Art Basel 2013: reports, reviews, images, interviews



Art Sales: ‘Our focus is about identifying extraordinary artists’

Colin Gleadell talks to the Wagners about their experiences of Art Basel.

Pablo Bronstein, 'Marie Antoinette and Robespierre engage in an irritable post-coital conversation', 2013

Pablo Bronstein, ‘Marie Antoinette and Robespierre engage in an irritable post-coital conversation’, 2013 Photo: Herald St, London

Art Basel, the world’s largest and most prestigious fair for modern and contemporary art, closed on Sunday night with the majority of galleries feeling happy with the amount of business done. Scores of sales have been reported from $1,200 (£766) for small works by young contemporary artists to $12 million for a Magritte painting. Shippers handling works for a broad sweep of galleries say that business was considerably better than it was last year or the year before.

Taking special interest, as ever, was art advisor and collector Thea Westreich Wagner, who has been advising since the early 80s, and her husband and business partner, Ethan Wagner, who joined her in the 90s. Among their clients have been the top American collectors, Mitchell Rales, (European and American masters from Giacometti to Jeff Koons); Norman and Norah Stone, who have a wide range of blue chip and cutting edge art in an underground museum they have built in California; and Richard and Pamela Kramlich, also from California, who have the biggest private collection of video and new media art in the world.

The Wagners also have a substantial collection of their own and recently donated over 800 works by artists ranging from US superstars Richard Prince and Christopher Wool, to British artists, Ryan Gander and Keith Tyson to the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art, which will be displayed in 2015. They have just written a book, ‘Collecting Art for Love, Money and More,’ published by Phaidon which, apart from outlining the numerous factors which contribute to creating a successful contemporary art collection, benefits from some insightful anecdotes about the world of advising and collecting. I caught up with them for breakfast in Basel and asked about the fair from the point of view of the consummate professional.

Q. What does Art Basel mean to you?

A. Art Basel offers collectors the most expansive and high quality buying venue of the year. It provides an extraordinary overview of primary and secondary market material. And, increasingly, it is responding to the growth of the global art market, offering a more comprehensive look at galleries and art making practices around the world. It has for a long time set the standard among art fairs, though The Frieze Art Fair is not far behind as a venue for serious collectors.

Q. How do you approach it with such a huge variety of work to see?

A. Our approach is and always has been to be prepared and informed. Well before a fair opens we are in touch with galleries whose material is of potential interest to our clients. We vet these art works and prepare reports in advance of the fair so that our clients — those who attend the fair and those who don’t — are informed and prepared to act.

(The Wagners are usually among the first visitors to enter a fair, and were once reprimanded at Basel for jumping the gun.)

Q. What were its main strengths this year?

A. A number of galleries in the Feature section for curated presentations were impressive and creative. Among them were London’s Herald Street, which produced a performance (‘Marie Antoinette and Robespierre engage in an irritable post-coital conversation’ available for £35,000) created by the artist Pablo Bronstein, and the Kolkata gallery, Experimenter, which featured three compelling young artists. In the Statements section for emerging artists the standouts for us were Daniel Lefcourt at the Campoli Presti Gallery and Antoine Catalla at the 47 Canal Gallery. On the ground we were thrilled by the Egon Schieles at Richard Nagy. As always, the gallery called 1900-2000 from Paris had rare, incredible material.

Q. Do you have an impression of how the market is doing?

A. Frankly our focus is more about identifying extraordinary artists and locating desirable objects than it is taking the temperature of the art market. Whatever the market’s condition, there is great material to be had, and over time that’s where value is located.

Q. What did you achieve this year?

A. We were able to access and acquire some remarkable works on behalf our clients, and we found a few artists of considerable promise. We also met with several galleries to discuss acquisition opportunities that are ahead.

The Wagners, clearly, are consistently discreet about their clients, eschew the notion of buying art purely for investment, and refuse to give top ten artist tips, because, they say, there’s always another ten equally worthy of attention. They are also wary of naming young artists they have just bought because it can have a snowball effect, encouraging a wave of speculative buyers to follow suit.



A Matter of Taste and Millions

The art market’s boom amid world economic sluggishness is a sign of the growing gulf between the rich and the super-super-rich.



“Behold, contemplate, be amazed,” reads the cover of my ticket package to UBS‘s UBSN.VX -1.93% VIP lounge at Art Basel, the world’s most prestigious art fair, which wrapped up earlier this week. There is indeed much to contemplate in the art world, at least judging by the record prices being paid for coveted works.

