Buren - Pistoletto Palais d'Iena

DANIEL BUREN, « ALLEGRO, MA NON TROPPO, TRAVAIL IN SITU, 2023 » – MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO, « DIVISIONE – MOLTIPLICAZIONE, 1973 – 2023 ». Exhibition view, Salle de l’Hémicycle, Palais d’Iéna

It’s already been three weeks since Paris Contemporary Art Week came to a close, and what an incredible week it was! I felt like I’d been swept up in a whirlwind of art, but it was absolutely worth it. I had an amazing interview with Kamel Mennour, explored three exceptional art fairs each with their own distinct identity, and even got an exclusive preview of the Buren-Pistoletto exhibition at the Palais d’Iéna.

Kamel Mennour & Pauline Loeb

Pauline Loeb & Kamel Mennour at Mennour, Paris. Courtesy artfairmag.

I’ve always admired Kamel Mennour; he was one of the first people I interviewed—by writing and remotely—when I launched artfairmag over three years ago. So I was thrilled to meet him in his Marais gallery to discuss the Mennour Institute, which he launched a month ago with the help of Sylvie Patry, a transfer from the Musée d’Orsay and now the artistic director of Mennour Gallery.

I was especially moved by his dedication to fundraising for the Imagine Institute, which focuses on research for genetic diseases. Kamel shared with me that, through his charity galas, he has already raised 24 million euros! As some of you may know, I faced retinal cancer at the age of three, so this cause is very dear to me. You can discover our enlightening conversation here.

On Tuesday morning, I headed to Palais d’Iéna for the opening of a joint exhibition by Daniel Buren and Michelangelo Pistoletto, proposed by Galleria Continua and commissioned by Matthieu Poirier. I was absolutely captivated by what I saw. The building’s very mineral nave had been entirely transformed by the creations of both artists. Buren had adorned the large windows with colored vinyl pieces, like a stained glass, which projected a magical light game on the floor. Pistoletto had placed mirrors at the center, part of a piece he started in the ’70s. Wandering almost alone through this space was a magical experience, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to speak with both artists and hear them recount their illustrious careers.

Paris+ par Art Basel

Like many, I was immediately captivated upon arrival by Ai Weiwei’s work, a reinterpretation of the famous painting by David, ‘Napoleon Crossing the Great St. Bernard Pass.’ Across a surface of 304×266 cm, hundreds of bricks depicted Napoleon upside down, riding not his faithful thoroughbred but a zebra. I will also remember the work of Eva Jospin at the Galleria Continua’s stand. She is an artist we see often (especially through her partnerships with the champagne brand Ruinart) but whose dexterity continues to impress me.

Napoléon Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei at Paris+ par Art Basel

I never tire of the bronze figures by Antony Gormley, nor of the freshness of Fiona Rae’s canvases at Galerie Nathalie Obadia. Finally, a magnificent painting by Pierre Soulages was presented to me by the director of the Karsten Greve Gallery. Two full days were hardly enough to truly appreciate the quality and diversity of the fair, even if it was somewhat at the expense of visiting other fairs. I had the chance to highlight the stand of Applicat-Prazan, celebrating its 30th anniversary with a breathtaking solo show dedicated to French painter Jean Hélion (1904-1987). It took Franck Prazan 11 years to gather these seven masterpieces, each representative of a specific period of the artist.

Fahamou Pecou, Backslash Gallery

Fahamou Pecou, presented by Backslash Gallery, Paris.

One I wouldn’t have missed for the world is AKAA—short for Also Known As Africa. I discovered this fair dedicated to the art of Africa and its diaspora last year and loved it. The fair features about 40 international galleries (one-third African, one-third Parisian, and one-third European) at the heart of Carreau du Temple. Its director, Victoria Mann, and artistic director, Armelle Dakouo, give their all to AKAA, which returns the favor. The atmosphere this year was relaxed and engaging, the color was everywhere, and the quality of the works was high.

I had a real crush on three stands: Backslash Gallery, which presented five works by Fahamu Pecou, specially created for the occasion. Fahamu represents male bodies of great beauty, highlighted by an interesting draping work. By Lara Sedbon Gallery, based in Paris, exhibited several artists, notably Eugénie Modai’s ecology-questioning collages and Rebecca Brodskis’ stunning portraits of women from different ethnicities. Finally, the 193 Gallery’s pop walls hosted a solo show by April Bey, the artist behind the artwork that became the fair’s main promotional material. A fair not to be missed under any circumstances next year for those who might have missed it this time!

Paris Internationale

Another fair that I greatly appreciated was Paris Internationale. Like every year, Paris Internationale occupies a building under renovation. This time, it was located on rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, just steps from the Grands Boulevards, in a former telephone exchange soon to be transformed into offices. Within this 5,000 square meter building, spread over four levels of exhibition space and adapted for the fair by the Swiss architecture firm Christ & Gantenbein, 66 galleries from 25 countries were showcased (10% more than last year). With its positioning as ‘free, bold, multi-generational, inclusive, and collaborative,’ as its director Silvia Ammon insists, the fair aims to be ‘a selection reflecting the richness and diversity of a new generation of galleries and the artists they support.

I was able to enter the building an hour before it opened to the public, and so it was alone – a rarity for this particularly busy fair – that I could discover its treasures. The works were very eclectic, both figurative and abstract, across a wide range of mediums. I was captivated by a piece from Lia D Castro, presented at Galeria Jaqueline Martins (photo), and I also really enjoyed the wild work, bordering on surrealism, of the young artist Nolan Simon, on the stand of What Pipeline, a gallery based in Detroit. For me, Paris Internationale is a wonderful showcase of the creativity of young talents.

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