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2017.10.21 Sat, by Christopher Moore
FIAC, Paris 2017
Interview with Jennifer Flay, director

FIAC opened this week with 192 galleries exhibiting from 29 countries. Ran Dian spoke with Jennifer Flay, FIAC’s director. Then a prominent Paris gallerist, Flay was appointed artistic director in 2004. At the time, fiac was foundering. frieze had launched in London’s Regents Park the previous year, whereas fiac had lost its mojo, not least because it had been banished to the outskirts of Paris during renovation of its iconic home at the Grand Palais. Flay was part of the team that revived and transformed fiac. In 2006 the exhibition returned to a rejuvenated Grand Palais, and fiac’s cachet returned too. In 2010 Flay was promoted to director.

Flay grew up in New Zealand, moving in 1980 to Paris on a French government scholarship to study art history. So obviously our first question was what she thought of the newly elected prime minister of New Zealand (the country’s second female prime minister) .

Jennifer Flay: What?! We have a new Prime Minister?! I admit I haven’t been keeping up with politics there this week. It’s been busy!

Ran Dian: Yes, Jacinda Adern has just been elected prime minister of New Zealand.

JF: Oh, well that’s great to hear! We’re a pretty progressive bunch. You know we were the first country to give women the vote.

RD: Do you come across many collectors from New Zealand and Australia at the fair?

JF: Actually a major Australian collector visited today. I’ve heard something approaching my native accent more than a few times too!

Wang Wei (photo Mark Domage)

Wang Wei (photo Mark Domage)

Ran Dian: The show opened yesterday. How is it going?

Jennifer Flay: Very well! Sales and visitor numbers are up.

Ran Dian: Why is fiac different from Basel, TEFAF and frieze? What sets it apart?

JF: There are many things that make fiac special. We do have an incredible number of major museums, from the Louvre, to the Musee Pompidou, the Musée d’Orsay—the list goes on and on. And of course Paris is the capital of the fashion world and this is also reflected in its museums. The Musée Yves Saint Laurent opened this month [also in Marrkech]. There is the Foundation Louise Vuitton, soon to be joined by Fondation Galeries Lafayette and the following year, Pinault. Paris is so dynamic. What was just FIAC has now become Paris Art Week, with major museum openings, such as at the Picasso Museum this week [Picasso 1932. Année Érotique]. Unlike any other art fair, we have the Grand Palais, and we have rejuvenated the Belle Epoque  design by reunifying the Grand and Petit Palaces, because we open on to the Avenue Winston Churchill, returning it to pedestrians [Ed. go on, let's call them Flâneur], including for our performance program, Parades.

Ran Dian: Matt Mullican has benches in the Avenue Winston Churchill.

JF: Yes and on the façade of Petit Palais. With Richard Nonas sculptures on the street [quasi-seesaws]—people have taken over as seating. From China we have Wang Wei’s “Slipping Mural” —a mosaic that has slipped onto the footpath [Edouard Malingue Gallery] and Seung Taek Lee’s work appears on the cover of Le Monde this week [Gallery Hyundai]. We have a conversations program developed by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets focussing on the post-internet generation. And finally we have performances at 22 places around Paris, including everything from the Trisha Brown Dance Company to Kenneth Goldsmith giving poetry readings at the Louvre.

Ran Dian: So what’s the key difference with Basel and TEFAF?

JF: Basel is larger—about 100 more galleries—while TEFAF has a small fine arts section and tiny contemporary part. We cover a wide historical timespan and I have reintroduced a design secant, with five galleries. And we have great October weather!

Ran Dian: Global warming’s got to be good for something.

JF: We studied the weather records and historically this 3rd week of October is the sunniest week of the autumn.

Matt Mullican Untitled (Four Worlds Between Five) 2017 Location: Façade Petit Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris (Courtesy: Mai 36 Galerie)

Matt Mullican’s banners, ”Untitled (Four Worlds Between Five)” 2017, on Façade Petit Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris (Courtesy: Mai 36 Galerie)

Galleries from Asia exhibiting at FIAC this year are Edouard Malingue Gallery (Hong Kong & Shanghai),  Experimenter (Kolkata, India), Gallery Hyundai (Seoul, Korea), KUKJE / Tina Kim (Seoul Korea, New York), PKM Gallery (Seoul, Korea), SCAI at the Bathhouse (Tokyo, Japan), STPI (Singapore), Tomio Koyama (Tokyo, Japan), and Vitamin Creative Space (Guangzhou, China)—10 out of 292.

Ran Dian: What are the criteria for galleries from East Asia participating?

JF: I would love Long March Space to come back. A couple of years ago they declined, citing gallery building work, and ever since they have not attended. ShanghART showed with us for quite some time. We would love them to come back too. Emmanuel Perrotin is very clear they are also a Chinese gallery.

Ran Dian: He is right!—they have a very strong China team in Hong Kong.

JF: Of course it is not my decision. We have a selection committee and of course they look at many galleries. We are a smaller fair. Antenna Space and Leo Xu are great younger galleries—they all know they’re welcome at FIAC. Maxime Hourdequin, my show manager, predicts representation of all those countries will increase [e.g. China, Korea, Japan]. This is why I am so happy to talk about Wang Wei and Seong Taek-Lee on Avenue Winston Churchill.

Richard Nonas (photo Mark Domage)

Richard Nonas (photo Mark Domage)

Wang Wei

Wang Wei “Natural History 4, Mountain Site” (image courtesy the artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong and Shanghai)

Kim Yong-Ik

Kim Yong-Ik “Two Pieces” (image courtesy the artist and KUKJE Gallery)

Ran Dian: What with the new Macron government in France, Brexit, immigration, rising nationalism and also Trump in the US, What impact has the political climate in Europe had on FIAC?

JF: This year sales are stronger and their are more foreign visitors. We haven’t had a major incident in France since last year, right after the Bataclan attack [the Paris nightclub], which was just after the 2015 fair. So maybe there is a bubble of optimism, also the fair is beautiful and the weather is beautiful. Macron is positive. In a world that Brexit-ed and elected Donald Trump, Macrons election was a great breath of fresh air. I can’t say how strongly felt was the effect of his visiting the Vernissage on Wednesday.

The rise of nationalism is something we have to be very careful about and the rise of reactionary thinking.

Note: In 2019 the Grand Palais will close again for renovations projected to cost $400 million and last at least 2 years.

Ryan Gander

Ryan Gander

Oscar Tuazon, Dessin préparatoire pour le projet Fiac Hors-les-murs, Place Vendôme, 2017. Courtesy de l’artiste et de la galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris© Oscar.

Oscar Tuazon, Dessin préparatoire pour le projet Fiac Hors-les-murs, Place Vendôme, 2017. Courtesy de l’artiste et de la galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris© Oscar.

Martin Honert

Martin Honert “Mutprobe Test” (image courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper)

Matt Mullican 5 WORLD, 13 BENCHES 2013 Location: Avenue Winston Churchill, between Grand Palais and Petit Palais, 75008 Paris (courtesy Galerie Mai 36)

Matt Mullican
5 WORLD, 13 BENCHES
2013
Location: Avenue Winston Churchill, between Grand Palais and Petit Palais, 75008 Paris
(courtesy Galerie Mai 36)