2015.10.30 Fri, by Translated by: 邬晨云
ASIA NOW and FIAC 2015

A large number of conversations at FIAC last week centered around one thing—namely, its exhaustingly close proximity to Frieze London and Frieze Masters. But while many people were expressing their desire to see these spread a little further apart on the calendar, some have been benefiting.

A host of smaller fairs used the gap between Frieze and FIAC as an opportunity to engage the art-buying crowds, press and artists as they passed through cities. This year, new gallery-led fair AAAAHHH!!! Paris Internationale and FIAC’s own Officielle, opened their doors on Tuesday, the night before FIAC’s press and VIP opening on Wednesday 21st. This two day space on the calendar—Masters closed on Sunday 18th—was utilized by another fair which premiered in Paris this year, the intimate ASIA NOW.

Initiated by the Paris-based collector and founder of Happy Art Collectors, Claude Fain, and co-founded and directed by Alexandra Fain, ASIA NOW opened for the first time last week (Tue October 20 until Thu October 22). The fair was ideally placed in Espace Pierre Cardin, diagonally across the street from FIAC’s home in the Grand Palais. A mixture of Asian and European galleries—nineteen in total—showed works by Asian artists, mostly from Mainland China, with others hailing from Korea, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. With the gallery selection made by a curatorial team led by Ami Barak (an independent curator and critic based in Paris), the founders expressed hope in their press release to provide a platform for Asian art beyond market interests, aiming to fix “the residual image that we all have of Asian contemporary art, of which we basically often know more [about] the market value than its actual scene”.

ASIA NOW vernissage. Photo: Julio Piatti.

ASIA NOW vernissage. Photo: Julio Piatti.

Food truck of ASIA NOW, (Copyright—Jean Picon and ASIA NOW)

Food truck of ASIA NOW, (Copyright—Jean Picon and ASIA NOW)

ASIA NOW presented itself as a “boutique” fair, a description that sums up well the atmosphere present throughout the two rooms: a low-key vibe with a total of 9000 visitors passing through over the duration of the fair, a relaxed VIP lounge, a couple of street-food trucks outside and creatively fresh curation throughout. The booths appeared to have been designed with a common sense of purpose, appearing as balanced exhibition spaces rather than direct selling spots. There was a good selection of up-and-coming artists; but more notably, there was a fantastic range of regions represented, expanding on the better known art scenes of China and Japan. The fair also covered a diverse mix of mediums from installation—Li Wei’s “Still Nobody Cares” (proposed by A2Z Art gallery) was a popular hit on Instagram—to small-scale drawing.

Photography played a key role in many of the booths, with Chen Wei’s brilliant “Night Paris” (2015) gathering attention for Shanghai’s Leo Xu Projects. A sprawling inkjet print that plays with luminosity and the limits of the lens, this is a commanding work. Photography also made an impact at A Thousand Plateaus Art Space from Chengdu, the gallery dedicated to artists who offer “poetic or critical insights” into Chinese culture. Chen Qiulin’s “Peach Blossom” (2013) explores the swift urban redevelopment of her home country and also focuses on high-definition imagery, her work existing as a bridge between documentary and contemporary art photography, harsh-realism and fantasy. Many of the works were politically and socially motivated in this way.

New Galerie (Paris) exhibited works by the Chinese artist Wang Sishun, showing “Truth and Truth, 2014-9-23″ (2014). (Wang Sishun’s solo exhibition—his first in Paris—is also presented at their gallery space). His single channel video is the culmination of a six-week-long journey from Beijing to Paris, in which a flame that had previously been part of a larger fire was kept alive. The final works displayed were a video and the still-burning flame inside the glass casing of a gas lamp.

The Berlin and Singapore-based ARNDT presented some of the most unexpected work in the Parisian context, with embroideries and collage-like paintings from Rodel Tapaya and Eko Nugroho conveying a side to Southeast Asian art—the artists are from the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively—that perhaps is not so frequently seen, a contemporary meeting of photomontage, surrealism and raw street art.

