Art Market

The 10 Best Booths at FIAC 2021

Wilson Tarbox
Oct 21, 2021 6:05PM

Exterior of Grand Palais Ephémère during FIAC, 2021. Photo © Marc Domage. Courtesy of FIAC.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Foire Internationale de l’Art Contemporain (FIAC), France’s premier art fair, has come roaring back. On a cool autumn day, swarms of masked visitors descended upon the Grand Palais Éphémère (GPÉ), a temporary structure of the same dimensions and footprint as the 19th-century Grand Palais (which is usually the site of the fair, but is currently undergoing renovation). Elsewhere in the French capital, satellite fairs Asia Now and Paris Internationale are back in action, too.

The works on display at this year’s edition of FIAC are mostly European—no doubt a consequence of persistent pandemic logistical complications—with a strong showing from Parisian galleries that are dominant often both in quantity and quality. Not unlike in previous years, however, galleries presenting the work of artists from the Global South were among the most striking. Here, we offer a guide to FIAC’s must-see booths.

1 Mira Madrid

Galerie Eiffel, Booth F36

With works by Fernando Bryce and Mladen Stilinovic

Installation view of 1 Mira Madrid’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Courtesy of 1 Mira Madrid.


Spanish gallery 1 Mira Madrid’s booth is split down the middle between Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce and the late Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović. It’s hard not to think of this arrangement as subconsciously echoing the Cold War themes that permeate the two artists’ works. Stilinović’s conceptual collages and installations recall the spirit of resistance that swept both East and West in the 1960s. The sculptural installation for marie antoinette ’68 (2008), priced at €20,000 ($23,000), presents a table filled with French bread, pastries, and cobblestones of the variety hurled at police during France’s general strike and riots of May 1968.

Bryce’s work similarly brings together disparate moments in world and art history, albeit with a very different formal approach. His ink drawings are meticulously handcrafted copies of iconic political images. Among the most intriguing is a reproduction of the front page of the French Communist Party’s weekly Les Lettres Françaises from March 1953, complete with a stylized portrait of Joseph Stalin by Pablo Picasso. This portrait ignited a fierce debate in the party’s ranks on the subject of realism and representation. “Such works recall the structuring role that images have played in the construction of historic narrative,” explained gallerist Diana de la Cruz. “They ask us to question the social, economic, political, and cultural differences between the last century and our current reality.”

Rachel Uffner Gallery

Galerie Eiffel, Both F24

With works by Sheree Hovsepian and Curtis Talwst Santiago

Curtis Talwst Santiago, installation view in Rachel Uffner Gallery’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Photo by Yosuke Kojima. Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery.

Rachel Uffner was all set to return to the international fair circuit with a strong showing by two of her premier artists, Curtis Talwst Santiago and Sheree Hovsepian. But fate had other plans. As of Wednesday’s VIP preview, only works by Santiago could be seen at Uffner’s booth, Hovsepian’s pieces having been held up by French customs. Fortunately, the dozen or so miniature dioramas set into vintage jewelry boxes from Santiago’s “Infinity” series were more than sufficient to make the New York gallery’s booth stand out as one of the fair’s most unusual and original displays.

“They are scenes from my life,” explained the artist, who looked suave in a designer tracksuit as he showed visitors one of the larger dioramas, Soca in the Suburbs Grande Fete (2021), a careful recreation of his parents’ basement in the 1970s, populated with dancing Black figures, a miniature bar, a dance floor, and a DJ. The artist, whose background was in fashion and music before turning to visual art, thinks of the miniatures as ways of starting a conversation. “There is an energy exchange that happens when you show one to somebody,” he said. “It is different because it engages you in a tactile way. As you open the boxes to reveal the scene, it’s almost like you are giving somebody else permission to open themselves up to you as well. Stories are shared and exchanged.”

mfc - michèle didier

Grand Palais Éphémère, Côté Suffren, Booth A11

With works by Martha Wilson, Lynda Benglis, Judith Bernstein, Ilona Granet, Suzy Lake, and Carolee Schneemann

Installation view of mfc - michèle didier’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Photo by Nicolas Brasseur. Courtesy of mfc - michèle didier.

