FIAC 2011: A golden conversion for French art.

‘An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.’
James Whistler

When I went to FIAC (French International Contemporary Fair) just recently at the magnificent Grand Palais, I was left wondering exactly how much is an artist paid for his vision? From Oct 20-23, 168 galleries and 2,867 artist enthusiasts packed the Palais from 7.30am to 7.30 pm to get their fill of what’s new in the contemporary art world.

Revelling in its 38th year, FIAC, France’s premier contemporary art fair in Paris, is experiencing a dramatic revival. Perhaps when it moved in 2006 from a convention centre on the outskirts of Paris to the spendid Grand Palais, a courtyard at the Louvre and outdoor sculptures in the Tuileries Gardens, FIAC demanded attention. That’s not all. FIAC has become ‘more’ international. French gallery representation has been reduced from 70% in 2003, to 31% this year.

In fact, several major galleries have not only signed up for FIAC but opted out of Frieze, (its rival contemporary art fair that takes place in London.) New York’s Barbara Gladstone and Gagosian, (which opened a gallery in Paris last year) as well as dozen of other galleries have picked Paris over London in the last four years.

Crisis Schmisis. If you think the downturn of the euro or the economy put a dampener on the sales, think again. No starving artists or dealers here. In spite of the European debt crisis, there was no shortage of sales to report. Hailing mostly from French-speaking countries as well as as America, China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Mexico, buyers snapped up works faster thane ever—and sometimes even before they were exhibited! And as expected, it was established contemporary artists like Damien Hirst’s100 Fish’ a cabinet of floating fishes by White Cube, London, that stole the show and laughed all the way to the bank with a whopping £1.75 million! That said, at about $100,000 for an average booth at FIAC, not including the transport of the works by the way, it’s understandable that galleries are eager to recoup the costs of participating in such an event in the first place.

Bref. No matter what way you look at it, it seems that in 2011, FIAC has beaten out Frieze to take second place on the podium of the world’s contemporary art fairs, Basel the golden prize. Just like the rugby, Les Bleus have surprised us all by running with the ‘art’ ball leaving the art world and the rest of us, a little gobsmacked by the whole thing. Allez Les Bleus!

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