Here Are 10 of the Most Exciting Artists to Discover at FIAC and Its Satellite Fairs in Paris

From Cai Lei's trompe l'oeil canvases to Zoë Paul's intricate beaded curtains, here's what you won't want to miss this week in Paris.

Kwame Akoto, Don’t Rush in Life (2017). Image courtesy Artpool Project.

Just a fortnight after Frieze closed up shop in London, the second biggest fair week in Europe has already arrived. Foire internationale d’art contemporain—better known as FIAC—is in full swing in Paris this week and the art world has descended on the the great glass greenhouse that is the Grand Palais. But the city’s art scene is buzzing beyond the prestigious main fair as well. Galleries, museums, and foundations all around town are staging shows, while a number of other coinciding fairs have sprung up to take advantage of the influx of collectors to the city.

From the young galleries presenting work at Paris Internationale to captivating debut presentations of more established artists at FIAC, there is a wealth to see across the city. Overlooked and emerging Eastern artists abound at Asia Now, while self-taught masters get their moment in the spotlight at the Outsider Art Fair. Here are our picks of the top artists to discover this weekend at Paris’s art fairs

Cai Lei at Tang Contemporary Art, Asia Now

Cai Lei, In Ambiguous Sight 180911 (2018). Image courtesy Tang Contemporary Art.

If you’re in the mood for an optical illusion you might try heading over to Asia Now, the contemporary Asian art fair which is on through October 21. On the second floor of the Parisian mansion that hosts the fair, Tang Contemporary Art is presenting work by the young Chinese artist Cai Lei.

Born in 1983, Cai’s background is in architecture and interior design, which becomes clear once you look at his trippy convex canvas works. The artist plays with perspective to create an illusory conceptual space. In the case of In Ambiguous Sight 180911 (priced at $25,000)an interior hallway opens off into rooms on both sides. It’s hard to look away from the monochrome trompe l’oeil work, which seems to oscillate between the second and third dimensions. In creating this space, which simultaneously protrudes and recedes, the artist works with a new kind of medium that resides somewhere between canvas and sculpture.

Cai has shown in China and at international art fairs including the Armory Show in 2017 and Art Shenzhen in 2016. It’s the third year that the gallery, which is based between Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Beijing, has brought the artist’s work to Asia Now. Sales were slow on opening day of the fair, but gallery director Vivian Har told us buyers at this event tend to look first and then return before the close of the fair to bargain.

Thilo Heinzmann, neugerriemschneider, FIAC

Thilo Heinzmann, O.T. (2018). © Thilo Heinzmann. Photo by Roman März. Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.

Thilo Heinzmann is not exactly a breakout artist, but the Berlin gallery neugerriemschneider’s expansive solo presentation of works by the German painter marks a first for the artist at a major European fair. The artist, who used to be an assistant to Martin Kippenberger in the 1990s and a student under Thomas Bayrle, will have his first solo exhibition at the gallery in the spring likely to line up with Berlin Gallery Weekend.

At the fair, the gallery, known for its early representation of Olafur Eliasson, Pae White, Isa Genzken, and Ai Weiwei, presents new paintings that use almost no paint at all and are activated by light passing through them. The Berlin-based artist’s punctuated colored glass on a white picture plane are encased in clear acrylic, and cast shadows as light beams come through the French palace’s glass-domed roof.

Jessie Darling at Galerie Sultana, Paris Internationale

Charms and Prophylactics (2018). Courtesy of Galerie Sultana.

The London-based artist, who currently has a solo exhibition at Tate Britain, is known for creating emaciated sculptures, which usually consist of elongated bodily frameworks that support precarious assemblages. That transformed rather recently when Darling graced the cover of Artforum earlier this year, presenting a new “still life” series of disarming materials presented in careful compositions: a sage bundle, a clear band-aid, some thread, and a couple of crosses.

