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FIAC 2017: The insiders’ guide

Our panel of art experts, critics and gallerists advise on what you can discover at and beyond the 44th edition of the Paris contemporary art fair, 19-22 October, as well as revealing their favourite haunts for a bracing aperitif or a memorable meal 

Marc-Olivier Wahler, Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. As founder of the Paris contemporary art institute Chalet Society and ex-director of the Palais de Tokyo, Marc-Oliver Wahler knows the French capital’s art landscape better than most. ‘I witnessed FIAC’s transformation from a struggling art fair to one of the best, housed in one of the most spectacular buildings in the heart of Paris,’ he says. 

For Wahler, the best way to see Paris is to ‘take a Velib [a city bike] and cross every bridge along the Seine. Be sure to visit the Louvre and don’t miss the mosaics in the Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities. Also check out galleries Loevenbruck, Perrotin and Frank Elbaz.’

The Loevenbruck Gallery, recommended by Marc-Olivier Wahler of the Broad Art Museum. Photo by Fabrice Gousset

The Loevenbruck Gallery, recommended by Marc-Olivier Wahler of the Broad Art Museum. Photo by Fabrice Gousset

Valentina Volchkova, International Director at Pace Gallery. This year at FIAC, Pace Gallery is showing works by Lee Ufan, Donald Judd, Jean Dubuffet and Raqib Shaw, among others. Farther afield, Volchkova is curating an exhibition of recent work by Kevin Francis Gray at Villa Santo Sospir in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

Raqib Shaw, Moon Howlers…, painted bronze, 255 x 250 x 195 cm. Courtesy Pace Gallery, which is also showing works by Lee Ufan, Jean Dubuffet and Donald Judd

Raqib Shaw, Moon Howlers…, painted bronze, 255 x 250 x 195 cm. Courtesy Pace Gallery, which is also showing works by Lee Ufan, Jean Dubuffet and Donald Judd

‘While in Paris, be sure to visit the Musée Eugène Delacroix, a little gem in the heart of Saint Germain, housed in the artist’s apartment and studio. Also don’t miss the fantastic David Hockney exhibition at Centre Pompidou, transferred from its debut at Tate Britain earlier this year. For further stimulation, head to Karl Lagerfeld’s 7L bookshop in the 7th arrondissement, which specialises in art, design, photography, music, fashion and cookbooks. For a great meal, Le Stresa in the 8th arrondissement is unbeatable. This tiny Italian restaurant, owned by six Italian brothers and their sons, is very popular among the art, cinema and fashion crowds.’

The Historic Suite at the Peninsula Hotel, an official partner of the fair and home to its own collection of contemporary art

The Historic Suite at the Peninsula Hotel, an official partner of the fair and home to its own collection of contemporary art

Katja Henke, General Manager at The Peninsula Hotel, Paris. An official partner of the fair, the Peninsula is home to its own collection of contemporary artworks. ‘My favourite is the Moon River  sculpture in the Peninsula’s Portugais Gallery, by Spanish sculptor Xavier Corberó,’ says Henke.

Beyond FIAC, Henke recommends the Palais Galliera, the capital’s fashion museum, located in a magnificent Renaissance-inspired palace that hides an amazing garden. ‘It has some 100,000 pieces of clothing and accessories reflecting France’s changing fashions from the 18th century to the modern day.’ For great food and trinkets, try ‘Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered market in Paris, established in the early 1600s.’

Mathieu Paris, Director of Private Sales at White Cube. ‘In the past 10 years FIAC has become one of the most important art fairs in the world, thanks to its director Jennifer Flay,’ says Paris. ‘The quality of the galleries is another driving force. The selection is, as the French say, au couteau  — sharp and really good. And the quality and enthusiasm of the collectors has only continued to increase in the past eight years.’

While in Paris, he says, don’t miss the Musee d’Art Moderne, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée des Art Decoratifs, each of which are ‘in my opinion, among the most important museums in the world.’

Where to eat? ‘My favourite restaurant is Le 21,’ Paris says. ‘There are only six tables and the menu constantly changes. And you are certain to bump into Saint Germain’s best antiques dealers and gallerists, not to mention actors and intellectuals.’

