While over morning coffee, it came to mind that one of the dominate images from Basel this year is Franz West’s gigantic pink squiggle, Gekröse (interpreted as intestine or bowel), in the exhibition hall called Art Unlimited. Certainly one of the most extravagant parts of the Basel experience, Art Unlimited is basically a pop-up museum for supersized art lasting only a few days and demanding copious amounts of time and money to mount and dismount. That’s art amore. Long story short: Spectacle lives, a slap in the face is always welcomed, and pink is ever popular.
The process of consumption and digestion is an apt metaphor for most art fairs (after all we are talking about a channel transport system), and certainly Basel ranks at the top of the list. According to all reports, this year’s fair seems to be feasting upon itself. With jaw dropping sales (a Philip Guston for $6 million, a Donald Judd for $2.6 million, a Louise Bourgeois for $2 million...blah blah) and the toniest of the art world ping-ponging down the aisles, one wonders if there really is a euro crisis, or an upcoming Supreme court decision on health care in the US, or a potential showdown in Egyptian politics. No, the only strum und drang under the big tent is about credit limits and tired feet and which champagne they'll serve tonight.
But there's more to Basel than just pocketbooks and tasty tidbits, so grab a couple of guys or gals and take off for a stroll into the city proper. The ArtSlant Team is always pro-wandering, catch as catch can, but here are some places of note should you want a more directed route.
Vladimir Tatlin, Monument to the Third International
Wondering where the avant-garde is hiding? This summer, Museum Tinguely presents Vladimir Tatlin: new art for a new world. Tatlin, one of the most important figures of the Russian Constructivist movements is best known for two utopian projects: the plan for the Monument to the Third International and the Letatlin human-powered flying machine.
Longing for smooth white acres of unblemished paper? Tour by the newly renovated Swiss Museum of Paper, a working museum where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about paper making, writing, printing, book making. Housed in the Stegreif-mill and the Galiciean-mill, where paper was produced for 446 years, until 1924, you can buy from a large variety of handmade or machine-made specialty papers created on site or watch one of the many demonstrations.
Medieval streets and café hopping in mind? Head to Freie Strasse for lots of both, or simply step on to one of the Basler Trams and get off when something calls to you.
How about a green oasis? The Botanical garden, operated by the Basel University and located next to Petersplatz and Spalentor city gate, is open daily. Founded in 1589, this garden is one of the oldest of its kind, and it captured the attention of thousands of plant lovers in Spring 2011 when its Arum Titan, or Corpse Flower, bloomed for the first time in seventeen years. That was truly a rarified moment as there have only ever been 134 recorded blooms of Arum Titan in artificial cultivation.
Food Lover? Hands down – the Cheval Blanc at the luxe Grand Hotel les Trois Rois, where Peter Knogl, chef de cuisine, was named “Chef of the Year 2011” by the Gault Millau Swiss restaurant guide.
General Do-Nothing? Saunter down to the Rhine and board a ferry boat for some watery relaxation.
Basel. Courtesy of Walliserverein
Then back to the art fair for more extreme viewing. See you in Basel!
- the ArtSlant Team
(Image at top: Franz West, Gekröse (model), Aluminum and mixed media. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery)