There are plenty of art events on in Paris this March: five remarkable fairs and exhibitions a gogo. Everything you need to plan an enthralling itinerary, with stops dedicated to drawing, contemporary African art and design… Are you ready for a suite of springtime fairs?
From 30 March to 2 April… It’s THE must event: Art Paris Art Fair, this year welcoming 139 galleries from 29 countries. Half of the exhibitors are from overseas, and the fair has attracted many new faces this year, with 50 % of the participants being new galleries. An unmissable gathering for the art world and the general public, this fair, held at the Grand Palais, allows visitors to discover what’s happening in the art world with an ever-savvy focus on overseas scenes. This year, its general curator, Guillaume Piens, is backed up by exhibition curator and cultural consultant Marie-Ann Yemsi (also to curate the next Bamako Encounters), who has helped to select top galleries from the African continent – including the Maghreb – and its diaspora, most of which are exhibiting for the first time in France at the event.
Amongst the twenty or so galleries singled out for this African focus, a few come from very diverse horizons: Uganda is present via the Afriart Gallery from Kampala; there’s also Nigeria, with Art Twenty One based in Lagos; the Ivory Coast is represented by the Fondation Charles Donwahi from Abidjan; not forgetting South Africa, with Whatiftheworld Gallery from Cape Town. The October Gallery from London, representing El Anatsui in particular, and Parisian gallery Magnin-A, namely exhibiting Chéri Samba, present great classics in modern and contemporary African art. Also of note: the solo show accorded to South African artist Kendell Geers by Barcelona-based ADN Galeria.
Emerging African creation is also represented by stands in the Promises sector, gathering a total of twelve galleries, all under six years old. The already-mentioned Art Twenty One is accompanied by Galerie Cécile Fakhoury from Abidjan and ELA (Espaço Luanda Arte) from Luanda, while two London galleries – Tiwani Contemporary and Tyburn Gallery – vie with Amsterdam’s Ravestijn Gallery in vitality. Let’s bear in mind that these galleries in the Promises sector rub shoulders with other young exhibitors that work outside the Africa theme, such as Bratislava’s SODA Gallery or Bogota’s La Balsa Arte. And this year, a group of collectors that go by the name “L’Art est Vivant” (Art is Alive) will be choosing a work from this sector and acquiring it, to support the work of young galleries.
Another item on the agenda is a video programme featuring eleven artists from Africa and the African diaspora, nicely titled “Landscapes of the Body”. Also curated by Marie-Ann Yemsi, the programme invites spectators, comfortably settled in a dedicated space, to reflect on the intimacy of autobiography, which often uses the body to explore political and social issues. In addition, a day of talks organised with the support of the Institut Français, on the theme of “Inhabiting the Border”, is one of the fair’s key events. So note it in your diaries: Friday 31 March at La Colonie (128 Rue La Fayette), gathering intellectuals and artists specialised in contemporary African art.
This African spring is also crossing over the borders of the fair via the exhibition “Le jour qui vient” (The Day Dawning), at the Galerie des Galeries, from 28 March to 10 June, once again under the curatorship of Marie-Ann Yemsi. A neat focus on new-generation African artists who are already up and coming internationally, including Igshaan Adams, Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, Clay Apenouvon, Frances Goodman, Banele Khoza and Moffat Takadiwa.
The African season continues at La Villette from 29 March to 21 May, with “Afrique Capitales” (Africa Capitals), an exhibition overseen by Simon Njami gathering around sixty artists, from Pascale Marthine Tayou to William Kentridge. Take note that this exhibition will be extended by a second chapter, “Vers le Cap de Bonne Espérance” (Towards the Cape of Good Hope), from 6 April to 3 September, at the Gare Saint-Sauveur in Lille: a 100 % Africa event offering a panorama of disciplines, from the visual arts to dance, via the culinary arts. Finally, the Musée Dapper is holding “Les Mutants”, an exhibition showing around twenty works by Soly Cissé, previously unseen in France, from 24 March to 14 June.
Another strength of this year’s Art Paris Art Fair is the beefed-up presence of modern art, with around thirty renowned gallerists, such as Paris’ Natalie Seroussi or Michel Descours from Lyon. Surrealism and its offshoots can be found alongside a movement that is back in favour, CoBrA, coinciding with the Karel Appel exhibition on at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (until 20 August) – but new realism, narrative figuration, concrete, geometrical and lyrical abstraction are also visible. Meanwhile, Parisian gallery Thessa Herold is presenting a stand devoted to Latin American modern artists.
