French collectors boost sales at FIAC

Billionaire François Pinault bought Chen Zhen and Pistoletto



France’s leading fair for contemporary art, FIAC, has shown a significant improvement in the past two years, mainly due to the efforts of its new artistic director, Jennifer Flay. She has brought in a number of major European galleries for this year’s edition, held from 6 to 10 October.

Overall, attendance was high at 83,000 and sales were good—due, to everyone’s surprise, to buying by French collectors. The luxury goods mogul and owner of Christie’s, François Pinault, is believed to have bought a Chen Zhen installation from Continua (he already has a number of other works by the artist) and a Michelangelo Pistoletto mirror from Natalie Seroussi. The previous week, Mr Pinault had bought a Fabrice Hyber which was displayed, red-dotted, on Jérôme de Noirmont’s stand.

Mr Pinault’s great rival, Bernard Arnault, was strolling around the fair, hand-in-hand with his wife, at the preview but did not appear to be in a buying mood. He was, however, said to have made one small purchase, a decorative work by Anselm Reyle (for E18,000, $21,600) at Almine Rech.

Among the successes was Pierre Huber’s stand, offering 1,000 red, monochrome canvases painted in China and tagged at just E100 ($120) each. The works, by Raphael Julliard, all sold on the first night.

Other works on show included Dubuffet’s 1956 Le chapeau rose at Malingue, a Richard Jackson installation with Georges-Philippe and Nathalie Vallois ($80,000) and a large sculpture by Robert Morris priced at E450,000 ($540,000) with Pietro Sparta.

Unfortunately, some dealers steered clear of taking risks. For instance Nicola Von Senger decided not to bring a large Sauna by Gelatin, because she thought it might not sell; instead her stand was full of more commercial photos by Olaf Breuning and Gianni Motti.

FIAC has a “young galleries” section but this was disappointing overall. Exceptions were Chris Sauter’s bedroom at Valérie Cueto or Børre Sæthre’s installation on Hervé Loevenbruck’s stand. Other booths mainly offered derivative works, hardly surprising since the artists are often still in their 20s.

FIAC’s dates this year, sandwiched between the Jewish holidays Roshashana and Yom Kippur, meant that a number of American buyers did not attend. Nevertheless, Hauser & Wirth sold its wall-sized Jason Rhoades ($95,000) to a US buyer. Thaddaeus Ropac was showing a group of recent works by Georg Baselitz and sold all of them at E248,000 ($297,000) each.

Perhaps the biggest news is that FIAC will not return next year to the Grand Palais. The problem is that more than 200 galleries now exhibit at FIAC but the Grand Palais can only take 60. Organiser Martin Bethenod said that it would still be used to exhibit sculpture, performances and films during next year’s edition, 26-30 October 2006.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘French collectors boost sales'