Beyond the booths themselves there was also a Conversation Platform featuring curators and artists that ran during Tuesday’s opening, as well as focused discussions about different countries and regions. “Indonesia Now”, for example, discussed the art scene throughout the archipelago nation—often overlooked in the West—placing the artist Tintin Wulia in conversation with collectors, writers and curators who have a specific interest in the area.

Four on-site (LEAP Pavilion, Mimi Ullens Foundation, Blast! and Perfect Design Projects) and one off-site projects  also ran alongside the fair, including the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme Hotel project focusing on the Korean art scene. Ambitious in scale, the on-site works—of which Li Wei’s aforementioned “Still Nobody Cares” was one—bolstered the sense of the fair as something of a showcase rather than a purely sales-led event.

Overall, ASIA NOW was an unexpectedly relaxed affair that offered a welcome insight into Asia’s next generation of artists, away from the exceptionally well-known names. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming years, and whether the fair’s scale will increase or retain this engaging level of intimacy.

Magda Danysz Gallery booth. Copyright: Jean Picon and ASIA NOW.

Magda Danysz Gallery booth. Copyright: Jean Picon and ASIA NOW.

Chen Qiullin work

Chen Qiullin work “Peach Blossom No.1″, 2013, Copyright – Clara Segui and ASIA NOW

Wang Sishun,

Wang Sishun, “Truth 7 26″, 2014

Edouard Malingue Gallery booth, Copyright - Clara Segui and ASIA NOW

Edouard Malingue Gallery booth, Copyright – Clara Segui and ASIA NOW


Across the road, FIAC—running until Sunday—housed a much smaller selection of Asian-based galleries, including Long March Space, ShanghART and Vitamin Creative Space from China and Kukje Gallery / Tina Kim Gallery from South Korea. However, many of the European galleries have a sizeable showing of Asian art, with works coming from long-established figures such as Ai Weiwei (represented by five FIAC galleries, showing with Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Meyer Riegger) and newer names such as Chen Tianzhuo.

Long March Space offered one of the widest selections of artists, providing a gutsy insight into the utterly contemporary works of Chinese artists. The highlight is surely the aforementioned young artist Chen Tianzhuo, currently on the rise, having finished a well-received exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris last month. Chen creates video and photographic works that plug into the worlds of London rave, LGBT hip hop and Japanese butoh that are as irresistible as they are debauched. The candy-colored video piece “19:53(2015) is one not to be missed. The gallery also displayed the works of Xu Zhen, Yu Hong, Wang Jianwei (as ever), Yang Shaobin, Zhan Wang and Liu Wei.

The versatile mixed-media artist Zheng Guogu enjoyed a solo exhibit at Vitamin Creative Space’s booth, with his 2013 work “Mantra Wheel (Liberation, No.3) taking a prime spot. The artist’s recent works take cues from modern media, with a nod to traditional Buddhist and Daoist techniques and forms.

ShanghART showed a group exhibit featuring an eclectic but strong range of Asian artists, including the photographer and cinematographer Yang Fudong—known for his luscious monochrome aesthetics—and Jiang Pengyi, with a strong focus on the limits and nature of light within photography.

Most interesting, perhaps, is seeing how the works of these artists have been displayed across both fairs. The relatively small scale of ASIA NOW allows for a contemplative response, while FIAC calls for show-stoppers. In essence, it feels as if one rounds off the other, providing spaces to explore multiple facets of contemporary Asian art from the wonderfully outlandish to the quietly introspective.

A view of FIAC 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Jean-Louis Boissier / jlggb.net

A view of FIAC 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Jean-Louis Boissier / jlggb.net

Tianzhuo Chen,

Tianzhuo Chen, “Asian Boy”, inkjet print
2 panels, 90 x 60 cm each, 2014. Courtesy Long March Space.

Zheng Guogu,

Zheng Guogu, “Mantra Wheel (Liberation, No.3)”, oil on canvas, 200 × 200 cm, 2013. Courtesy the Artist and Vitamin Creative Space