was all it took to inspire the search for a site a little closer to the mothership.
Works will include all media, from haunting pen and inks by Jason Benson (from New York’s Bodega) to Florian Germann’s poignantly faded Fountain (via Galerie Gregor Staiger from Zurich) to a series of hypnotic self-portraits by photographer Francesco Gennari, and single-edition vintage prints by the indelible late photographer Luigi Ghirri (both in Levi’s stable).
Only 400 visitors will be allowed in at once, which will make navigating the space, left largely intact as an abandoned office, a little easier. Despite how it may look in some corners, and maybe in the shadow of that great glass building nearby, they’re not squatting. Paris Internationale closes up shop October 24.
Alexandra Marshall is a contributing editor and the Paris correspondent at Travel + Leisure. Food, design, architecture and fashion are her specialties, which means, living in Paris, that she is very busy. Follow her on Twitter and on Instagram.