Art Basel reaffirms its importance at home

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, art fairs have seen several permutations, from online only to fully in person, as well as s...


Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, art fairs have seen several permutations, from online only to fully in person, as well as several varieties of hybrids.

For many in the art world, the format and fate of Basel Art in Basel, Switzerland, the fair scheduled from Friday to Sunday, is particularly important, given that it is “the mother of all art fairs” in the words of the London-based dealer Pilar corrias.

“There are too many fairs in the world and not all of them will survive,” Ms. Corrias said. “But we need Basel.”

The fair was first held in 1970 and now has editions in Miami Beach and Hong Kong.

More than 270 galleries are planned inside the Messe Basel exhibition hall – the first such gathering in Basel since 2019 – and, like Hong Kong fair which took place in May, this one is actually a hybrid, with a competitor online viewing room.

But the focus is on bringing the event back to the real world.

“The online component is limited to galleries that are physically present at the fair,” said Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel. “The logic is that we want to expand the fair digitally rather than having two fairs.” (Art Basel will also be hosting a purely digital event in November.)

Given the circumstances, Mr Spiegler was particularly proud of the high number of galleries – 33 countries are represented – especially in the Journey sector, which takes place around the city of Basel, and in Unlimited, the large-scale projects section.

“Both require an extraordinary effort on the part of the galleries,” he said. “The fact that we have 62 projects for Unlimited is particularly impressive. “

For organizers, exhibitors and collectors who wish to attend the show, there is precautions. In addition, the capacity of the room has been reduced and masks are mandatory.

The result: “We have a safe event,” said Mr. Spiegler.

He noted that the precautions could encourage a more local crowd.

“We assume that the fair will have a more European flavor,” said Mr Spiegler. “I think the audience might be younger this year too.”

For an event that once drew at least some of its appeal from its social scene, the tone may change, too.

“We expect a fairly concentrated crowd,” said Mr. Spiegler. “People who come to an art fair like this are really there for the art.

He added: “It’s more about seeing art than being seen.”

The American Philanthropist Pamela Joyner, known for her collection of work by black artists and those from the African diaspora, said she plans to attend the fair “to talk to collectors and galleries I don’t talk to all the time.”

There are some things, she said, “you can’t go online”.

Ms. Joyner, currently based in Nevada near Lake Tahoe, travels frequently and serves on numerous corporate and cultural boards, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“I have a particular fondness for Art Basel,” she says. “I consider it part of my collector’s toolkit. “

Among other benefits, it helps it stay one step ahead. Several years ago, Ms. Joyner said, she bought a work by painter Jordan Casteel “before it was in the limelight”. (Mrs. Casteel had a investigation at the New Museum in New York last year.)

“It was figurative painting,” said Ms. Joyner, a frequent buyer of abstract works. “And I don’t buy a lot of it.”

Ms Corrias, who has two galleries in London and plans to expand to Shanghai next year, will present, among other works, a sculpture by Philippe Parreno.Hard timesseries; it looks like a Christmas tree left out after its peak.

“It’s complex and delicate, and it took her over two years to complete it,” Ms. Corrias said, making it a work that must be seen in person. Hence his participation in the fair.

“It’s made of stainless steel but it looks real,” she said. “You can’t see that in a photo. You have to stand in front. “

Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, the founder of the gallery Lounge 94 in New York, agreed, saying, “Putting art in front of people is key. People are hungry to look at art and stretch their eyes.

Ms. Rohatyn will present works by Lisa Brice, Lyle Ashton Harris and Huma Bhabha, among others. Its stand will feature photographs of Kwame brathwaite, including “Untitled (Model who adopted the natural hairstyles to AJASS photo shoott) ”(circa 1970).

Mr. Brathwaite helped popularize the phrase “Black is beautiful”.

“He has a very precise eye,” said Ms Rohatyn, adding that it would be new material for the Basel public. “Europeans haven’t seen a lot of this work.

Mrs. Rohatyn recently announcement that in January, she would merge her business with that of three other major dealers, creating a hybrid gallery and art consultancy called LGDR. Salon 94 will close its list of fairs at the West Bund Shanghai Fair in November and Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

A less dramatic and disruptive collaboration is planned for the Basel fair in Spirona Westwater and David Nolan Gallery, both from New York. They divide a booth and create provocative pairs from their respective exhibitions, under the title “Dialogues”.

“David Nolan and I were having lunch and we were like, ‘What are we going to do, how can we make this interesting? ”Said Angela Westwater, one of the founders of Sperone Westwater. “So we play a game and we challenge each other. “

Some of the couples are linked by aesthetics and medium, as with “Red” (2008) by Susan Rothenberg and “Cebe” (1993) by Georg Baselitz, two oils on canvas that use the color red.

Others, like a combination of a video by Bruce Nauman and a collage by Barry Le Va, are thematically related in that the two examine the psychological effects of architectural spaces..

“We hope this will be as fascinating and stimulating for others as it is for us,” said Ms. Westwater, who has attended Art Basel since the 1970s.

In addition to veterans like Ms Westwater, there are 24 galleries in Basel for the first time this year, including floating island of Buenos Aires, founded in 2011.

It focuses on younger and mid-career artists, said one of its two directors, Leopol Mones Cazon.

The gallery exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach. “Now we want to deepen our ties with Europe,” Cazon said, a process that began in early 2020 but has been “canceled by the pandemic”.

The gallery presents a mixed media installation by Bolivian artist Andrés Pereira Paz entitled “Ego Fvlcio Collvmnas Eivs [I Fortify Your Columns]”(2020).

The work – incorporating the sounds of birds, lights and thin metal sculptures, some in the shape of stars – addresses both environmental degradation and colonization. It was inspired by the appearance in 2019 of a guajojó bird in La Paz, Bolivia, fleeing fires destroying its Amazon habitat, and has garnered a lot of attention in the media because it is traditionally seen as a bad omen.

“Space bodies are in a bad mood about this destruction,” Cazon said. “It’s an apocalyptic scenario. But at the same time, it’s poetic.

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