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October 27 2008 2 27 /10 /October /2008 16:34

The four main Parisian art fairs are the superheroes of this end of October. The press is excited, the art collectors are under tight scrutiny, the art galleries are stressed and art is… worried ?

The Fiac : Mr. Fantastic.

The International Contemporary Art Fair is the undisputed leader of the happy art window dressers group. The oldest, most renowned, most anticipated one too. This year, like Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, it acts as Elastic Man. Grand Palais, Cour Carrée du Louvre Jardin des Tuileries, Marcel Duchamp Prize, Opening performances programs with the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume museums… hard to escape from its sprawling arms. Since 2006, the fair has regenerated to a risky move and to the Martin Bethenod - Jennifer Flay duet and has grown, drawing international attention once again. No matter the figures (internationalization rates, global sales, average weight of entering spectator, indexation on stock exchange prices: everything is under control), France needs a strong, dynamic and appealing Fiac. Some critics have complained about the absence of some historical French galleries and about some detachment towards the specific modern art called “French exception”. They are nostalgic of the golden age in the French art market that probably contributed to prevent France from moving forward. They fear that the Fiac will be no longer different from the Frieze Art Fair or Art Basel… What a shame: becoming incontrovertible!...

It seems more judicious to fight the competitors with the same weapons and to stop thinking that, finally, the come back of the impressionist or academism movements could be a good thing (We already have our “old new artists” such as Armand Jalut or Marlène Mocquet, who reminisce of last century’s beginnings). Notice how galleries clearly exhibit their strongest values, as these three solo shows prove it: the explosive Marc Quinn at the Hopkins Custot Gallery, the magnificently sober Christopher Wool at the Luhring Augustine Gallery, and the demoniac Jake & Dinos Chapman at the White Cube gallery. Few surprises, few risks are to be found, even from expected galleries like Eva Hober or Peres Projects. In the middle of established giants (a spectacular Hauser & Wirth stand and a beautiful display at the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery), some galleries stand out while the going is good: the Cosmic Gallery (and a brilliant guitar by James Hopkins) or the efficient stand of the Bernier/Eliades Gallery. Crisis effect or not, seriousness was really present. And it is not necessarily a bad thing. Not really Fantastic but the Fiac proudly put up a fight for its place.

> 2. ShowOff
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[Photo : Jim Shaw, Untitled, 2008. Huile sur toile. 178 x 117 cm. © Jim Shaw]

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