Eleven of the 20 highest prices ever paid at auction have been seen since 2008, when the global economy all but collapsed. Edvard Munch’s iconic “Scream” went for about $120 million in May 2012. Less than a week later, Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” sold for nearly $87 million.


Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A piece by Maurizio Cattelan on display at the Beyeler Foundation near Basel.

Amid this global frenzy of exhibitionism, Art Basel has become the exhibitionists’ premier exhibition. A valuable painting from a famous artist has become the ultimate in status recognition. Never mind a Patek Philippe, or a Bentley, or even a chic place in the Hamptons. High-rolling collectors who spend $100 million on a painting are signaling that they can afford to throw a massive amount of money at something that will never pay a dividend or rent. Their pleasure is complete when a rival buys a piece off them at a higher price.


Most of them have been proved right. Art has outperformed most other asset classes by a considerable margin over the past 15 years. But the market is much more fragile than statistics suggest. Just because a Russian oligarch pays $50 million for a Jackson Pollock does not mean that there are legions of buyers eagerly waiting below to prop up his bid.


Quite to the contrary, it is usually a few remote buyers who set the lofty prices—which, like a wedding cake, come crashing down when sentiment shifts. The same collectors who were eager to buy when prices were rising are suddenly loath to touch a piece when prices are falling. Contractions tend to be fierce and abrupt, as in the 1980s after the Japanese entered the market.


Things were different in 1970, when Art Basel began.


Historically in Europe, artists had been Catholic and collectors Protestant. Basel was at the center of the Protestant Reformation, and, later, of Switzerland’s great chemical and drug industries. The Geigy, Hoffmann, Oeri and Sandoz families all built their fortunes there. With abundant wealth, Basel became awash with rich private collections and museums housing rare and valuable art.


Basel, it turned out, was also the right place for a global art fair. Value-added taxes are low in Switzerland, and banks are comfortable taking art as collateral. There is a vast infrastructure for safe storage and transport. Switzerland is the world’s largest offshore banking market, and there remain few assets one can purchase anonymously with undeclared money.


Art Basel was founded in 1970 by an intimate club of dealers who wanted to let a bit of fresh air into the staid, old-money Swiss art world, where art was something that stayed in the family for generations. The thought of displaying works of art like products at a trade fair or promoting young, undiscovered artists was taboo.


A new class of wealth was emerging, however. These people were desperate for contemporary art, as classics were too expensive or not for sale. Hence Art Basel’s swift rise from a clubby affair to last week’s circus, where roughly 300 galleries showed works from 3,200 contemporary artists, pocketing some $2 billion.


But times are changing again. More wealth is being generated in other parts of the world, Swiss banking secrecy is under siege, and the world’s nouveau riche are more inclined to advertise rather than conceal their status. Baloise custom, by contrast, is inclined toward downplaying great wealth: There’s an old joke that the only number in Roche’s 1984 annual report was the year. To find a more ostentatious clientele, Art Basel expanded to Miami Beach in 2002 and Hong Kong this year.


Wherever it goes, however, the success of Art Basel is becoming a proxy for the state of the super-rich—and an expression of rising global wealth inequality. Even amid the economic crisis, the art market has continued its steady upward propulsion.


For an insight into what this means, it is worth turning to the work of Benjamin Mandel, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and student of the art market. Mr. Mandel’s early instinct was to think that the market was growing at an unsustainable clip, simply because prices had been going up so much more quickly than global GDP.


But then he dug a bit deeper and concluded that, while fine art is connected to the rest of the global economy, it is connected in a very specific way. It is a market made by and for the super-super-rich. And this playground, unlike everything else, is booming.


The implication of Mr. Mandel’s work is that investing in art will continue to yield superior returns to the extent that wealth inequality rises. It will do less well if the distribution of riches becomes more equitable.


Art Basel is 43 years old and continues to alter the order of the art market. To stay attractive it must stay sufficiently exclusive to maintain the attention of the elite buyers who the rest of us aspire to become. But at the same time it must do what it set out to do at the start: display affordable art for the newly rich. This will be an increasingly delicate balancing act as Art Basel moves from serving an intimate community of gallerists to promoting a world-famous brand.


Mr. Breiding is chief executive of Naissance Capital, an investment firm based in Zurich, and author of “Swiss Made: The Untold Story Behind Switzerland’s Success” (Profile Books, 2012).



