No Suede Loafers in Sight
Ingrid Luquet-Gad on the fair's fourth and "best" edition, and what else was going on in Paris last week.
“The last ten minutes are the most important, that’s when all the sales happen.” It is six-something on Sunday evening, and the gallerists at Paris Internationale are wrapping up. The words come from under a big screen, currently being unplugged, that takes up all of the Dublin gallery Mother’s Tankstation’s space. For the last five days, the gallery had been showing a solo-presentation by Hong Kong–based artist Lee Kit. The words on the screen read: “Next time when you go home, she will tell you to let you go.” I am briefly reminded of the graffiti next to the entrance of Berlin’s Berghain, which for almost a decade has spelled out to its huddled masses: “Don’t forget to go home.” But then I’m brought back to the nineteenth century Haussmannian mansion hosting the fair this year with its ornate mouldings, a cast iron staircase, and café-au-lait-coloured Pierre Cardin toilets.
It is what French people would call a bonbonnière, a small box for sweets. With forty-two commercial galleries and eight non-profit spaces, this is Paris Internationale’s most intimate (and best) edition to date, and a radical shift from last year’s edition, which welcomed more than sixty-five exhibitors and was based in the recently vacated offices of the French historical newspaper Liberation. After a brief one-year flirtation with industrial concrete and massive proportions, the fourth edition of Paris Internationale returned to the domestic setting that first put it in on the map in 2015.
There is something true about those last ten minutes. As I try to rush through the three floors one last time, my friend Tarik Kiswanson, a young Paris-based artist, falls in love with a small painting, an Androgynous Angel by Kenneth Bergfeld, depicting a boyish character somewhere between monastic chic and an early Hedi Slimane ad. London’s Project Native Informant was showing two of Bergfeld’s works from the same series alongside works by DIS, Georgie Nettell, and Ned Vena. To Tarik’s dismay, the work is already sold. We continue rushing through hasty gallerists packing like an impeding shortage of Chardonnay was about to strike the city and I manage to catch a last glance at some favourites.
At the space of Parisian gallery Antoine Levi (one of the five founders of Paris Internationale, the others being Galerie Crèvecœur, High Art and Sultana, all Paris-based, as well as Galerie Gregor Staiger from Zurich) a small picture by Lisetta Carmi, an Italian photographer who documented the daily life of Italian transvestites in the mid-1960s through the series “I Travestiti”, has already been taken down. London’s Union Pacific might have shown glazed earthenware works by fair-darling Urara Tsuchiya during the last two editions of Internationale they were in, but here they took on new life. I have to admit that, as a gallery exhibiting in one of the mansion’s bathrooms, the small bowls with their interspecies Kamasutra scenes work well displayed on the sink. At another bathroom space – one with a balcony and flowers on the toilet (not Pierre Cardin) – Goswell Road, a secretive Parisian space and publishing house run by artists Coralie Ruiz and Anthony Stephinson, has a solo presentation of David West. His pencil and watercolour drawings depict scenes from hanging out backstage at concerts. A tuxedo-clad Blixa Bargeld from 1999 is looking cute, Suicide and Silver Apples also peer down from above a mirror.
We wind our way through the corridors where gallerists all have locker rooms, adding to the Mean Girls high school vibe of a fair where the exhibitors almost all know each other and joke around across booths. We notice Atlanta Contemporary curator Daniel Fuller singing along to the public access TV show that he is showing among a collection of artworks from the 80s and 90s. Together, they tell a story of the American South and I am told that it is a young RuPaul who appears on said TV show, called The American Music Show. Berlin’s galleries BQ, with a solo presentation of Alexandra Bircken and motorcycle in the mansion’s kitchen, and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, a much talked-about newcomer to Paris Internationale after years of surviving in the first floor FIAC jungle, showing an immersive installation by Veit Laurent Kurz, are welcomed highlights at a fair that one could have feared, judging by the last edition, was adopting the arts and craft trend a bit too eagerly. As Grayson Perry, who opened his first (and brilliant) solo show at Monnaie de Paris on Thursday, said: “Relax, young people, I’ve been doing pots for ages, get on the bus!”
A few corridors further, Athens-based Life Sport shares a bathroom and a closet with 650mAh, a non-profit located in the back of a vape-shop in Hove in Southern England. Struggling with the current Greek economy, Life Sport aims for a self-sustainable economy through the sale of sweatpants as part of a larger “sample sale”. They are forty euros a pair, grey with an embroidered palm tree and look super soft. But Clément Delépine, co-director of Paris Internationale, snatches the last size S. I let him, in exchange for a picture of him posing in the wearables made by Tenant of Culture. Existing somewhere between art objects and commercial goods, you can acquire the pieces (unwearable plaster shoes or a leather jacket made from handbags) as art or as garments. And like Life Sport’s reliance upon customers outside of Greece, Paris Internationale, since its first edition in 2015, has been a key player in giving, well, international visibility to Paris. More specifically, it has amplified the main sources of hope for seeing a somewhat withered French art scene burgeon again: the move of foreign artists and gallerists to the city, as well as a relatively new but thriving project space network. My friend Tarik finally settles on a white, deconstructed T-shirt that makes him a happy first-time collector.
Leaving the fair, the image of Laurent Kurz’s zombie clowns stays with me. Rarely have I seen a more accurate depiction of fair fatigue. They are definitely a mood and would make a perfect meme. Remembering where this complete exhaustion comes from, I send a quick thank you and bravo message to the organisers of the underground party La Toilette (still not Pierre Cardin), Victor and Alexandre Carril, where I spent Thursday night. Since spring 2017, their once-a-month parties quickly marked themselves as one of the best in Paris. Having lived in Berlin for several years, the brothers imported just what Paris was lacking: Not only a good techno line-up but a real club atmosphere where queer-friendly people come to dance and sweat and consume substances that make the surroundings look like an Ann Craven painting.
"Paris Internationale, since its first edition in 2015, has been a key player in giving, well, international visibility to Paris..."
Usually hosted by the historic gay cruising club Le Dépôt in Le Marais, for their FIAC week party the two thirty-somethings instead teamed up with the curator collective Cruising Pavilion (Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault, and Charles Teyssou), and like the Numéro x Perrotin party on Wednesday, it took place at Le Consulat, a 3000 square-metre concrete building that hosts yoga classes and conferences by day and will be turned into a supermarket next year. As I arrived, Steven Warwick was DJing, followed by Schlagga, who is part of Metaphore Collectif, a collective organising the best parties in Marseille. Surprisingly, the crowd was a good one. I spotted no cocktail dresses, no high heels, and only one pair of stray gallerist shoes (pink Jeremy Scott-y bulky trainers, of the acceptable kind, no suede loafers in sight). Foreign gallerists, assistants, a few French artists, and the usual club kid crowd of La Toilette came together.
I somehow finished the night at an afterparty in the same building organised by Allegria Torassa, who hosts Cicciolina during fashion week but also started a party called “Give A Fuck”. It’s hosted in a “secret club” (says the Instagram post) that you access by going up a staircase decorated by Vava Dudu, an über-Parisian iconic stylist and singer in the band La Chatte. She was supposed to play that night, but I saw her only briefly and then lost her to the night. The whole fashion world seemed to be there and of course they would want to do their own cannibalistic exclusive party. But for once, scenes actually came together during FIAC week. It’s younger, more international. For once, it’s actually really fun and not just work-context-but-with-alcohol fun.
17 – 21 October, 2018
INGRID LUQUET-GAD is a writer based in Paris.