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FIAC Raises Art-Fair Standards—avec CanCon—in Paris

Grand Palais, Paris October 23 to 26, 2013

The Foire internationale d’art contemporain (FIAC) celebrated its 40th anniversary this year in typically grand Parisian style, with an international list of 184 galleries from 25 countries, including newcomers from Canada, Ireland and the Czech Republic. On the heels of Frieze London and concurrent with Art Toronto, France’s foremost contemporary art fair has been revitalized over the last decade under the direction of Jennifer Flay, with a steadily growing profile following the recession of the early 1990s.

The main exhibition space was housed in the Grand Palais in the heart of Paris, its remarkable architecture dwarfing the standard labyrinth of the fair’s white cubicles. A few notable exceptions popped up over the top of its white dividing walls, namely Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree, which stood over 22 feet tall at the booth of Berlin’s neugerriemschneider just inside the main entrance.

Amongst the booths, highlights included Mario Garcia Torres and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster at Jan Mot (Brussels/Mexico City); Betty Woodman at Isabella Bortolozzi (Berlin); Clément Rodzielski at Castillo/Corrales (Paris); Kader Attia at Nagel Draxler (Berlin); and Danh Vo at Galerie Chantal Crousel (Paris).

At the centre of the salon d’honneur, Vancouver’s Catriona Jeffries made an impressive addition to the fair this year, with a rotating program of works by Raymond Boisjoly, Geoffrey Farmer, Brian Jungen, Janice Kerbel, Christina Mackie, Liz Magor, Gareth Moore, Ron Terada and Ian Wallace. My path back to the entrance was happily interrupted on the landing of the escalier d’honneur with an intervention choreographed and performed by Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmus, the collaborative team who represented Romania at Venice this year, physically enacting a number of notable works of art on view at the fair.

Beyond the walls of the Grand Palais, FIAC launched an expansive Hors les Murs program for the eighth consecutive year, with artworks spilling outdoors into the city and scaled up to match such grandiose settings as the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin des Plantes. Works by Puerto Rico’s Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Canada’s Abbas Akhavan, and America’s Mark Dion, among many others, marked these locations with site-specific interventions and sculptures. Accompanied by a film program, a series of performances, and a schedule of roundtable discussions, FIAC ambition to go beyond the spectacle of contemporary-art commerce was clearly demonstrated.

This year, FIAC opened during a remarkable autumn lineup of exhibitions in Paris, including Pierre Huyghe at the Pompidou and Philippe Parreno at the Palais de Tokyo. And, as if representing nearly a third of the booths at FIAC were not enough, local galleries opened some of their best exhibitions at the same time, with Omer Fast at gb agency, David Claerbout at Yvon Lambert, and Abraham Cruzvillegas at Galerie Chantal Crousel, to name a few. Indeed, what made this year particularly strong was the overlap between an expanded program at FIAC and everything that was on view throughout the city of Paris.

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