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Wed 19 Oct 2011 07:16 PM

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Top artworks boost Paris fightback as fairs compete for sales

Paintings by Picasso, Hirst on offer to lure big spenders at France’s biggest fair

Top artworks boost Paris fightback as fairs compete for sales
Pablo Picassos Couple, Le Baiser painting. (For illustrative purposes only.)

Works
by Pablo Picasso and Damien Hirst were on offer in Paris as the French capital
joined the crowded market for art fairs.

FIAC
comes a week after London’s Frieze, which had $350m of art on sale, tested
investors’ faith in contemporary works and as Europe struggles with its
sovereign debt crisis.

“FIAC
is on the up,” the New York-based art adviser David Nisinson said. “Frieze is a
perfectly good fair. It’s just that the difference between these events is not
so great and collectors have to choose.” Amid volatile stock markets, “it’s a
little tougher to sell works at less than $50,000,” he said.

France’s
biggest fair - Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain is its full name - is
helped by its central location in the Grand Palais and attracts collectors such
as Christie’s International owner Francois Pinault, and Bernard Arnault,
chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

The
38th FIAC, which previews for VIPs today and doesn’t give any estimate for the
total value of art on offer, brings together 168 galleries from 21 countries.
Unlike Frieze, which focuses on contemporary artists, the Paris event combines
pieces by emerging names with big-ticket works by Picasso and other 20th-century
modernists.

London-based
Lisson, Sadie Coles HQ and White Cube - which will be bringing Hirst’s “Where
Will It End,’’ priced at about €2.5m ($3.43m) - are among the dozen galleries
returning to FIAC. New York dealers Pace and Matthew Marks will be making
debuts. All are Frieze exhibitors, underlining the growing rivalry between the
two October events.

 “A propos de New York en Peinturama” by the
French Pop artist Martial Raysse will be among the most valuable works, priced
at about €5m on the booth of the Paris dealer Galerie Natalie Seroussi.

London
and Zurich dealers Hauser & Wirth are now representing the American artist
Rashid Johnson and offering his new works priced $50,000 to $95,000.

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There
was no sales stampede at Frieze, according to dealers, with many browsers
hesitating. Still, more than 60,000 visitors went to the five-day event and
there were “strong sales at every level,” Frieze organizers said in an email.

The
most expensive confirmed sale was £1.5m ($2.4m) for Gerhard Richter’s digital
print “Strip (CR921-1)” on the booth of the New York and Paris dealer Marian
Goodman, Frieze said. The Paris dealer Emmanuel Perrotin sold the Takashi
Murakami carbon-fiber sculpture “Bunbu-kun” for $900,000, Frieze said.

“It
felt a bit subdued,” said Robert Read, fine art expert at insurer Hiscox (HSX),
which valued the Frieze material at $25m less than last year. “There’s so much
bad financial news in the papers at the moment. It weighs heavily on people’s
minds,” said Read.

As
at Art Basel in June, works by museum-exhibited artists in the $200,000 to
$500,000 range remained a sweet spot for wealthy buyers at Frieze.

The
Indonesian-Chinese collector Budi Tek bought the 2011 Daniel Richter painting
“London is the place for me,” priced at $350,000, on the booth of the New York
gallery David Zwirner. London and Berlin dealers Sprueth Magers sold the 2006
George Condo painting “Interception,” tagged at $450,000, to an American
client.

Michael
Landy’s 2011 kinetic sculpture “Credit Card Destroying Machine,” which produced
a drawing for anyone prepared to part, permanently, with their plastic,
attracted attention at the booth of the London dealer Thomas Dane. Priced at £120,000
($188,000), it was a confirmed sale to a European collector on the concluding
weekend of the fair.

“It's
a much more mature-paced market,” said Francois Chantala, partner at Thomas
Dane. “People know they can take a couple of days to make a decision.”

There
were also substantial one-off sales at the boutique Pavilion of Art &
Design London fair in Berkeley Square. Dickinson Gallery sold a 1966 red
seven-cut Lucio Fontana “Concetto Spaziale-Attese” painting priced at about €3m.

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