Burgweg 15, 4058 Basel, Switzerland
June 17, 2014 - June 22, 2014
A Young Fair with a Lot of Experience: An Interview with LISTE Director Peter Bläuer
by Olga Stefan
Posted by Olga Stefan
| tags: satellite fairs Peter Bläuer basel emerging artists art fairs LISTE 18
LISTE was founded in 1996 as a new, self-confident generation of gallerists came of age at the end of the 1980s, gallerists who had little chance of securing a space at the world’s most important art fair, Art Basel. The first LISTE, dedicated exclusively to this new generation, presented thirty-six galleries from twelve countries and as a result of its success has continued growing ever since to include seventy-eight galleries today. Peter Bläuer, the Director of LISTE, took some time out of his busy schedule preparing the fair to answer ArtSlant’s questions.
Olga Stefan: LISTE has been around since 1996 and is considered one of the most important fairs in the world. Please tell us how and why it was started, by whom, and how it developed over time.
Peter Bläuer: LISTE - The Young Art Fair in Basel is proud to look back on nineteen years of great success. What began in 1996 on the initiative of young exhibitors (Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchmann among others) has developed into one of the world's most important fairs for new galleries and emerging art. David Zwirner from New York, Massimo de Carlo of Milan, Maureen Paley of London, neugerriemschneider of Berlin, Emi Fontana of Milan, and Andréhn Chiptjenko of Stockholm belong to those pioneer galleries who were there at the beginning—all of whom can be counted among the most well-established in the art market today.
Sam Pulitzer, wšynyy, 2013, Mixes media, dimensions var.; Photo: Joerg Lohse / Courtesy the artist and Real Fine Arts, New York
OS: As so many fairs start and then fold, to what do you attribute LISTE's longevity?
PB: With its excellent reputation for young exhibitors and, the most important, emerging artists, the discoverer fair LISTE has secured a permanent place not only in Basel’s art scene but also internationally. LISTE is one of the few ancillary fairs that is, with respect to quality and content, so strong that it could easily function as a major fair in its own right.
OS: How are gallery selections made? As we all know, it's not only a question of the quality of the programme, there are also other considerations involved. Can you walk us through the selection process a bit?
PB: LISTE’s success is due mainly to its clear and rigorous fair concept and the strong effort the fair invests in presenting artists who are not represented at Art Basel. There is a committee (consisting of curators) that carefully selects the applications from each gallery (from over 350 applicants!). As opposed to other fairs, the selection committee looks closely at the program of the gallery (for the first year applicants), which should include young generation [artists], collaboration with other galleries or institutions, activities, artists working with different medias and so on. Also important for the committee is the gallery’s consistent relationship with the artists (helping to build up solid careers). That means the proposal is secondary (but still important). Also different from other fairs is that the selected galleries/exhibitors can return several times: the aim is to build up a strong presence and visibility for the gallery.
In order to provide visitors with new artistic positions, the selection committee places great emphasis on presentations of two to three artists per gallery. The selection of a high number of solo presentations also supports the pursuit of this goal.
OS: How is LISTE different from other fairs focusing on young galleries and artists?
PB: Thanks to our main sponsor, Bank E. Gutzwiller & Cie Basel, we are able to keep our prices low. We keep the booth price for new exhibitors as low as possible. Each successive year of participation is accompanied by a price increase.
Both the jury and the fair’s management attach great importance to the gallery’s selection of artists and the concept of the presentation for the fair. LISTE involves primarily young, often not well-known artists who are being introduced to a large expert public in Basel.
OS: What is the budget of LISTE and does income from application fees cover those costs? Or are there additional income streams that need to be generated to make ends meet?
PB: Booth costs and our generous sponsor Gutzwiller support the fair.
OS: Why do you think that the art world is so focused on the young? How do you view this preoccupation with "the young"?
PB: Isn’t it all about “young”? See all the plastic surgery and treatments. It is not only in the art world, it seems to be a social phenomenon. Everyone wants to stay young and fresh.
Also in the art world people love to discover, to be the first to buy from an almost unknown artist for a low price—hoping one day the price will be double or more.
OS: Can you offer some highlights from this year's programme? What do you look forward to the most for the 19th edition?
PB: We are excited about having sixteen new galleries at LISTE this year, among them five galleries from Latin America (80M2 Livia Benavides (Lima), document-art (Buenos Aires), Instituto de Vision (Bogotá), Jaqueline Martins (São Paolo) and Proyectos Ultravioleta (Guatemala City)! Four galleries are from the US: Freedman Fitzpatrick (Los Angeles), Essex Street (New York), Real Fine Arts (Brooklyn) and 47 Canal (New York), four galleries from Berlin (Lars Friedrich, Dan Gunn, Sandy Brown and Mathew), one from Cape Town (Blank Projects), one from Geneva (Truth and Consequences) and one new gallery from Poland (Dawid Radziszewski). These young upcoming galleries will definitely be one of our highlights this year!
Anne Imhof, Aqua Leo, 1st of at least two, slide show, dimensions variable, 2013; Courtesy of the artist
Please also note the ambitious performance project, curated again this year by Fabian Schoeneich, assistant curator at Kunsthalle Basel. One highlight will be the performance of Anne Imhof taking up the history of performance in the domain of art as well as music and choreography. Anne Imhof examines traditional images, structures, and processes and develops new tactics that contribute to an expanded conception of performance. For her contribution to the Performance Project, she is developing a new performance piece that is based on interaction and improvisation and combines up to eight protagonists. Adapting choir elements, text fragments, and voice the artists is interested in the layering and repetition of such diverse components.
