L’art est mort, vive l’art, vive le Fiac!

The Fiac (foire internationale de l’art contemporain) opened on Thursday for four packed days of visual exploration, ego inflation, and explosive excess under the enormous vaulted glass roof of the Grand Palais. From its start in 2003 this annual Paris art fair has gained steadily in size, quality, and respect, and spawned concurrent events all around the capital. Civilian art lovers better have solid walking shoes. Wealthy collectors, flaboyantly dressed in enough money to buy a Damien Hirst, roll in somber black limos from gallery to party to gallery, comically blocking each other in the narrow streets. Hah!

For those of you unable this year to stroll the ephemeral corridors created in the Grand Palais by white-walled booths of galleries from around the world, here is the Fiac at a gallop and a glance.

The Venue.



The Avant-Garde. There were some curiously recurrent themes (what is it with female Siamese twins?) lots of geometry (Legos, anyone?) and more porn (I know it when I see it; thank you, Supreme Court Judge Stewart) than homage to the body. The porn, which, so sorry, I didn’t bother to photograph, reminded me there are only so many things you can do with a penis or vagina or anus. Oh, the dreariness of repetition…

Fortunately, satire and humor, or attempted humor, are also a Fiac tradition:


The Modern Classics. The more elegantly decorated back row of the exhibition is reserved to galleries displaying canonized artists. To stumble on these works, up close and real, alone justifies the price of admission, especially since, once purchased for hundreds of millions, they are likely to end up in guarded off-shore containers, evading taxes and awaiting the next price boom. Here a small sample:

Among today’s artists, PdV’s most admired and works desired:


Confession of a Philistine: much of the newest of the new leaves me cold, and/or wondering what the hell I’m missing.

After such a turbo-education in current trends PdV is itching to see ‘The Square’. This year’s winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or is said to open fire on the crass and credulous emperor’s-clothes realm of contemporary art, both its makers and its buyers. See you at the movies.








  1. Reblogged this on msamba.

    1. Thanks for enjoying!

  2. Good to hear from you. (I hope all is well). I do love art, but any time I go to the MOMA or Pompidou I can’t help but think that all those “modern” artists are dead. And that they have taken Art beyond its limits. To the “Néant”. Picasso broke everything. And what is the point of paint a new Modigliani, or a new Pollock? The final answer lies in the three empty canvasses (at MOMA I think?) I think that is why “new art” is not really appealing…
    Bon week-end. Or rather: Bon Dimanche

    1. Good to hear from you as well, and ditto. I’m now steeling myself to visit the ‘Picasso 1932, annee erotique’ exhibit at the eponymous museum around the corner. Oh heck, there’s plenty of time to delay. Wait, is this height of escapism? 1932!

      1. “Steeling”? 🙂 I’ve heard of the expo. Can’t for the life of me, think why 1932 would be more erotic than 1931 or 1933? (When was Munich? 1938? More of an anticlimax I guess) But museums (shouldn’t we say musea?) fall prey to Marketing as well. 😉
        Enjoy your visit. I went back to Picasso 2 years ago, it had barely reopened after 5 years and some rooms were already in rehab…
        And enjoy Paris in October. La Toussaint is very close et la bise sera venue…

  3. Wish i didn’t agree with you but alas I do. signed, one who wants (wanted) desperately to believ that in this hell we are living through, art will be the drop of healthy blood to save us from ourselves. NOT. Not now, not in this expo, at any rate. Just arrived home to Paris from `nyc where the Louise `Bourgeois etchings did a bit more to lift my spirits. a naked woman in an embrace, she in red high heels has a certain je ne sais quoi. Or her…alone as a tree mad only and all of thin red line roots, again her in red high heels. Imagination is worth more than ever. Especially from brave and memoir obsessed old women. As for the blah or porno draped young turks on display that you describe… meh. I’ll stick with the palette of dying leaves along the Seine this week.