The Museé d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is unmissable says Mathieu Paris, Director of Sale at White Cube. Photograph Christophe Fouin

The Museé d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is unmissable says Mathieu Paris, Director of Sale at White Cube. Photograph: Christophe Fouin

Paul Nyzam, Specialist Head of Evening Sale, Post-War & Contemporary Art, Christie’s Paris. For this Christie’s specialist, FIAC is the busiest period in the calendar. ‘This year will be very special for me because I am in charge of two evening auctions. It’s a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Led by a spectacular Giacometti sculpture, the Paris Avant-Garde  sale will feature some of the best art produced in Paris in the 20th century. The Collection of Jean-Francois and Marie-Aline Prat  sale, exhibited in the magnificent Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, includes masterpieces by Basquiat, Polke, Dubuffet, Klein, Stella, Fontana and Ryman. It’s a project I’ve been working on for a year, and I can’t wait to see it go under the hammer.’

Pablo Picasso, The Crucifixion, 1930, oil on wood and plywood, Musée National Picasso-Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris)Mathieu Rabea. © Succession Picasso — gestion droits d’auteur. Christie’s Paul Nyzam looks forward to the exhibition Picasso 1932, 10 October to 11 February 2018 at Musée Picasso Paris

Pablo Picasso, The Crucifixion, 1930, oil on wood and plywood, Musée National Picasso-Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris)/Mathieu Rabea. © Succession Picasso — gestion droits d’auteur. Christie’s Paul Nyzam looks forward to the exhibition Picasso 1932, 10 October to 11 February 2018 at Musée Picasso Paris

What to see outside of FIAC? ‘The exhibition I’m most looking forward to seeing this autumn is Picasso 1932 at the Musée Picasso Paris, which opens on 10 October. I would also encourage everyone to pay a visit to Le Silo, a private exhibition space 45 minutes outside of the city where Jean-Philippe and Françoise Billarant display their collection of minimal and conceptual art, including works by Carl Andre, François Morellet, Richard Serra, Daniel Buren and Donald Judd. Visits are led by the collectors themselves, who share their knowledge with genuine enthusiasm.

'Aside from art, food is the other reason I travel and explore. At the moment my favourite spots in Paris are AT, where Japanese chef Atsushi Tanaka reinvents French cuisine every night; and David Toutain, where every dish is concentrated taste, texture and poetry.’

Le Silo. Works by Peter Downsbrough, François Morellet, Véronique Joumard, Carl Andre and Richard Serra. © Le Silo. Paul Nyzam of Christie’s recommends a visit to this gallery 45 minutes outside the city 

Le Silo. Works by Peter Downsbrough, François Morellet, Véronique Joumard, Carl Andre and Richard Serra. © Le Silo. Paul Nyzam of Christie’s recommends a visit to this gallery 45 minutes outside the city 

Jasmin Pelham, Founder and Creative Director, Pelham Communications. ‘Don’t miss On Site, a new section in the Petit Palais showing larger sculptures and installations. On Site  launched last year with Seoul’s Gallery Hyundai and the booth of gallery Xavier Hufkens. I first came across Xavier Hufkens through Art Brussels and In Situ, which works with the incredible South African performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga.

‘I am half-Iranian, and when in Paris I always visit the Arab World Institute. During FIAC, the Institute is hosting its second photography biennial, showing contemporary photographers from across the region. I’m also looking forward to Carte Blanche à Camille Henrot  at the Palais de Tokyo, where the artist takes over the entire exhibition space for a project that sees her collaborate with a range of international artists.

‘Have brunch or evening drinks in the courtyard of André Saraiva’s Hotel Grand Amour, within walking distance of the Eurostar. For breakfast head to Carette for French viennoiseries on the historic Place des Vosges, one of the oldest squares in Paris. Two other hidden gems are the superb Kurdish wraps-to-go from Urfa Dürüm, tucked away in the heart of Strasbourg Saint-Denis, and the Mexican taqueria Candelaria, with its secret door leading to a hidden bar serving traditional tacos and agave cocktails.

‘And definitely stop by haute shopping mall Le Bon Marché, where there is often an in-situ exhibition. Previous artists have included Ai Wei Wei (in 2016) and Chiharu Shiota (in 2017).’