(Image on top: LISTE 18; © Photography: Daniel Spehr)
Messe Basel, Messeplatz, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland
June 14, 2014 - June 22, 2014
Performing Bodies in Basel: 14 Rooms of Living Art
by Keren Goldberg
Posted by Keren Goldberg
| tags: conceptual Klaus Biesenbach performance hans Ulrich obrist basel art fairs 14 Rooms participatory art basel
Much more interesting than the description of the 14 Rooms performance series, which will take place as part of Art Basel and is organized by star-curators Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist, is its call out for participants/performers to take part in it: “If you have an identical twin, use the opportunity to be part of Damien Hirst’s work. War veterans are sought after for part of Santiago Sierra’s performance, and anyone who speaks colloquial British-English and is similar in appearance to Ed Atkins or his avatar (shaved head), should take a look at his casting call.”
It seems a parody of the highly criticized outsourcing of people and appropriation of the human body, which is part of the performance practice, especially present in political works such as those by Santiago Sierra. But with big shots names like the ones mentioned above, this use of the human resource is bound to be intriguing. Fourteen artists will each activate a room, “exploring the relationship between space, time and physicality with an artwork whose ‘material’ is the human being.”
Allora & Calzadilla,
Revolving Door, 2011,
11 Rooms, Manchester International Festival
; Photo credit Howard Barlow
Works by Ed Atkins, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and Otobong Nkanga will be shown for the first time, along side more known performances, such as Marina Abramović’s Luminosity (1997) in which a performer is sitting on a bicycle seat, fixed onto a wall, or Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s Revolving Door (2011), where a group of dancers spontaneously form a line and begin to rotate around the room, sweeping up visitors as they go. The impressive list of participating artists forms a mix between performance masters and up-and-coming names: Joan Jonas, Bruce Nauman, and John Baldessari, as well as Tino Sehgal and Jordan Wolfson. And if that’s not enough, they will all perform in purpose-built architectural surroundings designed by the architects Herzog & de Meuron, which will mirror the rooms, creating an illusion of duplication.
(Female Figure), 2014;
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London
This will be the fourth edition of this format, which was first shown in Manchester International Festival in 2011 as 11 Rooms, and later in the International Arts Festival Ruhrtriennale in Germany (2012-2014) and in Sydney (2013) as 12 and 13 Rooms respectively. This edition, with its fourteenth room, will open up to the post-internet world with reflections on the digital and on avatars. The project, according to its curators, examines the sculptural quality of performance, while challenging the notion of live art and participatory practice. Shown as part of Art Basel, it might indeed add a critical value, free of commoditization considerations, to one of the major art fairs in the world.
Shave your head, find an identical twin, or simply buy a ticket, but be sure to get into some of these rooms.
Tickets available here.
(Image on top: Marina Abramovic,
11 Rooms 11 Rooms Manchester International Festival; Photo credit courtesy Manchester City Galleries)
VOLTA Art Fair Basel
MARKTHALLE , Viaduktstrasse 10, CH-4051 Münchenstein / Basel , Switzerland
June 16, 2014 - June 21, 2014
Art Basel on the Side
by Teodora Kotseva
Posted by Teodora Kotseva
| tags: art fair guide satellite fairs art market art fairs LISTE Volta art basel I Never Read
Satellite fairs and art shows seem to be mushrooming around their big brothers. With nearly two-dozen fairs, Miami is definitely the leader, followed by the Armory show, which this year had at least eight side fairs. The month of June though is reserved for the old continent and Art Basel, which is one of the oldest contemporary art fairs and one of the most important when it comes to the concentration of well-established art galleries. Some 4,000 artists will be featured in various sectors, providing for a neat selection of modern and contemporary artwork. Mega fairs and especially their brand image seem to affect the art market, and its participants, more and more. Today’s galleries have a tough time coping with the tight art fair calendar; this year Frieze New York and Art Basel Hong Kong had overlapping calendar days. Participation in a major fair proves a gallery’s importance and stance in the art world, but there’s not enough space for everyone—so in come the satellites. The reason behind this is apparent: everyone is trying to access the world's art collectors coming to town alongside the homegrown local public.
Navid Nuur, Untitled (Please free also this color from Pantone prison), 2009-2013, pencil on paper, 32 x 25 cm; Courtesy Gallery Plan B, Cluj-Berlin. At LISTE.
According to economic theory, for a product or service to be successful there should be a certain demand for it. And here we go: art fair organizers take advantage of the increasing number of new contemporary art galleries on the market and reply with organizing various off-site shows. The rapid increase of satellite art fairs seems to be a response to the demand for exhibition opportunities, however only the future will tell whether this need has been prompted by the growing number of newcomer art galleries on the market, the desire to exhibit during one of the important world art fairs, the mass media attention on contemporary art, or by the growth and buying potential of art devotees.
Without exception to the rule, in Basel one can enjoy a couple of satellite fairs: such as LISTE, the Young Art Fair, which after eighteen years in the game is not that young; VOLTA in its tenth edition; Scope Basel, celebrating eight years in town; the Solo Project; and newcomers such the book art fair, I Never Read, organized for its third consecutive year.
LISTE’s new structure, Architects: UNEND, Zurich Membran; Structure: HP Gasser AG, Lungern, Photo: Courtesy LISTE and Daniel Spehr
From the Basel satellites LISTE deserves top mention. As one of the most important showcases for "young" galleries—originally no older than five years—the fair aims to represent emerging and mid-career artists. As a true pioneer of cutting-edge contemporary art the fair welcomes this year some sixteen new galleries from Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Poland, and South Africa. Besides the newcomers LISTE will inaugurate a new terrace overlooking the Rhine with a restaurant area on the 5th and 6th floors. This year’s programme concentrates around performance, an art form that often has a hard time coping with the commoditized art market. A complete overview of the performance section could be found here.
Another major satellite fair is SCOPE Basel, which returns to last year’s location in Klybeckquai, dubbed the new art and culture hotspot in Basel. SCOPE will take place in a 4,000m² pavilion with a selection of global galleries including various participants from Asia and East Europe. Just outside the fair Jean Tinguely will have his musical performance Cyclope. Fair visitors can enjoy several open-air restaurants, bars, and of course the waterfront.
