Paris Internationale Opens in a Historic Venue—Featuring Edgy, New Artistic Positions and Quite a Few Paris+ VIPs

by Devorah Lauter

Justine Kurland, Paris Internationale



The Paris Internationale art fair opened its doors to the public today, October 19, with one of its decidedly “most ambitious editions to date,” according to show director Silvia Ammon. It also opened in what is now a very different art market landscape in Paris.

This year’s edition, which includes 60 exhibitors from 26 countries, is running alongside the brand new Paris+ by Art Basel, which touched down in the French capital with its VIP opening today, October 20, after the French-owned art fair FIAC was ousted from its longtime October slot in the Grand Palais.

While Paris+ takes place nearby at the temporary location of the Grand Palais Éphémère (the historic palace is undergoing restoration), the annually roving Paris Internationale is being held this year at the gutted and beautifully lit former studio of the 19th century French photographer Nadar, which also happened to be the site of the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874. The fair is open until October 23.

As the French capital teeters towards a total revival, Paris Internationale is also dusting itself off and revamping its advisory board. A key early appointment was announced this week: Michèle Sandoz, who worked for almost nine years as Art Basel’s global head of VIP relations and strategy, has joined.

Feminism was a recurring theme at the fair, as seen in a series of unglazed clay vulvas by Russian-Algerian artist Louisa Babari titled Auto-référence (2019) at Algiers’s Rhizome gallery. Elsewhere, Justine Kurland’s work at Higher Pictures Generation, also from New York, drew on the radical feminist Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto. Kurland cut up images from photography books by historic, white male figures, and reconfigured them in hyper-detailed collages, many of which took vaginal form. “Before making the work available to collectors, Kurland offered to sell them to the original photographers. None of the men have taken her up on her offer,” said the artistic statement.

The bustling preview day of the fair was a promising sign for its longevity in the face of transformations in the Paris scene. Guillaume Piens, director of Art Paris, who was spotted roaming the aisle, was positive about the new Paris fair scene. “Paris+ is very good for Paris Internationale,” he said. “I saw the Basel crowd wandering the Paris Internationale fair alleys, and there were very good sales, so it’s great.” Indeed, the emerging art fair is listed on the VIP program for Paris+.

Ammon, director of Paris Internationale, is also optimistic, though she noted that “time will tell” what the real impact Paris+ will be. “Art Basel has understood Paris’s potential, which is something which we perceived in 2015,” she said. Ammon also hoped “Paris’s strength will make more people want to collect art, to become interested in contemporary art. That’s what we want to get moving: art in this city.”

“Each fair brings a unique and complimentary offering and adds to the vibrancy of this week,” Paris+ director and former co-director Paris Internationale Clément Delépine told Artnet News. He addressed what Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director, described as “initial fears” about the arrival of Art Basel in Paris, at the larger fair’s press conference yesterday, October 18. “From the outset, it has been our desire to collaborate with the broader Parisian arts scene and its multiplicity of cultural actors, and that includes Paris Internationale,” said Delépine. “It is important for a healthy art ecosystem to have platforms that sustain galleries at all levels of the market.”