This year at the Art Paris Art Fair there was a dizzyingly fascinating gathering of art galleries from around the world. China was the guest of honour, after Russia last year. In front of the Grand Palais entrance to the art fair lay a rusting metal fist larger than a man: its tantalisingly paradoxical political image suggested both oppressive power and the severing of that power from the arm that propels it.
Inside the Palace of art, the first gallery to greet the attendee was Adler Subhashok Gallery situated in Bangkok and specialising in local Thai artists. Manit Sriwanichpoom is one to watch; his 15 Pieces of Pink Man: Icon of Consumerism is a series of portable hyperrealist sculptures of a fat fluorescent pink man toting an empty trolley, and Pink Man Opera is a hilarious digital photograph portraying a cross between Buddha and the signature pink man.
Paritoon Joomee’s drawn out, arabesque-covered faces are also gripping. Pacharapong Meesilp and Pradit Tungprasartwong also deserve attention in the future. Parisian gallery Berthet-Aittouarès featured Chinese body artist Liu Bolin, an unconventional painter who paints himself into urban backgrounds so that it looks like he’s both there and absent at the same time.
Chinese artists have made excellent use of body art to political ends from the beginnings of their liberated contemporary art in the 1980s and continue to do so. Liu’s painterly disappearing acts are playful, less disturbing than the equally memorable self-paintings of Qiu Zhijie and Zhang Huan’s in the 1990s. But the sado-masochistic trend in early contemporary Chinese art is still present, discreetly in the work of He Yunchang (at the Feizi Gallery): one of his photographic compositions shows four photos of fingers holding pins to Mao, a breast, a flower and an oncoming train respectively.
Helene Bailly Gallery in Paris displayed video art that was much more penetratingly masochistic: Zhang Ding is seen punching very prickly cactuses until his fists can punch no longer. Ding loomed large elsewhere in a stand-alone exhibit showing a sculptured butcher cutting up massive slabs of meat. In A2Z Art Gallery, Zhang Wei’s digitally enhanced photographs more movingly dwelt on the pressures to succeed felt by overburdened Chinese children under the one-child rule.
Galerie Templon also hosted works by Asian artists including Yue Minjun and the Japanese Chiharu Shiota with her mysterious objects caught in webs of densely intersecting white thread. Muriel Guépin Gallery in New York displayed Korean artist Keun Young Park’s impressive Dream Series: these are actually photographs of the artist shredded to miniaturised confetti and glued onto paper. In the same gallery, Esther Traugot’s glass case of found bees fitted with yellow sweaters made the little honey-bearers look particularly human and endearing.
Although there was relatively little collage, another singular example of the artform was present at Mario Mauroner Contemporary Art, which hosted work by Carlos Aires. His Disaster is a series of thirty bank notes from around the world with collaged inserts of violent figures. Aires’ use of laser cutting takes some of the charm of collage away but its accuracy allows him to cut minute details like the antennae of a fly. He also extends the cut-out technique to other materials such as vinyl records.
Other memorable artists included Russian digital photographer Katerina Belkina featured at the Dutch gallery Lilja Zakirova. Her refined notion of transformative self-portraiture makes every picture a delight to behold. At La Galerie Particulière, Kate Mccgwire’s surrealist feather-shaped objects were also surprising and unsettling.
The most startling exhibit at the art fair, the one that drew the most wide-eyed fascination from viewers, was As a Flower Chooses Its Colour by a young French artist known as The Kid (at Galerie Anouk Le Bourdiec). It’s a hyperrealist sculpture of a young woman giving birth on a block of marble. This is a more disturbing, yet equally moving, version of a theme already tackled by Ron Mueck: Le Kid’s exquisite balance of beauty, humour and horror stays with you long after you have left the art fair.
The Art Paris Art Fair ran from 27 – 30 March at the Grand Palais, Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris, France. For more information visit www.artparis.fr/en.
1. Liu Bolin, Iron Fist (2014). Courtesy of the artist and Art Paris Art Fair.