The art publisher’s and artist’s book fair I Never Read will take place at the Volkshaus, which is walking distance from LISTE and Art Basel. It has a lovely courtyard for chilling over a drink. The fair is free and open to public. Discussions with guest artists, DJ’s and publishers can be followed on-line via the fair's website.
VOLTA’s tenth birthday will be celebrated at the 1929 concrete dome Markthalle structure, an architecture landmark and third large cupola in Europe. Some 68 galleries from 38 countries will present solo presentation and carefully curated booths, thus emphasizing the work of individual artists.
The Solo Project also aims to bring a more in-depth view to artist’s oeuvre by inviting galleries to introduce and organize their booths around one selected artist. The Solo Project will be in its seventh edition, featuring mostly European galleries.
Fair Programme (ordered by opening day):
Mon, June 16, 12-17h Preview (invitation only), 17-19h Opening Reception (free, open to public)
Tue-Sat 13-21h, Sun 13-18h
Single entry: CHF 20, Reduced: CHF 10, After 8 pm: CHF 6, students free admission
Mon, June 16, 14-20h Public Vernissage
General Admission: 17CHF, Reduced: 12CHF
Tue, June 17, Private View (invitation only)
Wed, June 18, 15-20h Vernissage (invitation only)
Day Ticket: CHF 45, Evening Ticket, after 5 pm: CHF 25
Tue, June 17, 12-16h First View (Platinum Members Only), 16-20h VIP & Press
Platinum First View: 150 CHF, General VIP & Press: 100 CHF
Public: 22 CHF, Student: 15 CHF
The Solo Project
Wed, June 18, 10-12h (invitation only), 12-20h (general public)
Thu-Sat 10-19h, Sun 10-17h
Admission: 20 CHF
I Never Read
Wed, June 18, 18-22h Opening
Antonella Zazzera, Armonico C-S, 2011-2012, copper thread, 115 x 72 x 20 cm; Courtesy Antonella Cattani Contemporary Art, Bolzano. At The Solo Project.
Monday, June 16
LISTE Opening Party at Volkshaus
After 22h, free admission
Wednesday, June 18
Breakfast with Konstantin Grcic
Laufen Forum, Wahlenstrasse 46
Free shuttle service from Messeplatz
RSPV required: email@example.com
Art Basel, special evening opening program
Parcours is the side programme of Art Basel, featuring various artistic interventions in the Rheingasse and Kleinbasel with works by acclaimed international artists such as: Chris Burden, Mario Garcia Torres, Pierre Bismuth, etc. Performances on Parcours Night will include Mario Garcia Torres and Guido van der Werve.
I Never Read Opening Party
Lady Bar, Feldberg 47
22h till late
Thursday, June 19
House of Electronic Arts
Ryoji Ikeda (Live set)
Klybeckstrasse 1b, Basel (Public transport stop Kazerne)
From 21h till late
Catwalk in Public Space
Friday, June 20
Artist Talk: Peter Doig
Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse 101, Riehen
Admission with museum ticket
Throughout Art Basel Week:
As every year the Stadtkino Basel located at Klostergasse will host Art Basel's film programme showing short and feature-length artist films.
Club & Place for Sinners (below Kunsthalle)
Various artists & DJs invited by Frank Basel & Idea Fixa Gallery
From 11pm till late
Admission with a flyer
Westquaistrasse 19, Basel
For football fans, during Art Basel visit Das Schiff with daily screenings of games.
(Image on top: VOLTA’s Dome; From www.voltashow.com)
Messe Basel, Messeplatz, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland
June 18, 2014 - June 22, 2014
Parcours: Taking Art Basel to the Streets
by Federico Florian
Posted by Federico Florian
| tags: performance installation sculpture Parcours art basel basel art fairs public art
The Dreiländereck (literally, “angle of the three countries”) rises up on the northern end of the Kleinhuningen Port in Basel. It’s a metal pillar, resembling a silver screwed missile, oriented towards the sky and signaling the exact point where three nations—Switzerland, France, Germany—meet together. Basel is a city wedged into the core of Europe; it’s a border town, stuck in the offshoots of Swiss mountains and split in two by an ample bight of the Rhine. It’s a place whose metropolitan identity has been molded by trade—of goods, ideas, and knowledge. It is not unusual then that the most prestigious contemporary art fair in the whole world, every June, is held just here.
Parcours is the French term for “route” or “path.” As the name of one of the Art Basel’s sectors, it suggests an itinerary through the city—a way punctuated by public works of art and performances presented by international galleries. At its fourth edition, this year Parcours occupies various locations around the Rheingasse, in the Kleinbasel neighborhood. This area coincides with the right bank of the Rhine; here is situated the fluvial port and the city's industrial heart, as well as the Messeplatz building of the fair. Renowned is the rivalry between the two banks of the river, Grossbasel (or Great Basel) and Kleinbasel (or Small Basel). As proof, at the Grossbasel end of the oldest bridge in town (the Mittlere Brücke) the stone bust of a king’s head—the Lällekönig—sticks his mechanized tongue out at the opposite bank. On the rebound, during the carnival, the main Kleinbasel mask—the Vogel Gryff, a weird griffin with a golden collar—dances on the same bridge turning its back scornfully to the left side of the river.
Rather than encouraging local jealousies, the aim of this expanded-and-sprawled-throughout-the-city sector of the fair—curated for the second time by Florence Derieux, Director of FRAC Champagne-Ardenne—would seem to highlight the multiculturalism and the international breadth of an area such as Kleinbasel. The 2014 edition of Parcours includes works by fifteen artists from twelve nations, all connected in a walking path and integrated in the urban fabric of the Swiss town. “Parcours,” the curator asserts, “responds to a renewed desire for challenging forms of interaction with art.” She continues, “It is particularly interesting to observe how the works presented in this geographical and temporal framework find their place in social life.”