International contemporary art hasn’t been left behind either – namely Japanese architect-artist Sou Fujimoto at Philippe Gravier, Christo or Bernar Venet at the Galerie Guy Pieters, Greek artist Pavlos at the Galerie Sobering… In addition – and for the first time at the fair, the Madrid-based Galería Juana de Aizpuru is offering the best in contemporary creation, with Wolfgang Tillmans, Markus Oehlen and Éric Baudelaire.
A (crazy) week of drawing
But the other big fair event on this spring is the Drawing Week. A not-to-be-missed platform that, from 22 to 26 March this year, draws collectors and heads of international cultural institutions from all over the planet. Here, we’re talking about no less than three fairs, two of which are dedicated to contemporary drawing – Drawing Now and DDessin – while the third is the more classic Salon du Dessin, which will be celebrating its 26th edition this year as it displays primarily old sheets.
Let’s start with Drawing Now, from 23 to 26 March at the Carreau du Temple. The eleventh edition of this selective fair – which received 150 applications and gave the nod to only just over 70 – relies on a 40 % proportion of overseas galleries. This year’s jury is made up of its president, Philippe Piguet, also the fair’s artistic director, Emilie Bouvard, art historian and heritage curator, Julie Enckell Juilliard, director of the Musée Jenisch in Switzerland, Elsy Lahner, contemporary-art curator at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Joana Neves, independent curator, Marc Donnadieu, curator in charge of contemporary art at the LaM in Lille, and finally, collector Daniel Schildge.
We can also note that one-third of the ground-floor stands offers focuses on single artists, and that the Prix Drawing Now is awarded to an artist aged under 45 represented amongst these solo shows. In this way, the fair is punctuated by a series of spotlights. To mention just a few, there’s Winshluss at Valois, Hessie at Arnaud Lefebvre, Thomas Lévy-Lasne at Backslash, Bernard Pagès at Ceysson, Jana Gunstheimer at Galerie Particulière or Maxime Duveau at Houg.
One of the advantages of this fair is its capacity to bring several generations of artists together, thus promoting (re)discovery of the work of illustrators, some already well established, others starting out. Visitors can come across young artists at the Emergence sector on the basement level – a sector that the fair’s team has kept on the programme for seven years now. For this edition, Galerie Sator, which joined the platform five years ago, is present with Jean-Marc Cerino, while Art Bärtschi & Cie is also back this year. Four galleries have been present for eleven years: Sémiose, Christian Berst, Jean Fournier and Bernard Jordan.
The Emergence and Fresh sectors are very dynamic, offering artists such as Nina Fowler at Dukan, Lionel Sabatté at Galerie C., Chloé Piene at Heike Curtze, Douglas White at Valérie Bach, Raphaël Tachdjian at School Gallery. Then, amongst established artists, we can find Not vital at Bärtschi, Etel Adnan at Lelong, Vanessa Beecroft at Caroline Smulders, Philippe Cognée at Oniris…
Further off, the Master Now itinerary highlights major artists who express themselves through drawing. This year, the ten galleries (not necessarily well-known names) include Karsten Greve, taking part in Drawing Now for the first time, who has decided to put the spotlight on a drawing by Pierrette Bloch. The Galerie Anne Barrault has picked Roland Topor, while David Hockney is the focus at Lelong.
Partly curated by Nova Benway, exhibition curator at the Drawing Center in New York, a video programme presents works based on contemporary drawing, namely by Peterson Kamwathi, represented by ArtLabAfrica, Junyu Chen, by Named Sue Gallery, and Matt Bollinger, by Galerie Zürcher…
Philippe Piguet, the artistic director, has also overseen a gorgeous exhibition called “Deep Surfaces”, featuring artists including Azul Andrea, Haifeng Ni and Javier Pérez. According to Philippe Piguet, this show “purposefully assembles works that employ a vast array of figures and materials as well as the most diverse techniques and procedures”.
