See the 15 Best Booths at FIAC 2014
The French fair looks better than ever—busier too.
The process of entering FIAC during its preview hours tells you a great deal about director Jennifer Flay’s vision for the French art fair. Flay doesn’t just dump the VIP guests (many of whom had been standing in a line that reached around the block before the fair’s 10am start) directly into the den of blue chip galleries in the nave of the Grand Palais. Rather, the big boys and girls downstairs are made to wait patiently while FIAC’s most-prized guests circulate through three halls of young and emerging galleries upstairs, picking up a few palatably-priced works before turning to the big ticket items below.
It was packed this morning. And, indeed, collectors weren’t rushing through the fair’s younger participants. It took a solid two hours for a critical mass to build up downstairs in the sunlight-drenched main hall. Upstairs, one dealer quipped that he “forgot just how aggressive the French can be,” as would-be buyers tapped him on the shoulder to start a new deal before business with another client could be completed.
By noon, the nave’s blue chip and established dealers were in full swing. Many of those dealers’ booths appeared even thicker with collectors than their Art Basel counterparts did this past summer. Though, the closed-off architecture of FIAC’s stands may have lent a hand in creating that perception.
Non-European galleries occupy a significantly larger percentage of stands this year. Only 65 percent of the 191 participants are from Europe in 2014, down from 73 percent last year; at 45 participants, the US comes a close second to France’s 48. Thirty-eight galleries are new for 2014, either never having participated before or returning from previous editions. In total, there are only seven more galleries participating this time around than there were in 2013.
FIAC’s collector base remains quite French, however. Aside from a handful of the usual suspects on the art fair circuit like Susan and Michael Hort and a ubiquitous herd of art advisers, relatively few Americans were spotted roaming the halls compared with Frieze the week before.
But, then again, that doesn’t much matter at FIAC where the local collector base has reportedly come to truly embrace the fair, especially during Flay’s now decade-long tenure. She’s been noted for positioning FIAC to take full advantage of its hometown and for having been able to break French cultural taboos of the spectacle-driven spending that art fairs presented. And that’s not even counting Bernard Arnault and Françios Pinault (or as one dealer jokingly called them “the French kings”), who were reportedly given special, early access on Wednesday.
What exactly hungry collectors were buying remains to be seen. As to which booths they should be patronizing, the 15 galleries above (presented in no particular order) are a good start.
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