With this series, Hugo Zorn invites art world insiders to review and reminisce on their experiences at and feelings towards art fairs. Aiming to give some impressions from afar, each review, in its individual form, offers a subjective insight into the head of an experienced visitor:
I was sitting in the Pompidou last night with a couple of artist friends and was blown away by the Francis Bacon show. Our conversation and the exposition are a nice counterpoint to review the fairs we had endured throughout the day.
I know I just said “endured,” and although this is a “critical review,” it’s not all negative. In fact, let’s start on a positive note. One of the first things discussed last night was artists’ admiration for gallerists. We admire that they can spend up to 5 days under bright fluorescent lights; selling work; “revealing arts’ mysteries;” flirting with, and sometimes crossing the line over to the didactic; all the while, enjoying fairs and staying enthusiastic.
Fairs make me, and most of the artists I know, miserable. If artists didn’t have gallerists who loved selling as much as we love our neurosis, we would be screwed. So let me say: “Thank you.”
The Pompidou’s external-electrical-plumbing quirks and colours are subdued in the exhibition space.
The large plain white walls are arranged into brackets. These spaces contain triptychs and some smaller accompanying works. They are free of distraction and let the work shine, or rather, cast its dark psychological shadows.
I don’t love the way Bacon paints bodies, hands, and faces but the skill is certainly masterly. His palate and the mise-en-scène are more my cup of tea. It’s exciting to see work you don’t love but totally respect. It confirms that good and bad is not all about taste.
The Pompidou offers you a sublime moment, or several, with a master. Should you want to dive deeper into the texts that influenced the artist, there are alcoves that offer more information. The best part about this art-historical support is that one is not made to feel that they must engage with these rooms in order to “get” the show. In about 20 minutes I was able to see and digest the work, albeit not completely. I will be thinking about the show for weeks to come, maybe longer. Certainly, I can imagine going back to see the show again before I leave the city of light. Bravo for Bacon at the Pompidou.
Paris International had some very good works. Zoe Barca’s “self-portrait as Michael Pitt” shown by Bodega was weird and good. The geometry imposed over the body is swastika-like and scary, but only slightly, it leaves you looking twice. If you look at anything twice at a fair, that’s a good sign.
On the reverse of the wall that Barca is shown on is Issy Wood’s diptych, “Excuse me / your life is waiting” presented by Carlos Ishikawa. The painting is ambitious, historically connected, but also contemporary. I enjoyed the echos of Marlyn Minter, Chuck Close, and Goya.
One of my favourite weirdos / lovely people / talented artists is Soshiro Matsubara who is shown by Croy Nielsen. He claims that he found erotic drawings made by an anonymous artist in an antique shop. These drawings are displayed on the wall and are phenomenal in their own right. When he does admit to moving his hand, he brings these perversions to life in ceramic works that are just kinky enough to avoid being kitschy.
WSCHOD Warsaw, showed a heater sculpture by Mateusz Choróbski that was actually weird and made a lot of sense in the shabby digs that housed the fair. Like many, I wasn’t sure at first if it was an object d’art or actually being used to heat up the room on a damp Paris day.
All in all, there was too much painting that did not bring enough to the table at Paris Internationale.
This let a few sculptures really shine. Then Hussein Clark’s giant Resin Spider shown by Crèvecœur comes to mind. It’s pungent resin smell dominated the room, a visual piece that is dominated by its olfactory aspect, is enough to get me on board.
Lastly, a fresh breeze blew in from Jakarta with the installation by artist collective TROMARAMA at ROH projects. Banners and melodicas created a tight and engaging installation.
Finally, I have to talk about the bathrooms.
1980’s mauve French toilets, that look like Japanese toilets but have none of the awesome features, were my favourite multiple. If I was a collector I would have tried to get my hands on one of those. Art was installed in each bathroom and was made fresh by being on view in the site of human squalor making.
In contrast, the rugs throughout the building were a bit dingy and drove me nuts. I need a nice floor when I’m looking at art, these rugs offered no irony, just laziness. Also, please drop the wall tags. It makes work look cheap (spiritually and monetarily). If you need a wall tag at least just have the artist’s and galleries name, not more.
Will continue with FIAC tomorrow...
October 16 until October 20, 2019