For its booth, Paris- and Brussels-based gallery mfc - michèle dider gave carte blanche to Martha Wilson. The American artist, whose first French institutional solo exhibition was opening at the same moment across town at the Centre Pompidou, invited a veritable canon of radical feminist artists. There’s Lynda Benglis, with her provocative nude self-portrait with a dildo that appeared as an advertisement in Artforum, which became a pre-internet meme. Here it is presented on a T-shirt, Artforum T-Shirt (1974), priced at €13,000 ($15,000). There are also several examples from Ilona Granet’s series of anti-harassment street signs, “Emily Post Street Signs” (1986–89).

The works in the booth seem to speak to an edgier, more militant version of feminist art than what has since been absorbed in less strident forms into mainstream American culture. Nowhere is this clearer than in the series of performances by Wilson herself documented in The Politics and Performance Art Collection (1979–2017), in which she parodies America’s political class: Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Tipper Gore, Bill Clinton, and even Donald Trump. It is amazing to see an artist engage in such a bold and bipartisan attack. It’s also haunting to see footage of performances that were harbingers of culture wars that were then only just beginning.

Marfa’ Projects

Galerie Eiffel, Booth F08

With works by Lamia Joreige, Omar Fakhoury, Paola Yacoub, and Tamara Al Samerraei

Installation view of Marfa’ Projects’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Courtesy of Marfa’ Projects.

Among the more remarkable artworks presented by Beirut gallery Marfa’ Projects are four paintings of broken chairs from the 2019 series “Chairs 1–18” by Omar Fakhoury, priced at $8,000 apiece. The concept for the series is quite simple: During his regular strolls through Beirut, Fakhoury photographed abandoned and broken chairs, often of the cheap plastic garden variety, then rendered them on canvas in his studio. The results are touching, ghostly portraits of injured furniture that seem oddly animistic, as if they were echoing the various recent tragedies suffered by the city’s population.

Another pair of works by Lamia Joreige, Uncertain Times, Locusts and Uncertain Times, Fayçal (both 2021), on the booth’s opposite wall speak more directly to the hardships suffered by Lebanese people throughout history. Both mixed-media collages deploy archival documents surrounded with watercolor images. The first refers to the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon, a period of mass starvation orchestrated by the allied forces in World War I in order to put pressure on the Ottoman Empire. Instead of inciting the Lebanese to revolt, the British, French, and Russian blockade only succeeded in starving nearly half the region’s population. The second collage tells the story of Faisal I, a king of Iraq whose vision for a pan-Arab state succeeded both in uniting Sunni and Shiite Muslims and dividing the Western allied forces. Among the archival documents on display is a crude letter from France to the king of England decrying the appointment of the “kinglet” Faisal to such an important position in the region, and dismissing him as an “adventurer.”

Galerie Cécile Fakhoury

Galerie Eiffel, Booth G35

With works by Cheikh Ndiaye

Cheikh Ndiaye, installation view in Cécile Fakhoury’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Photo by Gregory Copitet. Courtesy of the artist and Cécile Fakhoury.

Cécile Fakhoury’s solo booth dedicated to Senegalese artist Cheikh Ndiaye showcases the artist’s interest in the history of colonialism, as well as the points of contact between nations of the Global North and South. Among the works on display is a series of paintings focused on the architecture of West African and diasporic cinemas, shown in various states of disrepair. Théâtre Apollo, Détail (2021), a depiction of the famed Harlem venue priced at €40,000 ($47,000), and Cinéma Bioscope Troyville, Johannesburg (2021), priced at €45,000 ($52,000), present these structures in semi-mythic proportions, suggesting their significance as institutions to local populations and global community networks of Afro-descendants.

