Most have focused their attention this week on Art Basel’s new Paris+ fair, which has more than 150 exhibitors and is taking place near the Eiffel Tower. But a smaller, more tightly curated affair just a half hour’s walk away offers a much different vision of what it looks like when galleries converge.
Seven galleries focused on the intersection of art and design have banded together at the 18th-century Hôtel de Guise for an event called Zut!, whose name is a cute way of saying “damn” in French. Set in a former hôtel particulier, the space was once the opulent home of a wealthy Parisian family—a doorway on the third floor shows the family’s height measuring chart—and has become derelict over the years. Wallpaper peels in certain places, and the elevator has been removed.
The arrival of Paris+ prompted Salon 94 Design to wrangle other galleries who present work in the liminal space between art and design. Zoe Fisher, a director at the Salon 94 Design, said that the gallery wanted to present something that “engaged with the space and with the unique history of Paris.”
A1043 (of Paris), Deli Gallery (New York), Friedman/Johnson (New York and Miami), Galleria Mitterrand (Paris), the Breeder (Athens), and Volume Gallery (Chicago) all worked collaboratively to pull off the stunning event, which is spread across three floors.
Perhaps the most art historically significant work on view here—or at any of the fairs happening in Paris this week—is a regal portrait of a young woman in a flowing silver silk dress set against a rich blue background. It’s by none other the Surrealist master Leonor Fini, and it comes courtesy of Salon 94 Design.
Elsewhere in the gallery’s presentation are dazzling silver furniture pieces by London-based Max Lamb, paintings of young women by emerging artist Nazanin Jahangir, and a chandelier by F. Taylor Colantonio. That last piece looks as if it is made from plaster or some other sturdy material but has been achieved through a complex papier-mâché–like process that involves sanding down the hundreds of layers of paper.
Zut! also has incredible paintings, including ones by Yukultji Napangati, an Aboriginal artist from Western Australia who is part of the Papunya Tula group of artists. These abstract paintings in shades of yellow and orange draw from the storylines of Napangati’s matrilineal lines, mythologies and histories passed down via kinship for generations.
Meanwhile, the Breeder has brought an interesting work of watercolors on fabric by Chioma Ebinama, a Nigerian American artist now based in Greece, as well as a corner piece by South African artist Lulama Wolf, a combination of acrylic and sand that explores of Black women’s interior states.
On the second level, Volume has two distinct spaces that face each other via a courtyard. In one are sparkling chandeliers by New York–based artist Sam Stewart, who worked in collaboration with a couture seamstress to achieve the intricate hand-pleating necessary to pull them off. Hung torso-level, they resemble the tops of jellyfish.
Across from them, also via Volume, are intricately knotted textiles sculptures by Tanya Aguiñiga, who is having her first presentation in Europe through the fair. The L.A.-based artist and activist creates these works, which speak to the experiences of those living in the borderlands of the U.S. and Mexico, in a very specific way: after she has knotted the raw cotton, she packs them with ice and then drops dye atop it. As the ice melts, the dye seeps into the fabric to create these kaleidoscope-like color fields.
“These works act as a space of respite, especially after the last two-plus years of the pandemic,” Volume cofounder Claire Warner said. “They’re celebratory, in a way, and are contending with the history of this space.”
The sculptures seem to weave themselves into the walls, and thus into the history of Paris, as worlds collide.