DDessin: defence and illustration of the young scene
Another place, another fair… At 60 Rue de Richelieu, in Paris’ second arrondissement this time, DDessin enthrals visitors year after year, thanks to the finesse of its propositions. Presented like a “cabinet of contemporary drawings”, this little fair is being steered, from 24 to 26 March, by two artistic co-directors: Eve de Medeiros, founder and director of the event, and Christophe Delavault. The idea here is to bring other territories to Paris, in order to raise the visibility of very young artists and galleries. In short, to awaken curiosity… DDessin thus comes to life through the works of twenty or so French and overseas exhibitors. Celebrating its fifth birthday, this fair is presenting five newcomers this year: Anna Reverdy, putting on a solo show for South African artist Nelson Makamo, as well as H Gallery, Gratadou-Intuiti, La Galerie (Lyon) and La Maison de la Plage from Tunis.
Meanwhile, DDessin regulars are returning with brand-new creations. For example, we can rediscover Lhoste Art Contemporain from Arles, Phantom Projects Contemporary from Troyes, Ozenne & Prazowski Gallery arriving from London… Also worth noting: alongside the galleries, the Creative Growth Art Center from Oakland, California – which welcomes outsider artists – is presenting at DDessin an artist singled out by the MoMA and selected for the upcoming Venice Biennale, Dan Miller.
Like any self-respecting fair, DDessin offers an award, and therefore has a jury of experts, this year chaired by sociologist Alain Quemin. Other jury members are Évelyne Deret from Art [ ] Collector, journalist Pauline Simon who instigated the HYAM (Hydra for Artists of the Mediterranean) project, artist Massinissa Selmani, director of the Brussels Atomium Henri Simons… Two awards will be attributed this year: the first winner will be awarded a residency in the Indian Ocean, the second a residency in Tangiers.
It’s important to note that DDessin stands out by presenting a selection of talented artists, some of whom are not yet affiliated to a gallery. Three solo shows are devoted to them. We thus discover the sandpaper drawings of Harold Guérin, Cyrielle Gulacsy’s works on lunar modules and Apollo capsules, as well as Brigitte Lurton’s tracing-paper drawings. Eve de Medeiros, rarely short of ideas, delivers her 2017 pick… artist François Andes, who bases his work on the “exquisite corpse” principle.
We find many other artists featured at this edition, which offers an Illustrators Corner. Their names might not ring a bell for you, but they’ve been discovered by DDessin: Philippe Caillaud, Popy-Loly de Monteysson, Margot Denvers, Clémence Monnet and Anne Touquet. Comics are also accorded a significant slot at the fair, supported by a partnership between the École Européenne Supérieure de l’Image in Angoulême and Les Modillons cultural space. Finally, another innovation at DDessin comes through the presence of Trans Galerie, heavily involved in gender and femininity themes, an ambitious project borne by Corine Borgnet, Jessy Deshais, Aurélie Dubois and Myriam Mechita.
Sundry singular scenographies
Alongside these two fairs devoted to contemporary drawing, the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation will be awarding its tenth Drawing Prize on 23 March as part of the Salon du Dessin, being held from 22 to 27 March at the Palais Brongniart, on the Place de la Bourse. This fair will be presenting the three artists in the running this year: Charles Avery, Ciprian Muresan and Didier Trenet. The Salon du Dessin will of course be plunging you into the history of art as it gathers 39 French and overseas exhibitors, chaired by Louis de Bayser. In other words, over 1,000 sheets offered up to the eyes of art lovers, two days of talks covering the period from David to Delacroix, an exhibition on ten years of acquisitions by the Society of Friends of the drawings department of the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris, as well as a show on Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, proposed by the Musée de Montargis…
And that’s not all! During this crazy week, a number of exhibitions are offering these three fairs a historical echo, whether it’s a matter of “Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt” or “Reading Traces. Three Centuries of Drawing in Germany”, two gems to discover at the Fondation Custodia until 7 May. Let’s also mention the Domaine de Chantilly, which is launching its prints and drawings gallery on 24 March, with “The Splendours of Drawing in the Renaissance”, an exhibition on Bellini, Michelangelo and Parmigianino. In addition, the collection of American Jeffrey Horvitz, gathered over three decades, and the largest private collection of French drawings across the Atlantic is being shown at the Petit Palais, presenting 200 paintings, sculptures and above all drawings from 18th century France.
