Wednesday October 20, from the opening of the 47e International contemporary art fair (Fiac), gallery owner Christian Berst rubbed his hands. For his first participation in this great Parisian meeting, this art brut specialist has relied all his stand on the Czech artist Lubos Plny, fascinated by the anatomy of the human body. In a few hours, the two largest works, at 65,000 € each, flew away, while two others had given rise to purchase options. “It starts off strong. In addition, they are collectors that we did not know. A surgeon, for example, said he was fascinated by these images ”, says a member of the team.
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Does the crowd of collectors and professionals from the art world flocking to the opening bode well for renewed euphoria? In the fall of 2020, due to the health crisis, the Fiac had to resolve to its cancellation, in extremis, with an edition only on the Internet in the spring. “After having worked hard for two years, collectors want to have fun again. There is a real desire for art ”, assures Jean Frémon at the Lelong and Co gallery, confident after having “Already well sold, in September at the Art Basel fair”.
A surface area reduced by 30%
The encouraging signs are there, with the installation in Paris, for two years with Brexit, of new foreign galleries – David Zwirner, White Cube, Levy Gorvy – and the opening of a third Gagosian space, place Vendôme, where he exhibits for the Fiac a Flying dragon by Calder. “It is a joy to meet at the Fiac”, confirms Benoit Porcher at the Semiose gallery, proud that one of his artists, the sculptor Ernest T., is also selected in the exhibition “La Foire hors les murs”, in the Tuileries garden. A nice consolation at its small stand.
Forced to leave the nave of the Grand Palais currently under construction, to stay in the ephemeral Grand Palais on the Champ de Mars, the organizers of the Fiac had to deal with an area reduced by about 30%, despite the addition of an “Eiffel Gallery” in a tent. Result, 171 exhibitors this year, approximately 15% less than during the last edition, in 2019, which marked a peak.
The size of the stands was also limited, with a maximum of 60 m2 for heavy goods vehicles on the market. “But that’s fine with us in these tough economic times. Under the glass roof of the Grand Palais, the Fiac was the most beautiful fair in the world but, here, the light is less dazzling ”, we confide at Konrad Fischer, delighted “To find certain collectors not seen for two years”.
Some buyers are missing
Of course, everyone agrees: in Basel, as today in Paris, some buyers are missing. The Europeans are there, but the Americans much less, even if some of their artistic advisers have made the trip. As for Asians, they seem completely absent. Moreover, only three exhibitors from this continent are participating in Fiac this year, compared to seven in 2019. In return, the curious will be able to discover newcomers from Istanbul, Tehran, Beirut or Warsaw. Not to mention a few nuggets from regulars, such as Christophe Gaillard, who offers a rare high relief in lead by Germaine Richier for € 85,000.
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Will distant buyers fall back on the Fiac on line, extended to around fifty additional galleries? At Konrad Fischer, we remain convinced that “Nothing can replace immediate contact. We were able to make sales on the Internet but to collectors that we already knew ”.