Picasso, Hirst Works Boost Paris Fair in Battle for Art Sales

"Napalm" (2011) by U.S. artist Rashid Johnson. It will be shown by the London and Zurich dealers Hauser & Wirth at the 38th edition of the FIAC fair in Paris, previewing Oct. 19. Source: Hauser & Wirth via Bloomberg

Works by Pablo Picasso and Damien Hirst will be on offer in Paris from today as the French capital joins the crowded market for art fairs.

FIAC comes a week after London’s Frieze, which had $350 million 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 SA.

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 2.5 million euros ($3.43 million) -- 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.

Pricey Pop Art

“A propos de New York en Peinturama” by the French Pop artist Martial Raysse will be among the most valuable works, priced at about 5 million euros 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.

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 e-mail.

The most expensive confirmed sale was 1.5 million pounds ($2.4 million) 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.

Financial News

“It felt a bit subdued,” said Robert Read, fine art expert at insurer Hiscox Ltd., which valued the Frieze material at $25 million 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 pounds ($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 3 million euros.

The Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain is at the Grand Palais, Paris, through Oct. 23. Information: http://www.fiac.com/?lg=en

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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