They are also quite ambivalent symbols—signs of westernization; postcolonial institutions whose relationships to the colonial past sit in productive tension to the media of painting itself. Indeed, painting, architecture, and cinema are among the most influential and most ideological media forms of the past century. They symbolize modernity but also the great material, environmental, and human costs of it. Syncretism is another pregnant theme in Ndiaye’s work. The painting Sainte Sara, Les Saintes Maries de la Mer (2021), priced at €35,000 ($41,000), depicts a Black saint who is represented as a votive figure. Religion, like the aforementioned artistic media, has also been deployed throughout history as a tool of domination that nonetheless occasionally presents the dominated with the possibility of participation and appropriation.

mor charpentier

Galerie Eiffel, Booth G05

With works by Oscar Muñoz, Carlos Motta, Paz Errázuriz, Teresa Margolles, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Kader Attia, Théo Mercier, Liliana Porter, Saâdne Afif, Bianca Bondi, and Daniel Otero Torres

Installation view of mor charpentier’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Photo by François Doury. Courtesy of mor charpentier.

Unlike other galleries offering a sampling of their program at FIAC, the works in mor charpentier’s booth all address a common theme: the “anti-portrait.” If the exact definition of an anti-portrait is not immediately clear to visitors, it quickly becomes so before a pair of tiny video installations by Oscar Muñoz. Two miniature projections mounted on the wall show video of the artist’s hand painting a face with water onto a slab of concrete. As quickly as the artist is able to paint, so, too, does the sun evaporate the image’s contours and facial features, turning one of the most perennial genres of image-making into a prime example of ephemerality.

For Carlos Motta, it is the artist’s own face transformed with makeup, plastic wrap, and tape in Untitled (1998) that confronts the implications of portraiture as it pertains to gendered identity and transition, as well as the tension between representations of the self by oneself and by others. Théo Mercier’s installation of “fake” wooden masks in Relation Prédation (2020) turns the theme of portraiture away from that of the individual to consider how facial likeness (or unlikeness) can come to serve as representations for entire groups or populations. His wall-mounted African masks linked by serpentine protrusions that enter and exit noses and mouths speak to the loss of economic and symbolic value of these objects, as well as the networks of influence that bind cultures in the commercial and ideological economies.

Victoria Miro

Grand Palais Éphémère, Côté Suffren, Booth C11

With works by Paula Rego and Chantal Joffe

Installation view of Victoria Miro’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Courtesy of Victoria Miro.

“Storytelling lies at the heart of our presentation for FIAC,” explained a representative from Victoria Miro, which maintains spaces in London and Venice. But what is most striking about this booth is not the narrative or figurative dimension of the works on display (although both artists make figurative and narrative works), but rather the more visceral pleasures related to their execution. The retelling of the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” in a 2003 series by Paula Rego, in which the protagonist’s mother is recast as a protective character, presents a rich, sensuous range of reds and earth tones in oily pastels. Rego seems to be able to effortlessly move from the confident lines of her underdrawing right into the unctious suffusion of forms with color as seen in Mother Wears the Wolf’s Pelt (2003), priced at £160,000 ($221,000).

Chantal Joffe’s paintings make for interesting pendants to Rego’s canvases. Produced after the artist suffered an injury that affected her memory, there is something more belabored about the execution. The bodies of sitters appear tortured and distorted, but nevertheless vibrate with a radiant energy. Another set of paintings, both titled Self-Portrait at Tuileries (2019), typifies both this vigorous ebb and flow and the artist’s critical relationship to French modernism. Represented sitting in one of the jardin’s famous green chairs, her expression changes from one of cautious suspicion to blank bemusement, as if indicating a mix of absorption and indifference before the works of the modern masters with which she is in dialogue.


Grand Palais Éphémère, Booth A20

With works by Thomas Bayrle

Thomas Bayrle, installation view in neugerriemschneider’s booth at FIAC, 2021. © Thomas Bayrle. Photo by Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.