To top off this bounty of events, we take a detour to 20th century decorative arts and contemporary design, with the 21st edition of the PAD, from 22 to 26 March, in the Tuileries Gardens. This fair crowns a very colourful spring with 66 carefully selected galleries this year, and as many singular scenographies. Here, new exhibitors reflect the fair’s eclecticism by matching pre-Columbian art with animal sculptures while dabbling in jewellery; they include Lorenz Bäumer for fine jewellery, Thomas Bayart for sculpture, Michèle Hayem for the decorative arts, and Alexandre Frédéric, a master of modernist Brazilian furniture…
This year, Studio PAD, a type of contemporary-design laboratory, has been placed in the hands of Pierre Gonalons. This decorator pays homage to Rudolf Nureyev’s apartment by showcasing fabrics from the Maison Pierre Frey, as well as pieces from the French State’s National Furniture collection. At the PAD, three prizes will be awarded by a jury of specialists chaired by Marie-Laure Jousset, head of the design department at the Centre Pompidou: the Prix du Stand (for booths), the Prix du Design du XXe siècle (for 20th century design) and the Prix Design Contemporain (for contemporary design).
Awakened, enchanted, inspired… French visitors, stepping far from the tensions associated with their country’s presidential campaign, will be able – after their foray into spring fairs, after this intensive week of art – to vote serenely yet alertly.
6 questions for…
Philippe Piguet, artistic director of the Drawing Now fair
Drawing Now is up to its eleventh edition… What are the highlights of this year’s fair?
The Drawing Now fair is now well established, which allows the jury to make a very demanding selection. We are very keen on contemporary drawing, and we pay great attention to ensuring that works date from the 1980s onwards. But if a gallery offers us an absolutely remarkable work from the 1970s, for example a 1975 drawing by Dubuffet, then we’ll accept it. But we’re very careful to reflect our time.
How is drawing situated in contemporary creation as a whole?
Drawing reflects what’s happening in other disciplines, and what emerges is an eclectic image that calls on very diverse materials and protocols, setting out the incredible richness and fantastic breeding ground of drawing today. But I also notice a narrative element which is quite present, as well as recourse to all types of procedures to give form to an idea, not merely with pencil on paper, but with string, transfers of materials, projections…
You curate an exhibition within the fair, “Deep Surfaces”. What did you wish to show through this theme?
I opted for a simple concept this year. I want to show the diversity of drawing through a dozen artists who present works that, through the principle of their creation, play on the close relationship between image and material. The exhibition gathers around twenty works. They include images of tattoos like the ones by Jean-Luc Verna, or a self-portrait by Philippe Cognée, a watercolour in which he represents himself naked, pinned down as during a dissection. I chose artists represented by our exhibitors as well as artists that I’m introducing in order to raise their visibility. There are palm-print drawings by a young artist called Azul Andrea, as well as a very minimalist work focusing on fish skeletons by another young artist, Léa Barbazanges. Claire Maugeais, also being presented, carries out sewing-drawing work that uses thread to trace a landscape. Here, we are really in the epidermis of things. I’ve also chosen to give a historical wink to Sophie Ristelhueber, who’s produced a work that echoes Duchamp’s Élevage de poussière. There’s also a whole series of magnificent drawings by Javier Pérez, from Florence and Daniel Guerlain’s collection.
Master Now is also a scientific project of Drawing Now. How have you curated it?
I approached about ten galleries and asked them to each show a masterpiece on their stand, using a scenographical approach that recurs from one to the other to create an internal route within the fair. So we have the very beautiful Hockney drawing at Lelong, a fine Penone ensemble at Art Bärtschi, while Semiose has chosen a stunning work by Ernest T…
Do the prices of works stay reasonable at the fair?
Prices are within a very approachable bracket which allows amateurs to buy works. We find works between €200 to 300, but the average is €5,000. The results of the past years have been positive because the drawing economy has not really been affected by crisis. If there’s a crisis, it’s not drawing that will suffer, precisely because we stay within reasonable brackets. Drawing has the wonderful luck of being an art that is close to the viewer… and people take time to look at it. The advantage of a fair like Drawing Now, with only 75 galleries, is that it’s small scale. People have time to make their choices even if they don’t buy. Drawing marches according to a different time than other mediums because it involves a relationship of intimacy.
How would you define drawing today?
Drawing is no longer just a sketch for another work. It’s an object in its own right. And it hasn’t been so long that it’s been recognised as such by everyone because our culture has long considered drawing as a preparatory study. But Delacroix, Ingres and others created real drawing masterpieces. Today, drawing is a means of expression on a par with photos, videos, equal to painting and sculpture, with this added element of soul. Drawing is a major art because it’s the expression of thought.
