Art Market

What Sold at FIAC

Benjamin Sutton
Oct 21, 2019 4:40PM

Roberto Matta, La Banale de Venise, 1955. Courtesy of Galerie Gmurzynska.

After months of anticipation, Paris’s Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) delivered on the supercharged expectations of dealers and collectors alike. The fair’s 46th edition drew huge crowds to the Grand Palais and, according to many participating gallerists, a bigger contingent of committed collectors than in years past.

“There was a tipping point among collectors who told themselves they were coming to Paris for FIAC,” said Nathalie Obadia, a dealer with galleries in Paris and Brussels who has participated in FIAC every year for more than a decade. “It’s the first time I’ve felt that ‘FIAC week’ was considered to be at the same level as [equivalent fair weeks in] London or Basel.”

Georg Baselitz, Im Takt, aber leise, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

Robert Rauschenberg, Everglade (Borealis), 1990. Photo by Ulrich Ghezzi. © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Adagp, Paris, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.


Much has been made recently of the art market power dynamic between Paris and London, amid the U.K.’s attempts to leave the European Union. Compared to the deluge of deals done at Frieze London earlier this month, the sales figures reported by galleries participating in FIAC suggest that Paris is unlikely to surpass its English rival as a center of art market activity anytime soon. As of last year, the U.K. accounted for 21 percent of global art sales, compared to just 6 percent for France, according to economist Clare McAndrew’s annual report The Art Market. Still, for dealers who’ve participated in major fairs on both sides of the channel, Frieze and FIAC offer opportunities to connect with equally important contingents of collectors and museums.

“It was simply a matter of time before Paris regained its standing, but I don’t think Paris’s market becoming stronger will come at the expense of London—it will just be more balanced,” said Thaddaeus Ropac, whose gallery has locations in Paris, London, and Salzburg. In the first three days of FIAC, his gallery made about €6.2 million ($6.9 million) in sales.

Antony Gormley, OPEN INTROVERT IV, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

And he wasn’t the only dealer making steady sales early. By Saturday morning, Hauser & Wirth reported 16 sales, with gallery president Iwan Wirth noting a mix of local and international buyers, both private collectors and institutions. The fair’s glass-ceilinged, Beaux-Arts venue may also play some role in FIAC’s success, fostering a sophisticated yet pleasant mood that is unrivaled among the world’s mega-fairs. Or, as Wirth put it: “The atmosphere in the Grand Palais is unrivaled and makes FIAC the ‘Crown Princess’ of the European art fairs.” While FIAC will once again be able to rely on the regal vibes generated by its spectacular venue next year, in 2021 and 2022, the fair will relocate to a temporary pavilion to be constructed in the gardens next to the Eiffel Tower while the Grand Palais undergoes much-needed renovations.

For Mathias Rastorfer, the CEO and co-owner of Galerie Gmurzynska, which has spaces in New York, Zurich, and the Swiss town of Zug, FIAC draws an exceptional cohort of collectors and museum representatives. This made it the perfect venue for a historical showcase of works by the Chilean painter Roberto Matta.

Mark Bradford, Painting 6 , 2019. © Mark Bradford. Photo by Joshua White. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Eduardo Chillida, Elogio de la luz XII (“In praise of light XII”), 1969. Photo by Thomas Barratt. © Zabalaga - Leku. ARS, New York / VEGAP, Madrid, 2019 Courtesy of the Estate and Hauser & Wirth.

“The aim was to place works with important collections and to revive the awareness among private and institutional collectors about the outstanding quality and importance of Matta in the mid–20th century,” Rastorfer said. “To show at FIAC is to connect with museums and collectors over longer periods and in more involved conversations, which, in our estimation, leads ultimately to more reflective buying.”

Buyers—reflective and impulsive alike—turned out in great numbers for FIAC this year. The fair’s organizers recorded 74,580 visitors over its 5-day run, an increase of nearly 3 percent from last year. Notable sales reported by galleries at the fair included the following:

  • Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac sold Robert Rauschenberg’s Everglade (Borealis) (1990), a work executed on a large brass panel with tarnish and silkscreen ink, for $1.7 million; and an enormous new painting by Georg Baselitz, Im Takt, aber leise (2019), for €1.2 million ($1.3 million). The gallery also sold a trio of metal sculptures by Antony Gormley in the form of life-size human figures for £400,000 ($519,000) each; two enormous Yan Pei-Ming paintings—one a self-portrait, the other a portrait of Gustave Courbet—for €560,000 ($625,000) each; a Roy Lichtenstein work on paper for $480,000; a Tony Cragg sculpture for €275,000 ($307,000); a new Jack Pierson text sculpture for $160,000; two Oliver Beer sculptures of violins set in resin for £30,000 ($39,000) and £20,000 ($26,000); and nine Alvaro Barrington paintings priced at $9,000 each.