Galerie Sultana’s sunlit booth on the top floor of Paris Internationale, which is held in a classical hotel particulier this year, is replete with an intimate balcony and park view, creaking hardwood floors, and decadent mouldings. The setting teases out the domestic nature of Darling’s new series, which the artist made while housebound with a disabled right arm and a young baby. A frank encounter with motherhood and pain are the prevalent themes in the eight photographs on view in Sultana’s booth. In Little I, photographs of Darling’s own hand appears holding a clay figure that looks like a fetus. In Demonstration, six dildos are taped to hold up a protest sign, saying “it is necessary to tell this story in the following way.”

Kwame Akoto at Artpool Project, Outsider Art Fair

Kwame Akoto, King of Music (2017). Image courtesy of Artpool Project.

At the art fair dedicated to self-taught and other “outsider” artists, open through October 21, Artpool Project is presenting work by the Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto, who goes by the alias “Almighty God.” Born in 1950, Akoto apprenticed from a young age as a sign painter. He went on to open his own painting workshop, Anthony Art Works, but he changed the name to Almighty God Works after he converted to Christianity and became an evangelist, assuming the new name for himself too.

Akoto is prolific in his production, creating works that deal with Ghanaian culture, Christian themes, celebrity, death, and mourning. Believing his talent to be a gift from God, he often inscribes biblical texts onto his canvases and frames. Akoto was included in Susan Vogel’s “Africa Explores” exhibition co-organized by the New Museum at the Center of African Art in New York in 1991. He still works as a sign maker in his local community. The works presented at the fair this year were selected by the French artist Hervé Di Rosa.

Liz Craft at Truth and Consequences, FIAC

Liz Craft, Subway Creature (Pink) (2018). Courtesy of Truth and Consequences.

The Geneva-based gallery Truth and Consequences has dedicated its booth to artist Liz Craft, who is showing a range of sculptures and wall works. As always, Craft’s work is never far from being both humorous and ardently feminist. At FIAC, she takes “feminine” or crafty art forms, like ceramics, jewelry, and fashion and adds a girlish fascination with unicorns. “What is she thinking?” asks a tiled speech bubble at the booth—it’s not clear whether that question is curious or dismissive.

Though the artist is well-known in her home city of Los Angeles, where her work has been acquired by both the Hammer and LACMA, her inception into the European market is more recent. In Paris her work appears in two booths, at Truth and Consequences in the Lafayette Sector for younger galleries, as well as in the main galleries sector, where she figures in a group presentation with Neue Alte Brucke from Frankfurt am Main.

Shiori Eda at A2Z Art Gallery, Asia Now

Shiori Eda, Tsunami (2014). Image courtesy of the artist and A2Z Art Gallery.

Born in Tokyo in 1983 and graduating from the city’s National University of Fine Arts in 2010, Shiori Eda was thrust into prominence in Japan after gaining the attention of the acclaimed painter Kyosuke Tchinai. Her dark, enormous, striking paintings confront the viewer with a surreal subconscious universe. One large-scale work, Tsunami, echoes Hokusai’s famous Great Wave as well as the devastating tsunami of 2011 in Japan. In it, tiny figures of naked women dance on a dive platform before plunging into a monstrous abyss, with only one figure appearing to resurface. The work, which had already sold for €30,000 ($34,500) on opening day, presents an allegory for the experience of women in different stages of their life, and comments on the culture of misogyny in Japan.

Zoë Paul at The Breeder, FIAC

Zoe Paul at The Breeder.

For The Breeder’s debut appearance at FIAC, the Athens-based gallery opted to bring an artist that many in the European art world discovered during her 2016 performance at documenta. If you were there, it’s likely that at some point you sat and rolled little clay beads as part of it. For Paul’s elegant solo presentation at FIAC, the artist has made large-scale, labor-intensive beaded curtains, which display incredible scenes of nude figures in motion. The artist and a team of studio assistants string the hundreds, if not thousands, of little beads. “Rolling a bead is like solving a small problem” the artist said at the fair.

In other works, Paul, who was raised between Oxford and Kythira, Greece, weaves colorful yarn into discarded metal grates from the backs of refrigerators. “When the invention of the fridge came to warmer climates it shifted social structures, as the preservation of food was previously difficult,” said a representative of the gallery. “Prior to the intervention of this domestic appliance a greater social occasion had been made over the act of passing food.”