Pierre Bismuth, Performance #4, 2000, (9 Keane Street, London); Courtesy the artist and Bugada & Cargnel
The section includes a few engaging performance-based works, such as Francesco Arena’s 278 km (as a letter of Nietzsche) (2014)—presented by Karlsruhe gallery Kadel Willborn—which sees performers walking the perimeter and diagonal axes of a room until they have marched for 278 km, the distance between Basel and Turin, or rather the length of the journey that Nietzsche’s friend Overbeck travelled in 1889 to bring the philosopher, who was affected by mental illness, back to Basel. Also, the performances by Pierre Bismuth (Bugada & Cargnel, Paris) and Guido van der Werve (Luhring Augustine, New York and Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles) need a mention: The first, titled Performances, works in situ (2014), will feature a series of humorous actions staged in various public spaces, while van der Werve’s home, a requiem (2011-12)—created to accompany the artist’s latest film work—will be performed by a twenty-member string orchestra and twenty-eight strong choir at Clara Kirche during the Parcours Night, tonight June 18. Walking around the Rheingasse, visitors will run across Gottfried Bechtold’s famous Porsche-like sculpture (Panamera, 2007-13), Chris Burden’s meditative environment composed of four cast iron benches and lamps from the 1920s (Holmby Hills Light Folly, 2012), the two monumental horseshoes by Mark Handforth (Tilted Shadow, 2013, and Magenta Torque Moment, 2014), and Ryan Gander’s advertising posters (Make Everything like it’s your Last, 2013). Particularly compelling is the audio work by Seth Price (8-4 9-5 10-6 11-7, 2007), consisting of an eight-hour mp3 track of mixed dance music from the last thirty years. The music will be played every day, in eleven different locations, over an eight-hour period—the length of a typical working day. The title of the piece refers to the various working hours in different working contexts, such as union labor, office work, art world jobs, and department stores.
Seth Price, ‘8-4 9-5 10-6 11-7’, 2007; Courtesy the artist and Petzel Gallery; Galerie Gisela Capitain
In Derieux’s words, “No other fair in the world has created such a daring and generous response to the public’s ever-growing interest in site-specific and performative works.” And, in relation to her second year as a curator of Parcours, she says: “My knowledge of the city and my proximity with the team of Art Basel enabled me to work even more closely with the artists, galleries and partners in order to develop artworks that will truly exist within the city itself, exploring and revealing its past and present history.”
In short: something not to miss.
[Image on top: Francesco Arena, 278 km (as a letter of Nietzsche), 2014; Courtesy Galerie Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf and Monitor Gallery, Roma / Photo Roberto Marossi]
Messe Basel, Messeplatz, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland
June 17, 2014 - June 22, 2014
LAX -----> BASEL
by A. Moret
Posted by A. Moret
| tags: basel art basel art fairs photo essay
The utterance of “Basel” rolls off the tongue like a whisper. No matter the inflection or language in which it’s spoken, the name of the small city in Switzerland is synonymous with one of the most influential art fairs of the calendar year. For a single week in the middle of June nearly all hotels are booked. The quaint and picturesque city in Northern Switzerland that straddles France and Germany, measuring a mere 9.2 square miles, becomes an international hub where hundreds of galleries from over 30 continents make their annual pilgrimage. Basel—the mecca, the Holy Grail, with a population of approximately 165,000 inhabitants welcomes 86,000 visitors and counting from all corners of the globe in just six days.
Upon landing in the terminal the first piece of signage one encounters is a massive blue and gold poster boasting only two words: “Art Basel.” It is the first indication that you have truly arrived. The riding sponsor UBS adorns the exterior of its branches with signage and colorful banners line the skyline throughout the cityscape, along the Rhine and weaving around the cable lines that power the trams. A pop up kiosk near the SBB train station provides visitors with a slew of programming information and tickets. Secondary signage abounds for the eagerly anticipated 14 Rooms, an architectural space designed by Herzog and De Meuron and curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist presents performances by fourteen acclaimed artists. Visitors wear a silver wristband and many keep it on their wrist as a badge of honor long after visiting.
Basel is a destination for which avid collectors save the date far in advance. It’s an international stage where gallerists and artists aspire to exhibit their work and be included in noteworthy private and public collections. Finally, Basel is a destination where writers want to be. Eager to capture the pulse of the city, they are willing to fight to obtain press credentials and gain VIP access so that they can be the first to break the story of the next rising art star. Business cards are in a constant state of exchange. Names that appeared as headlines in art journals walk among the masses and like a mirage disappear just as quickly as they are recognized. Instagram relays a daily record of encounters, impressions, and evidence so that our friends back home in the US who are six or nine hours behind in New York or Los Angeles can live vicariously through our feeds over their morning espresso.
What cannot be truly captured in the Twitter feeds, however, is the sense of community one feels in the city, as if being inducted into a secret club. Knowing a single person who has their foot in the art scene creates a domino effect and before you know it you’re invited to dinners where the conversation is as rich as the ever-flowing wine. For the collector, the artist, the gallerist, or the writer, the name of the game is to see as much as possible until we are all induced into a blissful art coma.
This is my first time attending Basel and I made a trek of 5,874 miles to get here from Los Angeles. Spending over twelve hours on a plane, I caught up on current events thanks to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal and even managed to watch movies that I didn’t have time to see in theaters. One day after leaving the Tom Bradley International terminal I arrived in Basel overwhelmed by the lure of a city that I had heard about for so many years all while fighting severe jet lag. The American dollar is crushed by the Swiss Franc, but we’re here for the art. We can reconcile our fiscal abandon on the plane ride home.