Guillaume Piens, general curator of Art Paris Art Fair
How would you define the spirit of Art Paris Art Fair?
It’s a very eclectic fair which relies on the concept of “cosmopolitan regionalism”. There are heavyweight galleries and galleries from the French regions. When we consider the cities that are represented, the fair has a very European anchorage as well as an interesting international selection. This year, the African focus allows discovery of another scene. The young galleries sector, Promises, is a fitting translation of the geography of Art Paris Art Fair. Visitors can go from Rome or Amsterdam to Geneva, via Luanda and London, then return to Bogota… We’ve created, for the Promises sector this year, the “L’Art est Vivant” prize. We’ve also worked on the VIP itinerary. The fair relies on the principle of being both local and global. This is the mix which, in my opinion, makes the fair interesting.
What are the fair’s new events for this edition?
In terms of events, curator Marie-Ann Yemsi and I have placed an emphasis on video with the “Landscapes of the Body” programme featuring the works of eleven artists. This is one of the key areas of the Africa focus this year. There’s also a fine homage to Leïla Alaoui, with the screening of her film Crossings, on migrants. This year also, La Colonie is hosting a day of Africa-centred encounters. We’re presenting 26 solo shows at this edition, which is a considerable number, and these shows offer moments to breathe during the fair. What’s interesting when stands are dedicated to the work of the one artist is the discovery or rediscovery of certain signatures, which can be given particular attention. These solo shows help trace virtuous lines at the fair, offering spaces that are less eclectic, and overall, of better quality. As is the case every year, the partnership with Air France has been renewed, and five winners selected from the solo shows will be given the chance to decorate Air France buses. This initiative raises the visibility of the solo shows and moves the fair’s artists to the streets.
How is the fair evolving from year to year?
Every edition is a new adventure. We’re not stuck in a fixed procedure. What’s changed, for example, with Africa is that we haven’t carried out the same initiatives as for Korea last year. We’ve refused to set up an exhibitors’ platform that gathers all the galleries of the country or region of honour. For Africa, we’ve found that this wasn’t at all appropriate as these galleries would feel that they’d been placed in a ghetto. Africa is a continent, not a country… So in this case, galleries have been scattered throughout the fair, on a par with the other stands. This year, we’ve also focused on video, which is a medium highly prized by young creation. Speaking about the body through videos is a way of tackling a central theme for this scene. We curated the fair on the basis of what was emerging.
Could Art Paris Art Fair launch the African scene in France?
We’ve managed to attract some very good galleries representing the African scene, among the best. The quality is there. We’ve also opened up to other horizons. We don’t just deal with French-speaking Africa, we manage to combine together all Africas. It’s also very interesting to have artists from Mozambique or Angola, who we never see in Paris, and galleries are promoting a very young generation. This new scene injects a special energy to the fair. We’ve implemented great coordination work so that Art Paris Art Fair corresponds to a series of exhibition openings on the theme of Africa, namely the show at the Galerie des Galeries designed by Marie-Ann Yemsi, “Le jour qui vient”. There’s “100 % Afrique” at La Villette, curated by Simon Njami, which is going to be a big operation, and we’ve also recruited the Musée Dapper, which is specially organising a Soly Cissé exhibition. At L’Appartement, an exhibition will be showing the work of Myriam Mihindou. The photographer Roger Ballen is also being shown at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature while the Quai Branly is presenting “African Roads”… It’s a real African season. The artists and curators are there, with a whole art circle that has been keen to make the trip over. This is what Art Paris Art Fair offers: spadework rather than consecration. This is the role of this fair…
Art Paris Art Fair. From 30 March to 2 April, Grand Palais, Avenue Winston-Churchill, Paris 75008. www.artparis.com
Drawing Now Paris. From Thursday 23 to Sunday 26 March, Carreau du Temple, 4 Rue Eugène-Spuller, Paris 75003. www.drawingnowparis.com
DDessin Paris. From Friday 24 to Sunday 26 March, Atelier Richelieu, 60 Rue de Richelieu, Paris 75002. www.ddessinparis.com
Salon du Dessin. From Wednesday 22 March to Monday 27 March, Palais Brongniart, Place de la Bourse, Paris 75002. www.salondudessin.com
PAD, Art + Design. From Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 March, Jardins des Tuileries, 234 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 75002. www.pad-fairs.com