Just as the chaos of Frieze week in New York has calmed down, the party is resurrected in Basel, Switzerland. After a big splash at new venue, Skylight at Moynihan Station, SCOPE art fair continues to ride the heels of their rebranding honeymoon by raising the bar in Switzerland. This year, SCOPE plans to wow with a roster of edgy featured projects including a sprawling El Anatsui installation, a museum quality sculpture garden and a metaphysical masterpiece with magnets and neon, which offers promise to move out of the white box model and into experiential territory. With art fairs as of late starting to get trade showy again, SCOPE is asserting its artistic viewpoint by amping up their curatorial stance with higher caliber projects in addition to their usual roster of galleries like October Gallery, Mauger Modern, invisible Heroes, and LICHT FELD.
Fernando Arias, Humanos Derechos, 2011; Courtesy of Galeria Christoper Paschall.
In the footsteps of their New York edition, the fair has a new location, in the Klybeckquai neighborhood right on the Rhine. Taking advantage of the picturesque positioning on the river front, SCOPE will pay an homage to another European art celebration—the Venice Biennale. Four large scale sculptures by Jiao Xingtao, David Middlebrook, Fernando Arias and Paolo Grassino represent biennales of past and present. Perched along the shores of the Rhine, the Venice party continues with a collection that together evokes different aspects of survivalism, with each piece channeling a very different cultural scenario. David Middlebrook’s Bamboozled could be a shelter off a desert island. The sculptural hut is capped with a boat that floats impossibly on slanted bamboo rods, staying mysteriously suspended on its off-kilter base. Jiao Xingtao’s Powerful Dragon brings visitors into the thick of the overcrowded streets of China, with only a thin strip of metal of the motorcycle/truck sculpture protecting their skins from oncoming traffic. Fernando Arias’ film Humanos Derechos which documents citizens in the thick of the conflict in Colombia, comes to life in life size sculpture, humanizing the film through scale, while Paolo Grassino’s Analgesia, draws upon man versus animal, with a pack of wild dogs that ferociously protect a caravan of three over turned cars. The sculpture garden is powerful and cohesive, bringing a museum quality curatorial experience to the art fair.
Jiao Xingtao, powerful dragon, 2011; Courtesy of CANVAS International Art.
Special projects are what used to make art fairs special—where you could go to experience something different than walking from white box gallery to white box gallery. They are a place to see something wild, something that invited you in, or something that made you take your shoes off, get out of your comfort zone and walk around. El Anatsui is on the mind of every New Yorker, with his glittering installation on the High Line. His beautiful Skylines? appears to be an oversize luxe tapestry, but is actually made from recycled liquor bottle caps and labels from Nigerian distilleries. Each year, Ado and Comenius of Invisible Heroes amaze visitors with their sculptural pieces that push the limits—usually of gravity. Perfectly meshing science and art, their Arrangement de Lumieres combines magnets, resin and neon to create a fantastically floating installation.
Aside from flexing their curatorial muscle, SCOPE has also commissioned an app that they introduced at their last fair. Powered by Collectrium, the app lets users scan, collect and organize the art shown at the fair, making collecting and sorting super easy—and much less arduous than dog-earring a catalogue or collecting post cards.
Between staging a mini-Venice Biennale garden to presenting a snippet of the Brooklyn Museum, SCOPE has the experiential on its mind for this year’s Basel edition, by paying close attention to the dialogue created between art and the atmosphere in which it is presented.
(Image on top: El Anatsui, Skylines?, 2008, aluminum and copper wire; Courtesy of October Gallery, London.)