There is no place like Paris; it is the right city for art. This year many galleries chose FIAC over Frieze. The city invented haute couture, Michelin stars, Café Procope, and reified the meaning of sophistication. In and around Paris contemporary art can often be seen intimately displayed inside historic architecture, like the dramatic Olafur Eliasson Solar Compression spinning inside the massive palace of the Sun King in Versailles. But why is Paris hip again? One major factor putting Paris back on the map is the evolution of FIAC under the Director Jennifer Flay, who has spent the past ten years reviving the fair in part by giving “true museum conditions” for their exhibitors. Timed with the rise of Paris is the second edition of the chic and ultra-smart contemporary art fair, Paris Internationale. So here are our top 10 museum quality exhibitions to see in Paris now.
Maurizio Cattelan at Monnaie de Paris
One of the most striking venues for art is the Monnaie de Paris, “France's longest standing institution” (1,150 years) inside a still operational royal coining workshop. What better place for contemporary art than a house of money. This is at least Cattelan’s fourth return from retirement, billed as his official return (until his next one). As the title of the exhibition (“Not Afraid of Love”) implies, it features Cattelan’s most iconic works including the namesake life-sized effigy of an elephant hiding under a sheet. Which makes us laugh immediately until we catch ourselves in a gasp.
Monnaie de Paris, 11, quai de Conti, 75006 Paris
Tino Sehgal at Palais de Tokyo
Usually, open until midnight (but till 8 pm for this “exhibition”) Sehgal is given Carte blanche to take over the whole institution. Given the Palais de Tokyo's radical history, it makes sense that Sehgal incorporates the work of Daniel Buren, James Coleman, Félix González-Torres, Pierre Huyghe, Isabel Lewis and Philippe Parreno. Sehgal makes exhibitions that last in memory for life. But forget your expectations, you will need a whole new level of engagement. Sehgal swallows art history and makes all new rules. Known for staging “constructed situations” which are choreographed from the human voice, language, movement, and most importantly interactions between the audience and “interpreters.” Unlike performance art, Sehgal’s work exists only as an oral set of instructions, no physical documentation exists, no certificate, no catalog, no pictures and no perceivable meaning.
Palais de Tokyo, 13, Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris
In its second year, Paris Internationale is one of the youngest emerging art fairs, but you could hardly tell by the impressive list of galleries. It is hosted in a spectacular hôtel particulier, which was built in 1897 and was the mansion of collector Calouste Gulbenkian. Founded by the galleries Antoine Levi, Crèvecoeur, Gregor Staiger, High Art, and Sultana it is positioned to reach the status of LISTE for Art Basel or NADA for ABMB. In collaboration with the Fondation d’entreprise Ricard the brilliant Clément Delépine who is the co-director (with Silvia Ammon) of the fair, will present a series of conversations. We are looking forward to “One hand cannot clap” with Kate Cooper, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Justin Meekel on Friday, 21 October.
Paris Internationale, 51 Avenue d’Iéna, 75116 Paris
Takashi Murakami at Galerie Perrotin
Galerie Perrotin (located in a beautiful 17th-century townhouse, another one) presents the 12th (!) solo exhibition by Takashi Murakami with the gallery. In 1994 Emmanuel Perrotin (named EP by his staff) presented Murakami for the first time in New York’s legendary Gramercy International Art Fair. This massive show titled “Learning the Magic of Painting” is disarmingly sincere and spans across all three spaces in Paris. Anyone left denying the rising importance of craftsmanship need only to look at a single intensely labored-over Murakami painting who elevates techniques to its pinnacle.
