FIAC's Jennifer Flay Takes Over the Parisian Art Fair

Jennifer Flay. Photo by X. Cariou.
Jennifer Flay. Photo by X. Cariou.

Since taking the reins of the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) in 2010, Jennifer Flay continues to broaden the reach of this art calendar anchor. This October, the 43rd edition will showcase 186 galleries from 27 countries, and take over Paris in staging sculpture, art installations, dance and more. “FIAC shouldn’t stand alone, but rather transform the art scene so that the city is vibrating,” says Flay.

The fair has long held court in the Grand Palais, and among the galleries within that belle-époque domed structure this year are Galerie Perrotin, Sadie Coles HQ, Thaddaeus Ropac, Gagosian Gallery and Gavin Brown’s enterprise. But, she affirms, “we’re not just about showcasing long-established galleries. We’re spotlighting 45 younger dealers with the latest in emerging art.”

For the newest feature, On Site, Flay will install contemporary pieces like Damien Hirst’s massive white marble Anatomy of an Angel (2008), alongside works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot in the permanent collection of the Petit Palais. “I want to engage viewers and spark conversations,” says Flay.

A chorus of dealers applauds her efforts. “Jennifer has turned FIAC into one of the most important shows in the art fair world,” says Brussels dealer Xavier Hufkens. “She continues to make bold choices to adapt to changing conditions while keeping the profile of the fair sharp. Every big player wants their name on the FIAC list.”

And Chelsea dealer David Maupin also gives her high marks. “Jennifer Flay has been very impactful in her contributions to the fair, particularly with this year's addition of the Petit Palais,” he says.

Certain to grab attention is Ugo Rondinone’s series of six willowy olive trees cast in aluminum—some towering over 15 feet high—right in the center of the Place Vendôme. “With their silvery trunks and leaves, there’s a ghostly quality to them that’s mesmerizing,” says Flay.

The Hors les Murs section—taking over the Jardin des Tuileries and Place Vendome through November—further heightens the installations and sculpture. In the Tuileries, Ron Arad’s shell-like structure, The Armadillo Tea Pavilion (2016), could not be more inviting. And if visitors need insight on a particular sculpture in the garden area, an École du Louvre student is nearby to act as a guide.

For those who prefer to forgo trekking to the various sites, Flay points out the perfect form of transport: A fleet of sleek boats will ply the river Seine and stop at nine different historic sites, among them the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay.

“There’s so much going on—from Magritte at the Centre Georges Pompidou to Tino Sehgal at the Palais de Tokyo,” says Flay. “We’re aiming for all of Paris to pulsate with the energy of art.”