Berlin-based galerie neugerriemschneider is presenting an immersive installation by Thomas Bayrle inspired by the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. A pioneering figure in the post-war German Pop art scene, Bayrle continues to be best known for his “superform” series. Consisting of large images composed from hand-drawn motifs that the artist would photocopy over and over again, cutting and collaging the result to produce a large-scale, proliferating, wallpaper-like image, the “superforms” from the 1960s were often cityscapes evoking urban industrial sprawl and the economic booms of Western European cities in the post–World War II decades.

Today, the artist looks to more modern tools such as computers and digital editing tools to create his new superform motifs, like those seen in the “Brancacci Chapel” (2021) works presented here. Against a black-and-white ground of burgeoning olive branches are barely legible scenes from Masaccio’s and Masolino’s frescoes in the titular chapel—themselves “immersive” works from the Early Renaissance. At the center of the booth, Spatz von Paris (2011), a kinetic sculpture displaying the churning pistons of a partially cut-away motor, hums out pre-war French balades.

In Situ - Fabienne Leclerc

Grand Palais Éphémère, Booth C03

With works by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian

Rokni Haerizadeh, Ramin Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, 7 January 2015, 10 Rue Nicolas Appert, 2019–21. Courtesy of the artists and In Situ - Fabienne Leclerc.

The Parisian gallery In Situ - Fabienne Leclerc, based in the Komunuma art complex in Romainville, is showing an immersive installation by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, a trio of exiled Iranian artists whose collaborative projects speak to both politics and domestic life. Every inch of the gallery’s booth—from floor to walls to metal stands presenting painted ceramic dinner plates, which are part of a 2020 series titled “Alluvium”—is covered with work bearing all three artists’ signatures.

Colorful and disorienting, O’You People (2021) occupies the center of the stand and consists of an oblong table set with six circular rotating trays. Like the rest of the booth, everything is covered in painted representations of surreal figures—little beasts and demons out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting—and abstract optical motifs. On a far wall, a large-scale painting representing an iconic image of former U.S. president Donald Trump and current French president Emmanuel Macron planting a “friendship tree” (which died shortly afterwards) on the White House lawn is chopped and swapped almost beyond recognition except for its composition. The crown in the background has been given cartoonish animal heads that are, according to gallerist Antoine Laurent, “allusions to Persian tales and legends.”

Galerie Sultana

Galerie Eiffel, Booth F06

With works by Paul Maheke

Paul Maheke, installation view in Galerie Sultana’s booth at FIAC, 2021. Photo by Aurelien Mole. Courtesty of the artist and Galerie Sultana.

Galerie Sultana’s alluring solo presentation of work by the London-based artist Paul Maheke is supercharged with queer energy. The deep purples and blues of a pair of diaphanous scrims, the glint of his polished copper sculpture pedestals, and reflections off transparent glass present a chromatic palette that is as limited as the artist’s range of materials is vast. The aforementioned scrims at the back of the space—titled As Saturn and Jupiter Conjunct (2021) and priced at €10,000 ($12,000)—bear text in bold white letters. These are quotes pulled from the diary the artist kept during lockdown. The flowing textiles advertise the artist’s personal musings while also impeding their legibility.

Reminiscent of the fugaciousness of water, curtains often appear in Maheke’s work. These seem also to suggest the fluidity of gender and the artist’s general interest in intangible flows of energies between people and things. Those themes are echoed by the stormy surface of copper sculptures like Du ciel, à travers le monde, jusqu’aux enfers (III) (2020), priced at £10,000 ($14,000), which present in their surfaces different degrees of polish and finish, suggesting an ebb and flow between processes of purification and sullying.

Wilson Tarbox

Correction: A previous version of this article listed the wrong price for a work by Mladen Stilinovic; it has been updated with the correct figure.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019