In the early hours of opening day at Rhypark, a gentle rain falls upon Basel. While the sun tries to break through the overcast clouds, the weather cannot squash the fact that the city is already illuminated by art and global attention.
The Rhy Art Fair is the newest addition to the fair circuit, making its Basel debut this year. Presented by the Swiss organizer Contemporary Art International Zurich (founded in 1999 and now celebrating its 17th year) Rhy Art Fair showcases emerging talent in Basel. With a selected roster barely exceeding 30 exhibitors, the fair's curation celebrates young galleries and international/young artists. Showcasing a variety of disciplines, Rhy is a destination off the too-beaten path for burgeoning collectors seeking a dynamic cross section of work and talent.
Given its intimate scale and hand-picked roster, Rhy is certainly a change of pace from the larger satellites currently running in Basel (such as LISTE, Scope, and Volta). It's easily reached from the Messeplatz, the Art Basel fairground, by a 15-minute tram ride, but despite their close proximity the fairs feel worlds apart.
André Becchio, Arctic Friends, 2011, Acrylic on wood, 400 x 600 cm. Courtesy Rhy Art Fair, Basel 2015
This year, irony seems to be a key trend among the works on show. Upon arriving promptly at 11am when the doors open, artists and galleries are still tinkering the overhead lights in their booths and fine tuning the wiring and resolutions of video installations. With the Rhine River running alongside the space, the setting is idyllic and tranquil, far removed from the frenzy of the neighboring art spectacle. A whimsical arctic installation by André Becchio greets visitors at the entrance: a three-tiered snowman with carrot nose, top hat, eyes of coal, and extending arms that resemble found branches guards a family of penguins. While the winter scene is out of season, the snowman and his family of penguins seem to fit their new environment set against the backdrop of the Rhine.
Dan Gerbo, The Ferrari Pierced, 2013, Ferrari Testarossa (1989), Mixed Media, 450 x 200 x 202 cm. Courtesy Galerie Zum Harnisch and Rhy Art Fair, Basel 2015
Next, conceptual artist Dan Gerbo's installation The Ferrari Pierced is parked right next to the ticket booth. At first, you only notice the rear of the vehicle with vanity plates bearing the artist’s name. But once you walk around the front of the car, you discover an oversized wooden stake imaples the bonnet, from the engine through the hood. Piercing the precious Ferrari metal as it were a matchbox, the jagged stake renders the Ferrari inoperable: Garbo’s work focuses on our cultural obsession with material goods—ironic here in situ—but the stake has been positioned in such a way that the car can be removed and driven.
Pete Keller, Am I civilised?, Acrylic on canvas, 90 x 130 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Rhy Art Fair, Basel 2015
Basel can often leave the casual or solo visitor feeling somewhat intimidated. Pete Keller’s body of acrylic paintings help to initiate a conversation. In the tongue-in-cheek work How to Casually Acknowledge Someone Keller assigns four basic steps to inspire a dialogue. Addressing the vulnerability that so many of us (even seasoned art goers) experience in this work is welcome, even in the relatively relaxed environment of Rhy.
Image at the top: Andrea Freckmann & Theun Govers, FREMDHAUS, 2014, Mixed media installation, 120 x 340 x 250 cm. Courtesy Rhy Art Fair Basel 2015)
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