2014.10.31 Fri, by Translated by: 彭祖强
Eastern Approaches at the FIAC

Brushing off its tarnished image of old world classicism, FIAC seems to be undergoing a phase of rejuvenation. The 2014 edition of the Paris art fair, under the glass dome of the Grand Palais, is anything but boring and drab. Everywhere, from the lower floor of the mega galleries (Gagosian, Yvon Lambert, Thaddeus Ropac, Emmanuel Perrotin, Hauser and Wirth, David Zwirner) to the upper floors of up-and-coming galleries, was a splash of color, abstraction and installation that could be summed up in the phrase: “Art that makes the everyday seem extraordinary.”

Olafur Eliasson’s magnificent glass and steel chandelier, through which the light refracted and was projected on the walls as a maze of yellow and black quadrangles, was one of the highlights of the fair; its playfulness was a sort of esprit du lieu for FIAC this year, in the black starry stand of Berlin powerhouse gallery neugerriemschneider.

Olafur Eliasson, “The New Planet,” stainless steel, aluminum, colored glass, paint (black, yellow), halogen, 94.9 x 95.1 x 201 cm, 2013 (courtesy: Olafur Eliasson and neugerriemschneider; photo credit: Jens Ziehe)

Asian content is on the rise at FIAC, with artists such as Liu Wei, Zeng Fanzhi, Anish Kappoor, Nobuyoshi Araki, Yang Fudong, Rikrit Tiravanija and Lee Bul popping up in international stands and confirming a new phase of integration and validation for Asian works in the contemporary art market. Even the acquisition committee for contemporary art in France seems to catching on; Yao Qingmei was one of the young Chinese artists acquired this year by the museum fund.

More Asian galleries or galleries with branches in Asia are participating, too: Vitamin Creative Space, ShanghART, Galleria Continua, Simon Lee, Tomio Koyama, Taka Ishii, Nature Morte. (They were, however, still swamped by the sheer number of American galleries present this year). ShanghART, in particular, is now showcasing a more poetic, refined vision of China, and not necessarily the politically involved art of the past: on show were a woven photographic flower by Birdhead and a Surrealist imitation-Qing porcelain by MadeIN.

FIAC exhibition view

Thomas Hirschhorn, “Abschlag”, materials and dimensions variable, 2014. Represented by Gladstone Gallery.

Khvay Samnang, “Human Nature”, digital C-print, 120 x 180 cm, 2010-2011. Courtesy of the Artist and SA SA BASSAC. Represented by Tomio Koyama.

Zhang Enli, “The Parallel lines”, oil on canvas, 180 x 200 cm, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and ShanghART. Represented by ShanghART.

In the Hors les Murs section of the fair, installed in the Jardin des Plantes, there is also an Asian presence. This marks a change from earlier years, with Yuan Gong’s destroyed studio becoming a giant installation of metallic tubes, safety nest and other detritus, as well as a poetic performance by Charwei Tsai who inscribes, on one of the oldest trees in Paris, the Heart Sutra, a Buddhist classic about the ephemeral nature of things.

Another highlight this year was the one-day installation by Arndt Gallery (Berlin/Singapore) in the Rococo rooms of the Salon France-Amérique showcasing a lot of new Asian artists, bringing a sense of renewal to the art scene. Most remarkable in this one-day extravaganza were the fabulous volcanic ash action paintings of Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo (the ash in a petri dish makes its own forms which are then transferred upside down unto the canvass when the artist approves them, and are covered in a resin lacquer), and the extremely political works of the Filipino artist Rodel Tapaya, whose work “Repatriated Bodies” presents a flash of colors and bodies in reference to the disastrous situation of the OFW (Overseas Filipino workers) who have to leave home to earn money for their families and are portrayed accordingly as hands and heads or legs without bodies. The dilemma in Tapaya’s work reflects the chaotic quagmire of the world today; the artist was influenced by the rape of a Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia and the fate of his countrymen trapped during the Arab Spring in Libya. The Thai artist Mit Jai Inn’s free-standing oil canvas spirals in pale colors—simple and beautiful in their abstraction, reminded one of a certain Asian asceticism, and also of the American avant-garde: Sterling Ruby, Wyatt Kahn—the younger generation who, in experimenting with colors and paint on canvas, are pioneering a sort of neo-Rothko experiment in art.

