The Best Booths at Paris’s 2021 FIAC Fair, From Ice Sculptures to a Ceramic Bank Vault


October 21, 2021 4:28pm

On Wednesday, FIAC (Foire International d’Art Contemporain) opened its 47th fair in its temporary home at Paris’s Grand Palais Éphémère, a venue built in preparation for the 2024 Olympic Games. The main purpose of the new 107,000-square-foot space is to host events that would ordinarily take place at the Grand Palais, which is currently closed for renovation. Located near the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais Éphémère is slightly easier to navigate than the historic Grand Palais, where FIAC is usually staged.

At 10 a.m. yesterday, VIP guests lined up in front of the Grand Palais Éphémère. There was some minor confusion at the very start of the event—some guests were advised to come at the wrong time, and had to plead their cases to get inside that morning—but all things considered, the first in-person FIAC held since 2019 has so far gone largely as planned. Some 160 dealers from 25 countries eagerly rolled out their displays, and many of them reported strong sales. Below are 10 highlights from the fair, which runs in the French capital through Sunday.

Galerie Jocelyn Wolff

An expo booth with abstract paintings on its walls and, on its floor, a sculpture resembling a skeleton.

Photo : Courtesy Galerie Jocelyn Wolff

Look up! Katinka Bock’s sculptures Leichtsinn (Recklessness, in English) and Speaker and Receiver (both works 2021)— two glazed ceramic pieces featuring objects, such as a giant spoon in the latter work, suspended in midair—hang in the booth of Paris’s Galerie Jocelyn Wolff. Now look down, and you’ll see William Anastasi’s Sink (1963), which refers both to drowning and the bowl-shaped plumbing fixture used to wash hands or dishes. This hot-rolled carbon steel plate is covered with a puddle of water, to be refilled upon evaporation. Also lying on the floor is a puzzling bronze skeleton courtesy of Portuguese sculptor Francisco Ropa, the result of a performance in which its bones are put back together in front of an audience.


A set of sculptures resembling giant hanging beads. One in the center looks like a drooping necklace.

Photo : Sarah Belmont for ARTnews

Seoul’s Kukje gallery is responsible for the only loan to the current Jean-Michel Othoniel retrospective at the Petit Palais, located opposite the Grand Palais. For those who want a taste of that show ahead of visiting, Kukje is showing monumental glass necklaces by the French artist, who was inducted into France’s esteemed Académie des Beaux-Arts no less than two weeks ago. Also on view are handsome paintings by Lee Ufan. Response (2021) features two thick gradations of color: single strokes that result from up-and-down and right-to-left movements of the hand. Meanwhile, to make From Line (1981), Lee enacts similar minimalist effects, this time by pulling thinly mixed paint downward over and over.

Galerie Max Hetzler

An expo booth with three works in it. One resembles a bust on a plinth; the others are paintings that appear to abstractly represent people.

Photo : Courtesy Galerie Max Hetzler

Behind a dealer’s desk at Galerie Max Hetzler’s booth hangs a giant set of matches by Raymond Hains, a central figure in the postwar French art scene. To complement that 1971 work, the Berlin gallery brought to Paris a few more contemporary ones by artists on its roster. Glenn Brown’s 2020 painting Deliver Me (after Jan Lievens) offers similar curves to the ones seen in Ai Weiwei’s blue-and-white Porcelain Plates (2017). Elsewhere in the booth, a brass bust by Hans Josephsohn rhymes nicely with Bridget Riley’s striped composition Intervals 8 (2020). Consider this booth a showcase for perfect matches.

Esther Schipper

An art gallery with a sculpture resembling a skeleton in a coffin flanked by three drawings on either side.

Photo : Sarah Belmont for ARTnews

Winter is coming at the booth of Berlin’s Esther Schipper, which has fostered the careers of artists associated with the field of relational aesthetics. In what counts as one of FIAC’s showiest offerings, the gallery has reactivated Philippe Parreno’s 1995 work Iceman in a Reality Park, an ice sculpture of a snowman standing on top of a manhole cover. Next to this melting installation—which will be replaced in its entirety on a daily basis—is Who’s in Egypt by Simon Fujiwara. This installation is the continuation of a series featuring cartoon character Who the Bær, which has no clear gender or identity. Here, the character is shown a inside mixed-media sarcophagus surrounded by six drawings.