The Encyclopedic Palace at Venice Biennale

The Book of Genesis as a graphic novel, plastic human sculptures, “Apollo Ecstacy” and more in our look at the 55th international exhibition

by Paolo Ferrarini in Culture on 07 June 2013


venice-biennale-2013-encyclopedic-palace-Marino-Auriti-2.jpg venice-biennale-2013-encyclopedic-palace-Marino-Auriti.jpg


Since 1998, the Venice Biennale of Art and Architecture is no longer a traditional exhibition of national artists, but is instead a real international showcase where the single invited countries are accompanied by a main exhibit, which has a different curator for each edition.


The main theme of the 55th International Art Exhibition is “Il Palazzo Enciclopedico” (“The Encyclopedic Palace”) and it’s the biggest proof of the abilities of curator Massimiliano Gioni, a prodigy of contemporary art and director of Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and NYC’s New Museum. The primal inspiration is the work of Marino Auriti who, in 1955, filed an incredibly ambitious project with the US Patent Office for an Encyclopedic Palace; a 136-story museum. Auriti’s idea was to build it in Washington DC, occupying an area of 16-square city blocks. The model of the building was shown in a couple of exhibitions and then forgotten in a warehouse. Today it magnificently opens the exhibition at Arsenale.


“Auriti’s plan was never carried out,” states Gioni, “but the dream of a universal, all-embracing knowledge crops up throughout the history of art and humanity, as one that eccentrics like Auriti share with many other artists, writers, scientists, and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried—often in vain—to fashion an image of the world that will capture its infinite variety and richness. Today, as we grapple with a constant flood of information, such attempts seem even more necessary and even more desperate.”


Repetition, obsession, collection, constance: these are the keywords of Gioni’s vision of art, explained through the work of 150 artists from 38 countries. On display we’ve found works of living artists, both emerging (like Helen Marten) and established (like Paul McCarthy), but also historical pieces and works that do not pretend to be actual works of art. The final result is an incredibly precise reconstruction of the contemporary visual zeitgeist, where everyone can create art and realize creative projects, with a camera or with a diary, with a collection of objects or with photographs, with a paper notebook or with an app.


Are comics a form of art? The answer is yes and Robert Crumb (known for Fritz the Cat) is at La Biennale with his most ambitious work—a graphic novel about the entire book of Genesis. All 50 books are presented with the original tables, framed and aligned in a totally white environment.


A perfect example of obsessive accumulation is “The Hidden Mother,” a series of almost 1,000 commercial and amateur pictures of babies that Linda Fregni Nagler collected between 2006 and 2013.


German artist and self-taught photographer Michael Schmidt spent four years of his life investigating industrial production of food throughout Europe. The series “Lebensmittel” (which translates to “Food”) is a photographic documentation of those processes.


Maps, plans, collages, numbers and symbols are Matt Mullican‘s mania. His work also includes performances aimed to explore his own psyche. “Untitled (Learning form that Person’s Work)” is a sort of labyrinth where grotesque sounds and human voices create an abstract and intense atmosphere.


An entire room in the area of Arsenale is populated by 80 plastic sculptures by Polish artist Pawel Althamer. “Venetians” is based on molds of faces of real Venetians, whose bodies are then reproduced with gray plastic wires and castings. The effect is magnificent and scary at the same time.


Channa Horwitz‘s work is based on repetition and geometry. Since the ’60s her artworks have used a numeric progression from one to eight, so to graphically reproduce rhythm and time in movement, combining science and art on a very small scale.


A similar constant rigor can be found in Walter De Maria‘s “Apollo’s Ecstasy,” even though the final effect is majestic and solemn. Apollo symbolizes reason, form and classification, all of which are found in these bronze essential sculptures.


The saturation of information is well symbolized by the “Scrapbooks” series by Shinro Ohtake. In 1977 he started creating a collection of books, full of ready-made materials, particularly from magazine and newspapers. In the process, he paints and writes on them and the pages become so encrusted that they almost resemble actual sculptures.


Artist Oliver Croy and critic Oliver Elser present a large collection of paper and cardboard houses. In 1993 they found these models in a junk shop and then discovered that the author was Peter Fritz, an employee at an insurance company. “The 387 Houses of Peter Fritz” is a simple presentation of this mysterious treasure, of which it is almost impossible to find information on the origins, scope and inspiration.


