By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 29 NOVEMBER 2010 Late last month, there were shocked
reactions and snickers as well as genuine emotion under a gigantic tent in
the Cour Carrée of the Louvre Museum as well as under the high glass dome
of the Grand Palais, the recently renovated museum overlooking both the
Champs d'Elysées and the majestic Alexander II Bridge. These two magical
settings were hosting the 37th annual Fair of Contemporary Art, generally
referred to as the F.I.A.C.
Twenty-four countries and 195 art galleries were showing works which
went from the absurd to the widely extravagant, including paintings from
twentieth century masters, as well as creations from the more showy stars
of today and the potential stars of tomorrow. Prices escalated
accordingly, from 500 euros for the Belgian Honoré D'O's, Connaître
ses Maîtres, a reproduction of a Velasquez painting where the breasts
had been cut out and where one was invited to insert two fingers to
represent the missing flesh, to 19,000,000 euros for Naila, a
superb 1934 work by German impressionist, Max Beckmann.
Pascale Marthine Tayou: Poupées
crystal, mixed media, Galleria Continua, San
Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin, F.I.A.C. 2010
An innovative, eye-catching stand theatrically presented numerous
crystal figurines bedecked with multi-coloured reels of sewing-cotton,
pins, needles, and odds and bobs of thread, each one different, with its
coloured hair-bands and tangled strands of wool and silk, feathers, beads
and garden twigs. It was only on closer inspection that one noticed that
these showy little bodies shared just one linking feature; they all
sported a giant-sized, transparent glass penis. And of course, the
exhibition was not without its fair share of pornographic nudes posing as
art. Was this really British actress, Charlotte Rampling, standing
stark naked in the Louvre?
An undoubted star of the show attracting the crowds was Le
Solitaire, by 25 year old Theo Mercier. The young artist, already
noted for his preoccupation for playing with food, had created a massive
fellow in imitation spaghetti. His sculpture is ugly, it's sad, and at 2.6
meters high, it's huge. While people made fun of it, this lonely figure
sitting staring vacantly into space seemed to carry all the problems of
the world upon its ungainly shoulders, but priced at 40,000 euros, who did
it think would take it home?
Théo Mercier: Le Solitaire,
Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie, FIAC 2010
The gallery Guillermo de Osma, situated in Madrid, presented some
exceptional paintings by Victor Brauner, (1903- 1966). Priced from 38,000
to 180,000 euros, all but one had been sold by the second day of the fair.
Visitors also paused to admire the more moderately priced Composition
suprématiste, an intriguing work on forms in space created by the
abstract master, Kazimir Malevitch in 1917, whose radical and pure
compositions speak for themselves. His squares, crosses and rectangles
seem to be striving for the unattainable in a world beyond reach.
A fresh view on the fair was given by Mother's Tankstation, a Dublin
gallery presenting works by Atsushi Kaga, a 32-year-old Japanese artist,
in an attractive, one-man show. As a teenager, Kaga had devoured the books
of James Joyce and determined to leave for Dublin not only to perfect his
English, but with the idea of becoming a writer himself. His drawings of
little rabbits were so good that friends there encouraged him to go to art
school, and the rest is history.
Atsushi Kaga: (from left to right), Usacchi
& the last
cat pirate on the ocean with donuts
Sachiko by day (2010) and Polar Bear
When looked at closely, his apparently naïve, cute little pictures all
tell a story and all reflect the artist's concern with the problems of
people today, not least with ecology. Usacchi eating apples
recounts the tale of a little bunny born in Tokyo whose mother was a
kangaroo and whose father was a panda. Adding to its confusion was the
fact it thought it had been a cat in a former life, and so it spends its
time searching for its identity and in questioning everything around it.
He gets very upset by the incomprehensible.
Likewise, Kumacchi, a highly pessimistic work which features a
small bear who lost his leg in a car accident, is also about a search for
identity, and unsurprisingly, Polar Bear is directly linked to
Kaga's ecological concerns, for the little bear, who enjoys a Cuban cigar,
hates global warming. The saddest work of all was Samurai Deers,
which had nonetheless been sold, as had all the other works, for the
modest price of 4,600 euros.
The question arises as to who are the artists who have had the biggest
impact in the last ten years, for visitors strolled leisurely past the
offerings of the fashionable American artist, James Turrell, whose
geometrical study of light with an illusion of depth Light
Transmission Piece was on sale for 180,000 euros, and snobbed the
layered, all black creations of up market Pierre Soulages, interspersed
between sculptures of hands and arms by Louise Bourgeois, the former
already seeming a little dated. But what about Tony Matelli, Robert
Mapplethorpe, or Pierre Huyghe? Never heard of them, griped an
It was simple to dismiss the white bed linen strung up on white walls
or the human-sized yellow banana escaped from the children's section of an
Ikea department store, but what to make of Anish Kapoor's Slug,
part boa constrictor, part vacuum cleaner, some 6 meters by 4 meters,
particularly when one reflects on the fact that Kapoor's sales turnover
this past year touched some 7,000,000 euros? Somebody buys these
Anish Kapoor: Slug
Bearing in mind that what's considered admirable today was rejected as
bizarre yesterday, will future generations really find such creations
beautiful? It seems to no longer matter whether an exhibit is well painted
or brilliantly sculpted, but rather rests upon it being a good idea
coupled with a playful approach. Playful indeed is the only way to
describe the toothy, grinning troglodyte created by Murakami, a gaudy
creation atop a tree of improbably coloured flowers which missed out on a trip to Versailles.
Was it overpriced at $1,600,000? Whether it sold or not was probably
irrelevant to the Japanese star who raked in some $3,500,000 last year.
And what price for the stuffed hen? I didn't dare to ask.
Patricia Boccadoro is a senior editor at Culturekiosque. She
last wrote on Murakami
Title photo: Max Beckmann: Naila,
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