It's the “mother of all fairs.” It's the "premier international art show.” It's the "Olympics of the art world.” Can't guess? Art Basel!
Now in its 43rd edition, Art Basel has been red-carpeting the collectors and giving the rest of us art lovers something to gawk at since 1970. And if that's not enough, now we've got Miami (since 2002) and Hong Kong (coming 2013).
On to the basics...First of all, what's with the CH for Switzerland? That's really confusing. I suppose it's the CHeese, the CHocolate, and the CHa-CHing of the banks. That's where your Basel basics should begin because it is these three staples that will get you through the Basel gauntlet (the real story on the CH). And don't forget to brush up your parlez, your sprechen and your grazie mille because you never know what language to use...and just give up on the Baseldytsch because that's a whole other lifetime. Finally, beware that trams wait for no one, and that includes naive pedestrians crossing in front of them. So duck and run and watch those Helvetica's...
Ann Craven, Roses (Early Morning Glory, Mirrored), 2010, Oil on canvas, 60x48 in. Courtesy of Art Basel and Maccarone, NY. Art Basel Hall 2.1, Booth K2.
There are nearly 300 participating galleries at Art Basel this year, most of which returned from last year; however some of the first time participants to look out for are Miguel Abreu Gallery from New York, Maccarone from New York, ProjecteSD from Barcelona, and Thomas Dane Gallery from London. Other not-to-miss newness: the “Art Statements” sector presenting 27 solo shows by younger artists. This less-commercial sector is a platform for emerging artists, along with an opportunity to compete for the 30,000 CHF Baloise Art Prize. This year our fingers are pointing towards Czech artist Dominik Lang (who also exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale), Berlin-based artist Oliver Laric and Parisian artist Elodie Seguin.
But the art doesn’t stop outside the mainsite. Dispersed at thirteen different locations around the city are site-specific artworks and performances. Aleksandra Mir, born in Poland but currently living in Sweden, displays her work on St. Johanns-Vorstadt Street in which she modifies an Italian Fiat car into a work of art influenced by Gabriel Orozco. Nearby in the Ackermansoh, Abraham Cruzvillegas shows a video narrative that discusses the sociopolitical issues in the underdeveloped Mexican city where he grew up. Alongside are artists Pedro Reyes, who shows a video titled Baby Marx, and Claude Lévêque, whose piece Ring of Fire holds sway in Totentanz Park.
Aleksandra Mir, La 600, 2012, Reconstructed Fiat. Courtesy of the artist. Art Parcours.
Also make sure to catch one of the many Art Basel Conversations and Art Salon discussions such as the June 13th talk between Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Hans Ulrich Obrist, or the June 14th salon talk on art and commerce with Josh Baer and Jeffrey Deitch, the June 16th artist as activist conversation with Yael Bartana, Theaster Gates and Huda Lutfi among others, or the Arte Povera Today talk moderated by Germano Celant on June 17th. After all that chat, head over to The Kirlian, a bar commissioned by Jeremy Shaw for Absolut Art Bureau (the Presenting Partner of the Basel Conversation program this year) to continue the conversation in earnest.
And that's just the mother fair. The children of course abound as well: Liste 17, the "young art fair" focused on emerging work; Volta 8, whose curatorial board encourages one or two-artist presentations; the Solo-Project, who, as the name suggests, insist on a solo presentation by participating galleries; and Scope, which prides itself on multidisciplinary programming and pioneering work.
Remember, rules are rules in Switzerland except when it comes to art.
See you in Basel!
--Gabriella Picone and the ArtSlant Team
(Image top right: Sharon Lockhart, Five Dances and Nine Wall Carpets by Noa Eshkol, Production still, 2011, 5-channel installation: 35mm color/sound film transferred to HD, continuous loop. Courtesy of neugierriemschneider. Art Basel Hall 2.1, Booth H7.)