(All images courtesy of the author)
Messe Basel, Messeplatz, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland
June 17, 2014 - June 22, 2014
Diversity rules at 45th edition of the art market’s Olympics
by Edo Dijksterhuis
Posted by Edo Dijksterhuis
| tags: art fairs art basel art market
Art fair participants complain, what’s new? But instead of the usual lamentations about hesitant collectors keeping their pocket books closed, this year dealers’ biggest worry was overly aggressive buyers. They just waltzed into a booth, pointed out a work and did not take no for an answer, even if the work had already been sold. This marks the cautious upswing in the art market which has been getting back up on its feet after being hit by the global financial crisis. Although Art Basel—the self-proclaimed art market’s Olympic Games—typically attracts the type of high net worth individuals who have not been heavily and lastingly affected by the recession, a general sense of relief prevails at the 45th edition. Quite a few galleries had already sold out on Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of the preview.
The renewed optimism shines through in the supply. Of course, for the hedge fund manager or industrialist seeking a safe investment there is still a lot to choose from. As usual, blue chip artists with proven track records in the secondary market can be found on the ground floor of Hall 1. These are works with six figure price tags at least: there’s a Warhol at Gagosian, an Yves Klein/Jean Tinguely sculpture at Hauser & Wirth, Schwitters collages at Nahmad, and lots of Picassos in the dimly lit booth of Landau.
neugerriemschneider, Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Galleries | neugerriemschneider | Berlin, MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG
On the traditionally more adventurous second floor the offerings are extremely diverse. Art in every thinkable medium is on sale, video art being the exception. Unlike other years, there is not one or a few specific artists flooding the fair, although there are a couple of obvious stars. Ai Weiwei, whose largest retrospective ever is on show in Berlin at the moment, is represented by Galerie Urs Meile, who’s showing the same large wooden crate that is part of the show at the Martin Gropius Bau. And Neugerriemschneider has a wonderful bicycle sculpture. Longtime fair favorite Thomas Ruff pops up here and there with his pgh-series from 2013, computer manipulated photograms. These large color prints have a lot more “wall power” than Ruff’s most recent work, modestly sized negatives, which is probably why Mai 36 prefers to show the latter at the gallery in Zürich and bring the pgh-series to the fair. Photography lovers are well catered for. They can choose from a wide range varying from a large Andres Serrano at Yvon Lambert to Richard Mosse’s African rebel with AK47 doused in pink at Carlier Gebauer and an uncharacteristically romantic seascape by Richard Billington at Anthony Reynolds Gallery.
After a couple of lean years painting is making a comeback, although not everything is great. The Kippenberger at Galerie Gisela Capitain is not particularly attractive and the Sasnals at Foksal are not as exciting as expected, but David Schnell’s large-scale landscapes in hallucinatory greens and oranges are mesmerizing (Eigen + Art) and Studer and van den Berg’s painting of an airport lounge is simply a really good work (Krupp). The biggest discovery of the year is probably Nicole Eisenman, brought by Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects in the Feature section. Eisenman could be the new Philip Guston, infusing boldly painted scenes of cigarettes smoked, sausages cut, and bottles emptied with a pinch of surrealism. All works priced around $20,000 were sold in no time.
Nicole Eisenman, Under the Table 2, 2014; Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Feature sector
Collectors looking for something less conventional than a regular canvas could head for Cherry and Martin, where T. Kelly Mason combines painting and collages with light boxes. Victoria Miro has a wonderful, almost pocketsize Sarah Sze sculpture on sale, much smaller than the huge installations the artist is known for but with all the subtlety and complexity one could ask for. And the new William Kentridge film at Marian Goodman also qualifies as top of the line.
As is appropriate since this section was specifically conceived as a kind of showcase, the small but sweet Statements section offers the—commercially—truly daring works. Given the experimental nature of some of the art the price level tends to be lower than at the rest of the fair. The Tino Seghal-inspired 5-channel audio installation by Christian Falsnaes (PSM)—two actors and members from the audience following instructions to point, hug, whoop—costs €18,000 for an edition of three. The installation Love – Poem by Trisha Baga (Société) is a downright steal at €12,000. This unique piece consists of a soundscape and a 3D-film projected on a wall installation. But the most unusual work by far is by David Brooks (American Contemporary). Brooks hoisted five fish tanks, containing previously undocumented catfish from the Amazon, onto bleachers. The €60,000 work questions the relationship between animal and man, viewer and object being watched, and above all the difference between the nature of art and the art of nature.
Whoever, after the hubbub of the market, prefers a more subdued atmosphere to enjoy art in can head for Unlimited. Here seventy-eight works by artists represented at the fair are shown in a museum-like setting. The list of names is impressive, the intended impression monumental. This does not imply the show is without weak spots. Kara Walker’s wall painting of racial stereotypes in silhouette, a theme reworked by Walker over and over, feels tired. Claudio Moser’s rather tame presentation looks like it could have been in the Features section of the fair. And Ann Veronica Janssens has made far better work than the green lights forming a star she’s now showing here.
Giuseppe Penone, Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Unlimited | Giuseppe Penone | Tucci Russo Studio per lâ Arte Contemporanea; MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG
And what’s the reason for showing old works by Bruce Nauman (a 1991 video), Mario Merz (a 1995 igloo) and Carl André (his famous floor work from 1982) at this showcase? Sure, they are iconic works of art but their presentation lacks urgency and any obvious relevance. The only representative of the old guard this does not apply to is Arte Povera great Giuseppe Penone. His Matrice di linfa (2008), halved tree trunks on cowhides spreading across almost the full width of the hall, is majestic.