Galerie Perrotin, 76 rue de Turenne and 10 impasse Saint-Claude, 75003 Paris
Marcel Duchamp at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Marcel Duchamp’s Porte-bouteilles is an icon of art history. It is one of five existing pure ready-mades, Duchamp himself considered it the first. The story is equally incredible, as it was owned by Robert Rauschenberg, who cornered Duchamp in the studio of Jasper Johns and all but forced him to sign the work. The “original” (it’s fun to use that term with a ready-made) was lost when Duchamp’s sister Suzanne (also a great artist) cleared out his Paris studio. Man Ray purchased this current sculpture on request of Duchamp and sent it to New York from Paris. So it has passed through the hands of three giants of art history. The asking price remains a secret. It is remarkable in times of record-breaking auctions, that this masterpiece is being trusted to a gallery and not sold in an auction. The Rauschenberg Foundation decided for a gallery sale because they want the work to go to a museum, where it belongs, and not to a private collection.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 7 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris
Sadie Benning at Air de Paris
A staple of art school education, Benning made landmark experimental videos while still a teenager in the late 1980s. Exploring identity politics, language, found objects, film techniques, performance and memory, these low-fi black and white videos continue to inspire art students all over the world. All that has been transformed into really contemporary painting in the expanded-field, that are constructed from material cut-outs covered in layers of aqua-resin and placed back into the paintings like puzzle pieces. Also at Air de Paris is the solo exhibition by Liam Gillick, one of the art world greats. We are already enchanted by the show’s title “The Red Wood Pigeon Meets Some Meetings.” Absolutely not to be missed!
Air de Paris, 32, rue Louise Weiss, 75013 Paris
Servane Mary at Triple V
Brand new work by Servane Mary are presented in her second solo show with the gallery, featuring imagery of women riding motorcycles. Perhaps these are a response to the photographic works of Richard Prince’s ‘biker chicks.’ The photo-transfers come from found photographs placed onto crumpled steel/copper supports. Along the very hip line of post-photographic “image-objects,” these works take photo off the wall and into the space of the gallery.
Triple V, 5 rue du Mail, 75002 Paris
Liz Deschenes at Campoli Presti
If we had to pick one artist who defines and defies the idea of photography in the expanded field, it would be Liz Deschenes. She directly investigates the conditions of photography itself, its mediation, its production, and its perception; bringing together languages of other “wall works,” which are in relationship to the architecture. She works almost exclusively with photograms – pictures created without a camera. Further, her photograms are without external references by simply exposing photographic paper for several hours, outside, often at night, before chemically treating them. She has said, her work is made up of the most basic elements of a photo, what she calls “pre-photographic.”
Campoli Presti, 4, rue de Braque, 75003 Paris
Aaron Garber-Maikovska at High Art
Aaron Garber-Maikovska is a multimedia artist, once associated unfairly with the zombie formalist paintings, he works across painting and video. In each, it is his body gestures that create the meaning. Staring as the protagonist-performer, he creates new narratives through improvised songs and dance. By making work that comes out of a very American mentality, it is at once personal and cultural. In creating a new video, he packs a van full of equipment, a cameraman and heads from his LA studio into the sunset. This “On the Road” style searching for inspiration equally captures the urban landscape and Californian desert in surprising and delightful ways. In both, his paintings and videos there is a shock that he is performing in such unexpected ways, his body leaving its mark on the world.
High Art, 17, rue des Panoyaux, 75020 Paris
Jason Matthew Lee at Galerie Crèvecœur
Jason Matthew Lee’s work deals directly with abstraction via digital processing of images and text. He layers analog and digital into a single picture plane on varying supports. Separately from his painting practice he also makes sculptures from coin-operated phones taken off the streets from phone booths. These (like all of his work) play with layers of obsolescence due to technology innovations, which by their very nature reference the history of so-called advancements in civilization. His paintings source their raw material from everything between advertising to adult imagery which are then altered or mediated through photoshop in messy ways. He brings together the analog and digital worlds in a very human way.
Galerie Crèvecœur, 9, Rue des Cascades, 75020 Paris
Paris is hip at the moment, but it has always been classy. Long before there was “International Art English” there was “Noble French” that every educated person spoke. The language is so much a part of the culture that we can’t wait to hear sweet Parisian. After we are exhausted from so much gallery going, you can spot us relaxing at the “Marche du President Wilson,” the open-air market just a few blocks from Paris Internationale. For in the end, Paris is not only a city of great art but also gastronomy, cocktails and late into the night philosophy of aesthetics. We hope you enjoy the city as much as we do.
– Justin Polera