One-Day Installation By Arndt Gallery (Berlin/Singapore) In The Rococo Rooms Of The Salon France-Amérique

Post-FIAC, the “Inside China” exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo will go on for three months with the young curator Joe-ey Tang managing quite a good show—bearing comparison with the larger “Inside” show in the greater museum. Li Gang’s giant handmade hemp canvasses covered in brown oil (resembling the effect of an oil slick) and the demure, almost classical cement busts of Yu Ji held to the wall by iron fixtures seem to posit new experimentation with medium, and beyond the figurative. Wu Hao’s “Watermarks Project,” the empty paint pots in one installation, reference the evaporation of paint in various Chinese cities, and imply a real new wave in China, unafraid of not toeing the party line and classical art education.

The pint-size show (co-produced by K11 Art Foundation) in the immense expanse of the Palais de Tokyo manages to summarize a certain new orientation for the Chinese avant-garde, flirting with installation, looking for new mediums and becoming more primitive (Zhao Yao’s skin and pelts imprinted with a Chinese crowd, for example, were reminiscent of Zhang Huan’s totems of furs and pelts).

Exhibition view, “Inside China: L’Intérieur du géant”, Palais de Tokyo (Oct 20, 2014–Jan 11, 2015)(Photo: Aurélien Mole)
《在中国》特展展览现场,巴黎东京宫(2014.10.20-2015.1.11),摄影:Aurélien Mole

Exhibition view, “Inside China: L’Intérieur du géant”, Palais de Tokyo (Oct 20, 2014–Jan 11, 2015)(Photo: Aurélien Mole)
《在中国》特展展览现场,巴黎东京宫(2014.10.20-2015.1.11),摄影:Aurélien Mole

Cheng Ran, “Joss” (Palais de Tokyo; courtesy of Leo Xu Projects)
程然,“Joss” (东京宫;鸣谢:Leo Xu Projects)

In the night time, Cheng Ran’s video “Joss”, a video collaboration with the French fashion designer and artist Cyril Duval which was projected on the façade of the Palais de Tokyo, brings us back to tradition. The video talks about ghosts and the afterlife, with the burning of more and more luxurious items of consumer culture: handbags and other luxury items for use in the afterlife — a spooky reminder of the brevity and the irony of life, shot symbolically on the artist’s birthday.

Another video artist living in France, Yao Qingmei, also presented farcical videos in the show. In one of them, “Thanks to the government”—the famous Communist phrase used by the Chinese government—is transposed in the context of working class France with factory and construction workers all repeating the catch phrase to comical effect.

“Inside China” seems to hold its own, nevertheless, competing with the impressive names of Jean-Michel Alberola, Bruce Naumann and Christian Boltanski within the bigger “Inside” show (Oct 10, 2014–Jan 11, 2015) with the theme “Inside one’s own head, inside the flesh, inside the soul, inside the beast”. The collective Numen/For Use’s giant plastic wrap spider web, Tape Tokyo, at the entrance (which one can climb into, towering above the crowd) is in itself of great beauty and in an extraordinary medium both fragile and strong. Other highlights of the bigger show include powerful videos including that of Jesper Just, showing an older woman who seems tormented by the Japanese demon literature in her library, enough to become a demon herself when a young man gazes at her longingly from the opposite window of her building.

Also at the Grand Palais this month, the 18th-century master engraver and painter Hokusai will be on show through to January 2015, with some of his most iconic and celebrated works gathered together including “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”. Johnson Chang and Enricco Navarra gallery were also celebrating the thirty years of Hanart (Hong Kong) this month with works by Qiu Zhijie, Zeng Fanzhi, Mao Xuhui and a rather comical Liu Dahong in which Xi Jinping, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Jiang Zemin were all seen gravitating in orbit above the earth, jostling for prominence.

Johnson Chang, looking dapper as usual in his Chinese frock coat, his salt and pepper hair lopped off to offset his scholarly-gentry round black glasses, was present at the show, still backing the Chinese avant-garde and vindicated after so many years. Meanwhile, one collector said to another: “That’s three million right there!”—glancing at one of the lesser, almost unfinished canvasses of the tycoon and mega-collector François Pinault’s new Chinese sweetheart, Zeng Fanzhi.

Wu Tsang, “His Master’s Voice”, metal, LED lights, nylon, rope, beads, Swarovski crystals, cables, power strips, 200 x 55 x 40 cm, 2014. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin. Photo: Nick Ash. Represented by Isabella Bortolozzi.

Zhang Ding, “Black Guardians”, steel, 100 x 70 x 183 cm, 2013. Represented by Krinzinger.

Esther Kläs, “I/2”, aquaresin, pigment, 205 x 55 x 35 cm, 2012. Courtesy SpazioA, Pistoia.Represented by SpazioA.

FIAC exhibition view

FIAC exhibition view