Some oversized installations qualify as immediate attention grabbers. Sterling Ruby’s Soft Work looks like a warehouse storing mummies wrapped in stars-and-stripes cloth. In a similarly crowded set-up Pascale Marthine Tayou lures the viewer into a labyrinth constructed from cupboards containing tourist trinkets, household goods and groceries. Neons, video projections, and audio changing at every turn bring to life the chaos of Yaoundé, the artist’s hometown.
As usual the bulk of Unlimited consists of time-based work, presented in cave-like booths which in a few cases have been placed unfortunately close together so sound from one work seeps into another. What’s on offer is great, though. It ranges from Guido van der Werve’s wonderfully scored, cerebral celebration of endurance to Ming Wong’s three-screen exploration of gender archetypes in Japanese cinema. Ryan Gander’s 68 second Imagineering mimics commercial advertisement, while Christian Marclay’s Shake Rattle and Roll (Fluxmix) is a dizzying sixteen-monitor installation and Harun Farocki explores thirty years of computer graphics history with lots of machinegun fire and explosions.
Haegue Yang, Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Unlimited | Haegue Yang | Kukje Gallery, Tina Kim Gallery; MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG
Unlimited is very much about watching the flickering in the dark. But when moving back to the main entrance one is confronted with the largest and probably best three-dimensional work on show. At the 2009 Venice Bienniale Haegue Yang impressed visitors of the Korean pavilion with her hanging sculptures made from colorful blinds. But Accommodating the Epic Dispersion – On non-cathartic Volume of Dispersion (2012) easily tops the earlier work. It’s a complex play of lines. Depending on perspective and light the sculpture is diffuse or rigidly closed. It seems to move and breathe. And still it’s only blinds.
[Image on top: Sterling Ruby, Art Basel in Basel | Unlimited, 2014; © Sterling Ruby / Courtesy Xavier Hufkens, Sprueth Magers Berlin London; MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG]
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya, 34, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
June 28, 2014 - October 14, 2014
The subtle subversions of Manifesta 10
by Manus Groenen
Posted by Manus Groenen
| tags: Manifesta subversive biennial politics manifesta 10 Russia
Engagement with local contexts has been a strength of the Manifesta biennial from the outset. The nomadic biennial has been addressing the changing realities in Europe from its start in the early ‘90s, with each edition selecting a different European city or region as its host, with a preference for peripheral and contested areas; for instance, the last edition took place in an old coalmine in Genk, Belgium. For its 10th anniversary Manifesta has organized its easternmost edition to date in St Petersburg, Russian Federation. The main exhibition is located in the buildings of the State Hermitage Museum, a 250-year-old institution that seems surprisingly established for a Manifesta. However, contemporary art is still quite unfamiliar to the museum and the Russian audience. Engaging with this conservative context was a challenge for Manifesta, even more than anticipated.
Manifesta is used to navigating difficult terrain, but during the run up to the event the Russian political context escalated. Not known for tolerance and freedom in the first place, conservatism and authoritarianism in recent months have drastically increased. The anti-gay propaganda laws, occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, and Russia’s continuing involvement in the conflict in Ukraine have heated up the situation for Manifesta. Through multiple petitions for a boycott, cancellation, or postponement of the biennial, with some important artists even withdrawing, Manifesta has stressed the importance of staying with missionary-like passion, maintaining that isolation only worsens the situation. Curator Kasper König stated that “Russia is more than a government—it is also a society, and the exhibition is for the whole public.”
Apart from these wider political complications Manifesta encountered problems with the Russians in situ as well. The city didn’t live up to financial agreements causing the local staff to work without pay for two months, and the State Hermitage Museum proved equally difficult to work with: conservative, bureaucratic, and inflexible, unnecessarily slowing down and complicating the production of the exhibition. König uttered the occasional sigh of desperation about the feasibility of opening Manifesta 10 even in the later stages of preparation. But the biennial has made it through all of this and the current situation in Russia possibly makes this Manifesta even more relevant.
Marlene Dumas, Detail from Great Men (James Baldwin), 2014, 16 drawings (Alan Turing, Youri Egorov, Timur Novikov, Sergei Eisenstein, Tennessee Williams, Sergei Diaghilev, James Baldwin, Mikhail Kuzmin, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anton Krasovsky, Leonard Matlovich, Dmitry Chizhevskiy, Nikolai Gogol, Yevgeny Kharitonov, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Rudolf Nureyev), Ink and pencil on paper, 44 × 35 cm each; Courtesy the artist; Commissioned by Manifesta 10, St. Petersburg; This project has been made possible with financial support from the Mondriaan Fund and Wilhelmina E. Jansen Fund
The fact that media attention leading up to Manifesta 10’s opening was dominated by these political and organizational issues might cause some to judge the biennial purely on activist nerve. The reality is that Manifesta has to walk the fine line between Western values and expectations of activism on the one hand and the limits of Russian law, inevitable censorship, and potential cancellation on the other. Provocations aimed at the Russian government would only have resulted in artists not being able to speak at all. Keeping that in mind, sensitive topical issues are addressed in a very clever way. There are some explicit political statements—like Marlene Dumas’s portrait series Great Men, including Russian homosexuals—that are quite controversial. In the catalogue she states “laws should protect us from hatred and not from love.” Other statements like Boris Mikhailov’s photographs of the Ukrainian Maidan protests just aren’t that interesting, making his inclusion seems more motivated by political correctness than artistic necessity.
More often politics lurk beneath the surface of the works. In one instance it even is on the surface, but you wouldn’t even notice. Olivier Mosset, famous for his abstractions, has made four monochrome abstract paintings, each a different color. At first glance they are autonomous and intriguing and the Manifesta pocket guide praises their formalism and geometry. However, neither the guide nor the catalogue reveal that Mosset’s color choices are based on the colors of the balaclavas of the Pussy Riot band members. This subversive subtlety is employed elsewhere, as in a work of Henrik Olesen featuring a photograph of Brandon Teena, an American transgender who was raped and murdered because of his identity. Again, in the pocket guide the formal and art historical side of the work is highlighted, not Olesen’s interest in the representation of sexual identity. These examples illustrate the clever ways the artists and curators have dealt with sensitive issues. It is a hidden layer that can be felt throughout; political statements are intelligently whispered instead of shouted. For those looking for more topicality, the extensive Public Program will critically respond to the current socio-political circumstances.