Eddie Owens Martin at Atlanta Contemporary, Paris Internationale

Eddie Owens Martin. Courtesy of Atlanta Contemporary.

The Georgia-based nonprofit presents “History of the Soul” at Paris Internationale, and it’s one of the few displays of historic works at the otherwise very contemporary fair. Curated by Daniel Fuller, the six-person showing includes the late artist Eddie Owens Martin. Culled form the archives of Columbus State University, Martin’s captivating works on paper capture the spirit and mind of this outsider artist, who was born in 1908 in the rural Georgia before he escaped to the north via an underground railroad.

The New York Times once referred to Martin as “the philosopher of the far-out” and indeed he lived and thrived on the fringes. He documented the people he met living as a vagrant, fortuneteller, and male prostitute with pencil or watercolor on paper, presented like a cabinet of curiosities alongside the intricate jewelry he also made. He also founded his own religion (he was the only member), and changed his name to St. EOM. Later in life, Martin went on to create the epic site of Pasaquan, a seven-acre artistic monument with more than 900 feet of painted fence, totems, decorative walkways, and sculptures, which was later restored and turned into a foundation.

Paris Internationale’s presentation of this curious visionary aligns with a dedicated exhibition in New York, “Eddie Owens Martin, Pasaquoyan in the City: Fashioning a Southern Saint” at Institute 193, on view through November 3.

Rain Wu on view at Asia Now

One of the special projects at Asia Now is a conceptual sculptural work, The Tea Set, by Taiwanese artist Rain Wu, who is based between Maastricht, Brussels, and London and is currently in residency at the ThalieLab Art Center in Brussels.

Rain Wu handmade the rough stoneware clay set while in residence at the Design Museum of London in 2016. It comprises a series of narrative objects that forge a dialogue between Asian and British cultures by linking the British “cuppa” to the rituals of a traditional Asian tea ceremony. Each element of the set serves a purpose in a narrative, from the boat motif that references how merchants in the Renaissance brought tea over from China to the events of the Boston Tea Party to the hourglass sugar bowl that tracks the one minute that it takes for the tea to infuse.

At the fair yesterday, Rain activated the work in a tea ceremony performance, during which she recited stories about the cultural and social history of tea in the UK. Previously, she has exhibited at the Sharjah Biennial, the Taipei Biennial, and the London Design Biennale. This work has previously been shown at Tate Modern and the Woodruff Art Center in Atlanta, but Asia Now marks the first time the artist is selling her work, with each of six editions of the tea set priced at €3,500.

Julien Creuzet at DOCUMENT, FIAC

Julien Creuzet, Compass, heart, cloudy, fern Moist, heat, beat, wind, kisses (2018). Photo courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT.

In FIAC’s section for emerging galleries, the Lafayette sector, the Chicago-based gallery (and FIAC newbie) DOCUMENT is showing the young French-Caribbean artist and poet Julien Creuzet. Based in Paris, Creuzet’s work addresses his own diasporic experience. Speaking at the booth, Creuzet said that his sculptural engravings, such as of an entwined couple etched into orange plywood, are approximately the size of a bed and a pillow, and that the work explores the “toxicity between two people.”

Headphones are provided to drown out the bustle of the fair and to hear an accompanying sound work, a composition of music and spoken word, which is not for sale. On the first day, the large wall piece Compass, heart, cloudy, fern Moist, heat, beat, wind, kisses (2018) had already sold for €14,000. Its companion, teh pillow-sized Twirl, tongue, whirl, ego (2018) had not yet sold at a price of €6,000.

Also showing at the booth were Creuzet’s poetically titled sculptures of fabric, cable, plastic, metal, and water. Emotion, hurricane, you are so different emotion that attracts me, I saw your soul in full storm (2018) is priced at €8,000 and Weaving, we caressed ourselves too much twisted in our telepathies, entagled (2018) at €10,000. Creuzet’s profile is growing quickly, with a recent solo presentation at the Fondation Ricard. His work was also included in the 12th Gwanju biennial and the sixth Rennes biennale earlier this year, and he has a solo show coming up at the Palais de Tokyo in February 2019.


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