Jasmine Pelham of Pelham Communications is eager to see Carte Blanche à Camille Henrot  at the Palais de Tokyo. Photograph Florent Michel11h45

Jasmine Pelham of Pelham Communications is eager to see Carte Blanche à Camille Henrot  at the Palais de Tokyo. Photograph: Florent Michel/11h45

Francesca Piccolboni, Director of Tornabuoni Art, Paris. Since joining Tornabuoni in 2009, Francesca Piccolboni has been instrumental in the gallery’s success and recent move from the Avenue Matignon to a historic hotel particulier  in the Marais, where it presents museum-scale exhibitions of post-war Italian art. This year at FIAC, Piccolboni will oversee a booth showing works by Lucio Fontana, Alighiero Boetti and Alberto Burri, while the Paris gallery will be showing Dolce Vita-era art from Rome. ‘FIAC enables us to reinforce our relationships with French collectors while inviting our international collectors to visit our new exhibition space in Paris,’ Piccolboni says.

Tornabuoni Art, Paris, will be showing Dolce Vita-era art from Rome. Courtesy Tornabuoni Art

Tornabuoni Art, Paris, will be showing Dolce Vita-era art from Rome. Courtesy Tornabuoni Art

‘Post-FIAC, the best rooftop cocktails can be found at Terrass Hotel, designed in the style of an artist’s loft. The intimate setting offers incredible views over Paris. The Hôtel Particulier in Montmartre, a family home dating to the 19th century and set in a luxurious private garden, gives you the feeling of being in the countryside. Brunch on the terrace is truly romantic.’

Bar Le Très Particulier at Hôtel Particulier in Montmartre. ’Brunch on the terrace is truly romantic,’ says Francesca Piccolboni of Tornabuoni Art, Paris

Bar Le Très Particulier at Hôtel Particulier in Montmartre. ’Brunch on the terrace is truly romantic,’ says Francesca Piccolboni of Tornabuoni Art, Paris

Camille de Foresta, Asian Art Specialist at Christie’s Paris. ‘The city hums with the rhythm of contemporary art not only at FIAC, but also at the smaller emerging fairs, galleries and museums. Even city parks are animated with art, thanks to FIAC’s Hors les Murs  programme in the Jardin des Tuileries.

‘Don’t miss the comprehensive Dior retrospective at the Musée des Arts décoratifs, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the designer’s death. For once, Paris is competing with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s fashion shows.

‘The new Italian restaurant Loulou in the Musée des Arts Déco is a real treat. On one of the most beautiful terraces in Paris, it has the most exceptional views across the Louvre, Jardin des Tuleries and Place de la Concorde. The perfect spot on the Left Bank for delicious cocktails and discretion is Hotel Le Saint. The covered walkway of Passage du Grand Cerf is also a beautiful spot and great for discovering young French designers such as Marilyn Feltz.’

Andrew Bonacina, Chief Curator at Hepworth Wakefield. ‘I’m in Paris frequently, but I always love to be there during FIAC. In a calendar now overpacked with fairs, some remain unmissable. FIAC, and the more recently established Paris Internationale, are two I always make sure to visit: galleries always seem to keep their gems for this city. This year I’m particularly excited to see works by Alina Szapocznikow, Matt Mullican and Koenraad Dedobbeleer.’

When FIAC gets too crazy, Bonacina recommends hotel bars as the best place to escape the crowds. ‘You can’t beat the bar at L’Hôtel for some faded Parisian opulence and a great martini,’ he says. ‘For breakfast I love the coffee and eggs at Café Oberkampf in the Marais. For dinner I return to the same haunts on rotation: Semilla and Aux Prés in Saint Germain are two firm favourites, along with the organic wine and tapas at the Rem Koolhaas-designed Le Dauphin.’

Andrew Bonacina of Hepworth Wakefield recommends the coffee and eggs at Café Oberkampf in the Marais. Photo Molly S J Lowe

Andrew Bonacina of Hepworth Wakefield recommends the coffee and eggs at Café Oberkampf in the Marais. Photo Molly S J Lowe

If you’re in the mood for more art, head to Wilfrid Almendra’s exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, says Bonacina. ‘His elemental sculptures made from reclaimed materials double as the components of a radio transmitter. The programme at Credac Ivry-sur-Seine is always worth the trip, too. Alexandra Bircken’s exhibition there is sure to be a great show.

‘Paris has an incredible concentration of immaculately preserved artist’s studios: those of Brâncusi, Arp, Moreau and Bourdelle are always inspirational. I’m not a big shopper, but Paris has some great independent favourites: the Yvon Lambert bookshop is a must for artist books and editions and Mouvement Modernes for the best in contemporary ceramics and craft.’