Katharina Fritsch, Frau mit Hund (Woman with Dog), 2004, Polyester, aluminum, metal, color, Woman 176 x 100 cm, Dog 49 x 44 x 68 cm; With the support of the Arts Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.; Collection Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson; Installation view, MANIFESTA 10, Winter Palace, State Hermitage Museum
Adding further layers to Manifesta 10 are the ways in which it deals with contexts that are, for instance, more historical or spatial. One third of the exhibition takes place in the rooms of the famous Winterpalace and the New Hermitage. Here artists enter a dialogue with the amazingly opulent building, the collection, and its rich history. Yasumasa Morimura photographically reconstructs the state of the Hermitage during World War II with empty frames on the walls; a sculpture by Katharina Fritsch smartly addresses tourism, history, and the kitschiness of the rococo palace; and Karla Black’s installation highlights the tactile and the space’s materiality.
The majority of the work can be found in the General Staff Building, a newly renovated section of the Hermitage that houses exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. The huge atria host some of the exhibition’s highlights like the imposing work by Thomas Hirschhorn: a four storey, partly collapsed Soviet flat made from his signature cardboard and packaging tape. The title Abschlag is a term meaning that an important part of a whole has been cut off. When you stare into the still visible apartment interiors, you find works by important Constructivists from the State Russian Museum collection decorate these living spaces. They suggest that more is cut off than just a part of the building; there are also some unfinished ideas, histories, and ideologies present here.
As an art world veteran Kasper König doesn’t hide the fact that he might be a bit old fashioned—the exhibition is quite safe in its choice of established artists and traditional in its media. But in a turbulent time and place like this, Manifesta 10 is an intelligent confrontation with contemporary art for the Hermitage and its Russian audience.
(Image on top: Thomas Hirschhorn, ABSCHLAG, installation view, MANIFESTA 10, General Staff Building, State Hermitage Museum, 2014, Scaffolding construction, 16.5 × 9.36 × 3.25 m, Cardboard sheets, packing tape, wood, plywood boards, rolls of aluminum foil, polyethylene electric pipes, metal (Inox) pipes, acrylic, spray, styrofoam, foam blocks, Furniture for the room: 6 tables, 6 beds, 6 chairs, 12 beside chests, 6 bureaus, 6 chairs, 6 heaters, 6 closets, 6 chandeliers, 6 table lamps, Paintings by Kazimir Malevich, Pavel Filonov, and Olga Rozanova from the collection of the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; Commissioned by MANIFESTA 10, St. Petersburg; With the support of the LUMA Foundation and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia)
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya, 34, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
June 28, 2014 - October 31, 2014
Everything is Near: Culture Softens Violence in Manifesta 10
by Sonja Hornung
Posted by Sonja Hornung
| tags: performance installation sculpture violence biennial Russia St. Petersburg Joanna Warsza site-specific Manifesta 10 Public Program manifesta 10
The Cossacks are an East Slavic ethnic group who have long retained independence from the Russian territorial zone. They exist in Crimea, Ukraine, South Caucasus, and even China. Brutally persecuted in Soviet Russia, Cossacks have now reassumed their legitimacy in the Russian national identity, building on their previous historical role as paid militia for the Russian Empire. A 2005 law reinstated this role under Putin and it has been ascertained that Cossack paramilitary activities in East Ukraine and Crimea constitute a form of proxy warfare under the implicit blessing of the Russian state.
On the evening of the 29th of June, 2014, however, bathed in cool, pink light, the Cossacks are not at war—they are onstage and singing. Upon the invitation of Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevičius (*1964), members of the St. Petersburg Academic Choirs performed a repertoire of traditional Cossack songs for the audience of Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg.
In the case of Sad Songs of War, Narkevičius' invitation is a clever move to push a stereotype around a corner, presenting us with the cultural face of a group internationally associated with parochial values and violence. The clip of Cossack guards whipping Pussy Riot sympathizers at the Sochi Winter Olympics is still fresh in our memories and this particular choir often receives performance requests from nationalist political groups. Here, however, they resist having their cultural tradition co-opted by the rising tide of Russian nationalism. Their performance for Manifesta 10's local and international audience channels a wish to present a peaceful and proud image of their culture to the world.
For me, this allows a quick collapse of one stereotype into another, since I know next to nothing about the Cossacks' rich cultural traditions and cannot understand the words of their songs or the significance of their costumes. I appreciate the bluntness of Narkevičius' gesture; the performance is enjoyable precisely because it is uncomfortable. What is going on here? The smoothness of the experience seems to slip up on a misunderstanding between the art world's fetishization of the authentic, on the one hand, and these Cossacks' desire to correct our assumptions, on the other.
Sad Songs of War points us towards a broader question about the relationship between culture and violence. I find it very difficult to locate this particular performance in relation to the above-described Cossack involvement in Crimea and Ukraine. There's an ambivalence at the heart of this dichotomy that cannot be ignored, an ambivalence that also sits at the heart of Manifesta 10 itself. Does the framework of art turn the viewer away from the local violence playing out nearby, just on the other side of the stage? Since both things exist in the same world, and indeed here uncomfortably overlap, how can we learn to recognize where one wavers into the other, and to be wary of where they cancel one another out?
