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Christina Catherine Martinez jumps a few hurdles to get into FIAC
Bureaucracy is as much a part of France’s mythic national character as wine, cheese, or chicness itself. I began my month long stay in the City of Light (a light which, I’ve noticed, emanates mainly from the Eiffel Tower, twinkling dreamily through the upper-floor windows of those who merely want to sleep at night) prepared to dismantle these clichés with encounters and anecdotes testifying to their opposite.
Unfortunately, the difficulty with which I finally breached the perimeter of the 40th edition of the FIAC art fair doesn’t seem to surprise anyone. During the afternoon press preview on Wednesday, after being herded through a maze of crowd control barriers, I ascended the steps of that remarkable Beaux-Arts paragon, the Grand Palais, and presented my credentials to the uniformed fonctionnaire at the check-in booth. "C’est une drôle carte de presse," she said, turning the card over in her hand before informing me that it is not, in fact, a real press pass.
As a corollary to FIAC the Prix Marcel Duchamp has had some pretty impressive winners in its time and is, as with all of these types of prizes, a great way for an artist to get some recognition, funding and actual cash. Not as old as the Swiss Art Awards, as prestigious as a Gold or Silver Lion, or as lucrative as some of the big private awards, it is still sufficient to spur on the career of any artist, not least in that it comes with a well funded exhibition at the Pompidou, and allows you to join a roll of previous winners that includes the likes of Thomas Hirschhorn and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster.
This year the prize remains true to form, despite its international panel of judges, in that it historically favours Paris-based artists, with three of the four artists having their practice in the city. There has also been a tendency, perhaps in keeping somewhat with its namesake, for the prize to go to someone with a sculptural/installation-based practice, and again we see three of the four artists working in something we could call this format. Finally, remaining true to its remit, and, as hasn't always been the case, this year's is a relatively youthful selection...