Alvaro Barrington, 1937–1996, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

  • On the fair’s first day, Hauser & Wirth sold a large mixed-media piece by Louise Bourgeois, I Want To Be Sure You Love Me !! (2008), for $1.8 million to a European collector; a new Mark Bradford painting for $1.2 million; a large Ellen Gallagher canvas from 2000, which has been promised to an institution, for $750,000; a large blue painting of a mountain by Lorna Simpson for $425,000; a work on paper by Philip Guston for $200,000; an alabaster sculpture by Eduardo Chillida for €380,000 ($424,000); a piece by Takesada Matsutani from 1998 for $160,000; and a new Rita Ackermann canvas, Mama Nagyika (2019), for $165,000. The gallery’s other sales included three Günther Förg paintings, one for €160,000 ($178,000) and the other two for €250,000 ($279,000); an intricate portrait of the French philosopher Michel Foucault by Charles Gaines for $250,000; a new Pipilotti Rist piece, Panoramawasser (Nil) (2019), for $180,000; and two works by Luchita Hurtado, one in gouache and the other in ink, for $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.

Louise Bourgeois, I Want To Be Sure You Love Me !!, 2008. © The Easton Foundation/DACS 2019. Photo by Genevieve Hanson. Courtesy of The Easton Foundation and Hauser & Wirth.

  • Pace Gallery sold Robert Rauschenberg’s silkscreen-on-aluminum work Lords Monroe Station (1996) for $1.1 million, and five boldly colorful new acrylic and watercolor paintings on paper by Sam Gilliam for $180,000 each. The gallery’s booth featured a large array of new works on paper by Yoshitomo Nara, 13 of which sold for prices between $70,000 and $90,000. The gallery sold a new Loie Hollowell painting for $100,000; two works by Adam Pendleton for $65,000 and $55,000; a work on paper by Nigel Cooke for £30,000 ($39,000); a bronze sculpture by Kiki Smith for $75,000; and two works by Nathalie Du Pasquier for €30,000 ($33,000) each.
  • David Zwirner sold three works by Sherrie Levine for prices between $320,000 and $750,000; six works by Lucas Arruda for prices between $75,000 and $80,000; and an unspecified number of works by Wolfgang Tillmans priced between $35,000 and $150,000.
Wolfgang Tillmans
Summer Party, 2013
David Zwirner
  • Brussels-based gallery Xavier Hufkens sold a large glass sculpture by Roni Horn in the range of $1 million; a work by Tracey Emin in the range of $400,000 to $500,000; an Antony Gormley sculpture from 2018 in the range of £400,000 to £500,000 ($518,000–648,000); a new work by Sterling Ruby in the range of $250,000 to $350,000; a bronze sculpture by Sherrie Levine in the range of $400,000 to $500,000; and a Zhang Enli painting in the range of $200,000 to $250,000.
  • New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash sold two paintings by Eddie Martinez to collectors from Europe and the U.S. for prices up to $150,000; two paintings by Keltie Ferris priced at up to $70,000 to European and Middle Eastern collectors; and multiple works on paper by Pope.L for prices of up to $55,000.
  • Galerie Nathalie Obadia reported selling some 30 works in the fair’s first three days, including multiple paintings by Benoît Maire to U.S. collectors, and a Laure Prouvost installation that was on view at the Petit Palais as part of the FIAC Projects program was acquired by a leading Dutch museum—all for unspecified prices.
Benoît Maire
Peinture de nuages, 2019
Galerie Nathalie Obadia
  • Galerie Gmurzynska sold multiple works on paper by Roberto Matta for prices between €20,000 ($22,000) and €50,000 ($55,000), and one of the artist’s large-scale paintings from the 1940s was placed on reserve for a European museum.
  • Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, based in Vienna, sold a painting by Austrian artist Herbert Brandl for around €100,000 ($111,000); a painting by American artist Caitlin Lonegan for about €18,000 ($20,000); a drawing by Swiss painter Helmut Federle for €16,000 ($17,000); and a work by German artist Isa Melsheimer for around €12,000 ($13,000).
Caitlin Lonegan
Untitled, 2016
Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder
  • New York gallery Lyles & King sold a large Mira Schor painting from 1990 for $50,000.
  • Los Angeles’s David Kordansky Gallery sold out its entire booth, which showcased 22 new works on paper by Jennifer Guidi, each priced at $30,000.
  • Galerie Cécile Fakhoury from Abidjan, Ivory Coast—the only gallery from sub-Saharan Africa at FIAC this year—sold a work by New York–based artist Ouattara Watts for a figure between €50,000 ($55,000) and €70,000 ($78,000).

Beyond the sales, though, dealers noted that part of what has contributed to the art market momentum behind FIAC is the robust programming aligned around the fair. Satellite fairs like the Outsider Art Fair, Asia Now, and Paris Internationale vied for attention with major evening auctions—including one at Christie’s on Thursday night, where a Nicolas de Staël painting sold for €20 million ($22 million), a once-unimaginable price at a sale in Paris—and, on Thursday evening, a gallery night with dozens of participating spaces.

“There is a real feeling that Paris is having a renaissance,” Ropac said. “Now it’s Paris’s moment, but the substance and infrastructure to make this happen has been put in place over the course of many years.”

One recent addition to the local infrastructure is David Zwirner, which took over the Marais space formerly occupied by famed French dealer Yvon Lambert. Zwirner has said that the move was partially motivated by Brexit: “After October, my London gallery will be a British gallery, not a European one. I am European and I would like a European gallery, too.” James Green, a director at the gallery, noted on Saturday that Zwirner had already seen “strong sales” from its inaugural exhibition, a solo show by Raymond Pettibon that opened last Monday.

For Marc Glimcher, the president and CEO of Pace Gallery, the city’s appeal is self-evident. He said that “Paris remains a city in which artists love to show and that collectors love to visit.”

Benjamin Sutton