  4. Jim Thomson · · Reply

    Thanks for your latest pointdevue, Kai. I share your sentiments on what passes for contemporary art. When Duchamps decided to display a wine rack and a bicycle wheel as examples of “readymade” art and the critics accepted it — I saw a shovel “by” him at the Yale Art Museum — art became idea. The artist didn’t actually have to create anything; he simply had to identify an object that the keepers of the keys decided was art and he was now part of the club. This notion robbed the work of art of any craftsmanship and made it purely an intellectual exercise — witty, perhaps, but devoid of any feeling. A few years ago I was at an exhibition of “installation art” at the Brandeis Museum and I scoffed at a pile of rags lying on the floor. I said to the friend that I was with that I thought the piece was utterly stupid. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t moving and it took absolutely no talent to make. It looked like something that might have been left there by the janitor. My friend, who likes this kind of stuff, said, “Well, it worked, didn’t it? It got you talking about it.” I replied, “Aron, I could shit on the floor and people would talk about it, but that doesn’t make it art.” Nowadays, what we end up with is pieces that are placed into these shows based on the arbitrary whim of critics and curators. Okay, we’ll take the pile of rags, but dismiss the Chevy Impala covered in bottle caps as derivative. The appeal of the art pieces that have been blessed is impossible to discern except to the rarefied few who somehow “get” (or pretend to get) what the majority of us can’t. I think that is why we keep seeing these exhibitions of the Old Masters and the Impressionists, which draw huge crowds. No one looks at a Rembrandt or a Manet and thinks, I could done that. What we say is, Oh, my God, I can’t believe he was able to do that.

    1. Thanks, Jim, for your take and especially for the illustrative anecdote from Brandeis!

  5. Willard Boepple · · Reply

    before shutting the door on all recent art I would remember that most art — like most lamps or furniture or pop songs or neckties — stinks. when has commercial success been a reliable arbiter of real and enduring quality? the big shiny galleries at FIAC & their like don’t always offer the best odds of finding something that sings, that you fall in love with.

    1. Completely agree. The door is hardly shut–I showed some pieces that did speak to me, aesthetically and otherwise. There were more. I do keep looking, eyes wide open…

  6. Certainly there’s a lot of rubbish out there. I see it trolling the lesser galleries in New York. But it’s also true that the “great modernists” were selected over time from vast fields of chaff, and that there are no doubt great artists we have simply not yet recognized. And what’s popular at the moment is no reliable guide to long term worth, in fact it’s often a contraindication. JP Marquand outsold Fitzgerald, and Edward (“It was a dark and stormy night”) Bulwer-Lytton outsold most of the demonstrably better novelists of the 1830s and 40s…

    Compared to the leading menace to human survival– Trump– the present flat spot in art seems a secondary event. Perhaps everyone is trying too hard to produce our time’s “Guernica,” which is desperately needed.

    1. Yes, the winnowing. I was acutelt feeling that as I strolled the halls, especially given recent meditations on the life, rich times, and disdained work, almost to end, of Paul Cezanne.

  7. James Klosty · · Reply

    HI KAI
    This was good to see. Thank you. But to the Jim who precedes me in these responses I would ask him to consider that Duchamp was not doing what he did because he could not do anything else. He was a fine painter… when he wanted to be. Which gives his “gesture” of the readymades a bit more oomph, don’t you think? He was not an empty vessel pretending to be full.
    By the war, I don”t remember if I ever sent you my 2014 book, JOHN CAGE WAS. Did I?

    1. Jim Thomson · · Reply

      James, I hear what you’re saying about Duchamp, but that makes the consideration of the artwork dependent on the artist’s biography. What we are admiring isn’t the bicycle wheel so much as Duchamp’s mind; i.e. the idea behind the wheel. Do you think we should put a sign next to the wheel in the museum telling viewers Duchamp was “a fine painter when he wanted to be”? Does his talent as a painter enhance the wheel somehow and give it more oomph? Let’s say a curator has two objects to choose from for his next exhibit — a push mower and a monkey wrench. Is one inherently more attractive or stimulating than the other? Probably not. What counts in the end is the fact that the push mower was submitted by a famous artist and the wrench was offered up by museum’s plumber. What is important isn’t the piece so much as who made it. This is true about so much of contemporary art. I’m willing to bet that if you had shown Damien Hirst’s sheep to a bunch of critics and didn’t say who the artist was, they wouldn’t have known whether to praise the piece to high heaven or roll on the floor laughing. I can see them eyeing one another warily, saying, “Tell us who did it and we’ll tell you if it’s any good.”

      1. This is the feisty debate that’s needed. Without five-syllable words. (Or certain one-syllables, for that matter.)

    2. Good to hear from you, Jim Klosty! Thanks for this comment. In Paris, I meet a chap, collector, who was taught to play chess as kid in NY by Duchamp. What a memory to have.
      No, I’ve not received a copy but sent the notice on to Constantine, the true connoisseur as you know.

  8. margot livesey · · Reply

    Illuminating as always. I wonder if perhaps art fairs tend, bienales etc tend not to exhibit the best work? There are many wonderful living artitsts, working away.

    1. There are a number of events parallel to FIAC along the lines of what Edingborough used to be…but the quality of work there is on average poor, one sifts for nuggets like a ragged old panhandler, still nourishing hope.

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