Galerie Lelong & Co.

A fair expo both a blue painting of raised hands on its wall.

Photo : Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.

Another iceman awaits at Galerie Lelong & Co.’s booth. A wall-mounted human figure Kiki Smith sculpted in 1995 using polyester resin and fiberglass is on view—and not for the first time in Paris in recent memory. This work was presented the French capital at the gallery with, along with this piece’s counterpart, Black Madonna. Smith has paid special mind to the figure’s hands, and Barthélémy Toguo places a similar amount of attention on those body parts in a midnight-blue painting shown next to her sculpture. That painting, titled Partage VII, draws inspiration from a Central African legend about a deity known to cast spells after dark only. To her victims the Cameroonian artist seems to be lending not only one but four hands.

Pace Gallery

An expo booth lined with abstract paintings and, in its center, a sculpture resembling a stack of chairs and floaties.

Photo : Photo Sebastiano Pellion di Persano/Courtesy Pace Gallery

If the hands have it at Galerie Lelong, feet are the focus at Pace Gallery’s booth. Socks show up in works like a mixed media collage by Antoni Tápies and in Elmgreen & Dragset’s Dirty Socks(2021), a steel sculpture by the Danish and Nowegian duo featuring a set of crossed legs atop a black cubical structure.  It alludes to Peter Hujar’s photograph Christopher Street Pier #2 (Crossed Legs), from 1976. Are your feet aching from walking around the fair? It might be tempting to sit on Jeff Koons’s Seal Walrus (2003–09), a set of plastic chairs with two plastic floaties, but unfortunately, you can’t touch the art.

Gianni Manhattan

An expo booth feature three monitors on plinths before colorful, puffy stools with wheels.

Photo : Courtesy Gianni Manhattan

Vienna’s Gianni Manhattan gallery devoted its entire booth to Marina Faust. The artist, who lives in Vienna and Paris, started off shooting documentary photography before collaborating with Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela for almost 20 years. Three 1988 video self-portraits on view at the booth have never been shown before. A chair on wheels in front of them, initially designed as a Steadicam support, became the inspiration for the four fluffy rolling stools nearby, which gallery staffers said could also be interpreted as portraits. Done in shades of pink, blue, purple, and green, each stool has its own personality.


An expo booth with small sculptures on its floor and paintings on its walls.

Photo : Courtesy SpazioA

Like Gianni Manhattan, SpazioA gallery, of Pistoia, Italy, turned its booth over to a one person: Nona Inescu, a promising young Romanian artist, who focuses on the interaction between humankind and nature. Inescu is showing a set of photographs, including one in which a hand is shown being swallowed by a toxic plant. There’s also vegetal sculptures in blown glass and aluminum casts of carnivorous-looking plants. These works raise a seemingly simple question: Is nature shaped by us, or is it the other way around? To Inescu, gardens, which she defines as “heterotropic spaces” where various species do their best to coexist, may not necessarily be as peaceful as they look.


An expo booth with a stuffed animal atop an abstract sculpture, as well as a cage-like house.

Photo : Sarah Belmont for ARTnews

Berlin’s Efremidis gallery is showcasing Hadi Fallahpisheh, who enlists a wide range of cuddly toys collected over time to evoke displacement. A teddy bear trapped in a jar covered with paint acts as a self-portrait of the Iranian-born artist, who also uses flashlights to draw on photosensitive paper. (Two examples of that unusual photographic practice are also shown in the booth.) A wooden house in the middle of the booth hints at Fallahpisheh’s pending return to his birth country. Perhaps we are all prisoners of fabricated memories, Fallahpisheh suggests. After all, there’s no place like home, right?

Gaudel de Stampa

An expo booth with a giant ceramic vault at its center.

Photo : Photo Aurélien Mole/Courtesy Gaudel de Stampa

Gaudel de Stampa’s stand is all about Gaia Vincensini, whose work was featured at MAMCO Geneva last summer. Her sculpture Cheval de Troie (Trojan Horse) may look like a metal vault that was taken directly from a bank to the fair. In fact, the artist sculpted it from ceramic. Inside similar works, Vincesini has concealed objects that are precious to her, including sculptures by her grandmother, who was also an artist. Vincesini is no stranger to the Paris scene, with a 2018 work combining etching and embroidery having just entered the collection of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and her presentation at FIAC ensures that this rising star will only garner more attention going forward.

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