When it comes to events like Manifesta, the art world can no longer lie to itself about the role it plays in broader geopolitical and economic contexts—this is becoming clear from the calls to boycott this, and other, global art events. In a context where Russian territorialism is causing untold suffering, Manifesta's current presence in St. Petersburg runs the risk of becoming a form of cultural whitewashing for nationalism under Putin. International events such as Manifesta and the Sochi Games become platforms to promote openness to the outside world, while Putin's regime maintains a claustrophobically conservative and territorially expansionary civic space within. As a post-Cold War European institution, Manifesta itself brings the ideological clout of the West, preaching values of openness and dialogue to an increasingly patriotic society where homophobia is legally sanctioned and territorial aggression implicitly supported. Try scanning through Pravda and you will find some fine examples. The Western media is no better, and one rarely addressed side effect of Manifesta's attempt at cultural dialogue is the fact that the West comes out feeling culturally smug. But in reality, Western Europe is still antsy about the situation in Ukraine. Nobody wants to see, for example, a repeat version of the 2006 gas crisis, which led to a four-day cut in European gas supplies in the middle of winter. Had Manifesta withdrawn from St. Petersburg two months ago, after Russia's annexation of Crimea, this move would certainly have contributed further to the political escalation of the situation.
In other words, the absence of Manifesta 10 from St. Petersburg would most certainly have made a difference to both regional and global geopolitical stakes. What of its presence? On the ground, things are always more complex, and of course every artwork that makes use of the highly politicized platform of Manifesta carries the potential to open a deeper awareness. My colleague Manus Groenen has written an article taking a closer look at some of the works in the Hermitage and General Staff Building that attempt to do just this.
Pavel Braila, Another Noon, 2014, Performance; Commissioned by MANIFESTA 10, St. Petersburg; With the support of the Institut fur Auslandbeziehungen e.V. Stuttgatt
Sad Songs of War is a part of Manifesta 10's Public Program, which is curated by Joanna Warsza and intervenes in the public, and sometimes private, spaces of St. Petersburg. For example, a series of week-long exhibitions in a charming artists' apartment on Marata Street give a nod to Leningrad's historic use of domestic space for political resistance; Russian/Estonian Kristina Norman will replicate Euromaidan’s half-finished Christmas tree in the square outside the Winter Palace; and Moldovan artist Pavel Braila has organized the traditional noon cannon shot from Petropavlovsk Fortress to be repeated at 12pm Eastern European time, referring to St. Petersburg's geographical affinity to Eastern Europe, rather than Russia proper. The Public Program thus introduces politically charged complications into existing “public” space, which in Russia is increasingly controlled (although it must be made clear that “civil security” measures such as anti-protest or homophobic legislation are not uniquely Russian). In these and other works, the Public Program openly attempts to engage with both the Soviet legacy and present geopolitical position of Putin's Russia. This engagement stands in contrast to Manifesta 10 more generally.
Upon my own second visit to the main exhibition of Manifesta 10 in the General Staff Building, I encountered an obstacle. The central part of the entrance had been annexed by a corporate display and fancy dinner promoting the yet-to-be-completed St. Petersburg Expo building. Showcased in digital 3D imaging, the streamlined Expo structure will be located next to a wondrous high-tech reconstruction of a historical Orthodox church, all proudly paid for by Gazprom (Russia's state-owned natural gas monopoly recently engaged in deadlocking Ukraine over unpaid bills). Also included in the display was a prominent mention of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
In her 2011 essay Art as Occupation, artist and cultural critic Hito Steyerl writes that “art is part of an uneven global system, one that underdevelops some parts of the world, while overdeveloping others—and the boundaries between both areas interlock and overlap.” She argues that in the last two centuries, artists pushed for autonomy from any form of value production, attempting to separate their work from artificial use-value systems and hierarchical power, collapsing it, instead, into life itself. The Director of the Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky, also claims an autonomous (albeit institutional) “territory of art” where works might play out their complexities freed from external economic or political factors. This, however, simply perpetuates a myth of the autonomy of culture that has long since come to an end. Rather than art occupying life, Steyerl asserts, life has become occupied by art, in the sense that creative capital is an integral part of every transaction and exchange. It's no accident that the temporary showcase for St. Petersburg's new Expo building was located inside the EU Biennale. The openness that contemporary art brings with it is also a trump card when luring investors.
Apartment Art as Domestic Resistance, 2014, Curated by Olesya Turkina and Roman Osminkin; Commissioned by MANIFESTA 10, St. Petersburg
It is not that the works on display in Manifesta 10, some of them very fine works indeed, must all directly justify their presence by addressing the political situation on the ground, though it is interesting that there is so much pressure for them to do so. This has a lot to do with the curatorial framing of the Biennial. Vague and contradictory statements about the “complexity” art brings to politics, the need to respect local laws whilst avoiding censorship, or the push for “cultural dialogue” do not go nearly far enough, as Chto Delat, the Russian collective who withdrew their work, pointed out. The onus has moved to the art itself to address the political situation precisely because the curatorial structure of the Biennale lacks a focused, honest, self-critical framework that thoroughly analyzes its own complicity within a highly ambivalent and unstable geopolitical context.
No platform is ever “clean” and the best artists possess a keen sensibility to address such tangled situations. The strangeness of art can and will always open a certain breathing space for some careful thinking, as Narkevičius' performance piece Sad Songs for War has done. But here's the rub: culture can be co-opted at any point in time to present a clean image of the brutality that exists just on the other side of the stage. This is both the potential and the danger for any human: you can pass, so easily, through the thin separation from one side to the other. The division hinges on illusion only, the cardboard walls of the cultural institution. The wonder is that, in such situations, art is still possible; the danger is that it can so easily become a means to render violence opaque. Everything is near.
(Image on top: Deimantas Narkevičius, Sad Songs of War, 2014, Musical performance of Cossack choirs, LenDoc Documentary Film Studio, St. Petersburg, Thursday, 26 June, 2014; Commissioned by MANIFESTA 10, St. Petersburg)