France Fêtes FIAC

Paris -- On Wednesday, just four days after the Frieze Art Fair closed in London, the 41st edition of the rival Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain opened to V.I.P.'s in Paris.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media can be seen in full attendance at FIAC, as in years past.

Since its debut in 2003, Frieze has gained a reputation as one of Europe’s leading fairs dedicated to new art.

But in recent years, particularly since returning to the Belle Epoque splendor of the Grand Palais in 2006, the older FIAC has upped its game.

This year’s list of 191 exhibitors included a full line-up of international mega-galleries, as well as dozens of younger dealers, who introduce the sort of fresh talent that makes wealthy collectors get on planes.

FIAC further reinforced its cutting-edge credentials this year by inaugurating (Off)icielle, a satellite fair of 68 emerging galleries, at Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design next to the Gare d’Austerlitz in the east of Paris.

The case for being in Paris during this latest edition of FIAC, which closes Sunday, was strengthened by the long-awaited opening of Bernard Arnault’s Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation in the Bois de Boulogne and the even longer-awaited reopening of the Picasso Museum.

And contemporary art demonstrated its continued ability to shock when the American artist, Paul McCarthy, 68, was slapped in the face on Oct. 16 by an irate Parisian in front of his 80-foot-high inflatable sculpture of a green object that resembled a sex toy, but that the artist said was a Christmas tree, which he had tethered to the Place Vendôme as part of FIAC’s project “Hors les Murs,” or Beyond the Walls.

The stabilizing ropes were then sabotaged in the early hours of Oct. 18, forcing the organizers to deflate the piece to prevent further damage. “It was a double assault on the artist,” said Jennifer Flay, the director of FIAC.

Billionaire Buyers

One of the key reasons dealers exhibit at FIAC is the possibility of selling work to the French billionaire collectors François Pinault and Bernard Arnault.

Both businessmen were given a private view of the fair two hours before the opening.

Although the fair’s organizers divulged that Mr. Pinault bought more than 30 pieces at FIAC and (Off)icielle, exhibitors were reluctant to disclose which works went to him or Mr. Arnault.

Given that the Louis Vuitton Foundation was being inaugurated with an immersive installation by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson — who designed Christmas windows for the company’s stores in 2006 — Mr. Arnault would surely have been interested in the mesmerizing 2013 Eliasson work, “The New Planet,” featuring a rotating steel and colored-glass lantern, that was shown by the Berlin dealer Neugerriemschneider.

This artwork, shown above, remained reserved during the early hours of the preview at a price revealed by dealers to be 375,000 euros, about $475,000.

Old and New Together

Unlike the London fair, which separates new art at Frieze and older, resold works at Frieze Masters, FIAC brings both together under one steel-and-glass roof.

But the number of dealers specializing in early and mid-20th-century modernism — the traditional strength of the Paris art scene — has dwindled to less than 10 percent of the exhibitors.

Once the doors opened at 10 a.m., the Grand Palais filled up with a well-to-do crowd that included the New York collector Peter Brant, the London jeweler Laurence Graff, the Swiss media magnate Michael Ringier and the Greek financier Dimitri Mavrommatis, plus hundreds of Parisians simply enjoying a day out.

FIAC included some older rarities, like an oversized 1971 “matchbook” sculpture titled “Saffa” by the French artist Raymond Hains, which was sold for €200,000 by the Berlin and Paris dealer Max Hetzler.

But, as usual, abstract paintings by “investment grade” living artists remain most in demand.

The New York dealer Van De Weghe, unfazed by blips in the auction market for Gerhard Richter, quickly found a buyer for Mr. Richter’s four-foot-high 1985 “Untitled (S78-1),” priced at $2.8 million.

A much larger 2001 Christopher Wool silkscreen ink-on-linen abstract, also “Untitled,” was among more than a dozen early sales at the booth of the London dealer Simon Lee. That work was priced between $3 million and $3.5 million.

Approachable Art

FIAC, unlike Frieze, also showcases approachable paintings by more mainstream artists, such as Marc Desgrandchamps of Lyon, France, whose 2014 oil-on-canvas of curtains blowing through an open window, “o.T.,” was sold for €42,000 by Galerie Eigen+Art.

That German dealership exhibits at three Art Basel fairs, Frieze London and Frieze New York, as well as FIAC, and Eigen’s director, Gerd Harry Lybke, said he was hoping to exhibit next year at FIAC’s new offshoot fair in Los Angeles, considered by many to be the art world’s current center of creativity.

A taste of what might be in store at the event, set to run from March 27 to 29, was provided by a Los Angeles artist at the booth of the Berlin gallerist Isabella Bortolozzi.

Wu Tsang’s LED light and Swarovski crystal “dress” sculpture, inspired, he said, by local transgender communities, was being offered in an edition of three, plus one in situ in a mirrored installation. At least one of the editioned pieces, priced at €30,000 to €45,000, sold at the preview.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers a tour of an amazing exhibition at FIAC.