The Venice Biennale’s 55th International Art Exhibition is open now to the public and runs until 24 November 2013.


Images by Paolo Ferrarini




  Art Basel figures, Finance, Art Market, results
Art Basel Excels With Buoyant Sales And Record Visitor Numbers - ArtLyst Article image

Art Basel Excels With Buoyant Sales And Record Visitor Numbers

DATE: 17 JUN 2013
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Art Basel’s 44th edition closed this evening, (Sunday, June 16, 2013), with galleries reporting exceptionally buoyant sales across the board. The fair has once again proven itself, the leading meeting place for both the international contemporary and modern art world.

The event attracted a record of 70,000 visitors, generating an attendance of 86,000 over the six show days. Representatives and groups from over 70 museums around the world attended the show, alongside major private collectors from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. A significant number of artists attended this year’s edition, including: Kader Attia, Tom Burr, Thomas Demand, Meschac Gaba, Theaster Gates, Isa Genzken, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Roni Horn, Christian Jankowski, Idris Khan, Jorge Macchi, Steve McQueen, Matt Mullican, Sean Scully, Jim Shaw, John Stezaker, Eduardo Terrazas, Mickalene Thomas, Tunga and Danh Vo.

The consensus from many of the visitors to the show was the exceptional quality of the work being exhibited, which was undoubtedly reflected in the strength of the sales made by galleries across all sectors of the show throughout the week. Many exhibitors reported stronger sales on the opening preview day of the show than ever before.

304 galleries were presented from around the world exhibiting the work of over 4,000 artists, with many choosing to present thematic and solo-artist exhibitions. Galleries from across the globe debuted at the Basel show this year, coming from Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Republic Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USA.

Many elements of the show were situated within the new Hall 1 designed by renowned Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron that has redefined Messeplatz and got raving reviews from many visitors. The new building housed the Unlimited, Statements and Magazine sectors, along with the auditorium used for the Conversations and Salon panels.

Galleries exhibiting at Art Basel were delighted with the 44th edition of the show:

‘Art Basel is undoubtedly the most eminent of all art fairs. But it still surprises – alongside its perfect mix of international participants and quality it is able to continue to improve every year, not only in terms of interest and sales but also in efficiency and attendance. 2013 was another highlight – beyond our expectation!’
Thaddaeus Ropac, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, Salzburg

‘There has been very, very strong international attendance at this year’s show, with a great concentration of Europe’s most important collectors. The rigorous selection continues to explain the success of the fair. Collectors come to Basel with the intention of buying and we had a very successful week indeed, placing over 60 works, several in the seven-figure range, in important private and museum collections.’
Marc Payot, Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London, New York

‘Art Basel stands out from other fairs. This year we really felt that there was a return to serious collecting, rather than buying just for investment purposes. In the first two days we found we were having real conversations with serious and considered collectors
who – thanks to the two preview days – were under less pressure to make quick decisions, and this is something we appreciate.’
Mathias Rastorfer, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich

‘Once again, this fair’s excellence attracts a diverse range of collectors, curators, consultants, and dealers from around the world. We were able to spend significant time with new contacts from South America and Asia, as well as reconnect with so many of our best collectors from Europe.’
Greg Lulay, David Zwirner, New York, London

‘The week at Art Basel has been an enormous success for our artist Sonia Gomes – apart from strong sales to good collections, we have had extensive contact with many curators.’
Pedro Mendes, Mendes Wood, São Paulo‬

‘We are thrilled to be the first Philippine gallery participating in Art Basel. It has been an exciting experience for us to meet collectors, curators and foundations with a strong interest in new art from Asia.’
Isa Lorenzo, Silverlens, Philippines

‘Art Basel makes the rest of the year worthwhile. We had lots of incredible conversations at the fair. This is the fourth time we participate at Art Basel and every time it helps us to gain more attentions.’
Shireen Gandhy, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai

At this year’s Art Basel, Lisson Gallery reports excellent sales totalling over £3 million. Speaking about the gallery’s presence at the fair, founder Nicholas Logsdail said: “With a proliferation of art fairs worldwide, audiences still treat Art Basel as priority yet they seem to behave less frantically here than they did previously. This allows more time and space for discussion between gallerists and collectors, along with engagement with, and appreciation of, the artists’ work.

For Lisson Gallery this is especially important as we have personal relationships going back many decades with the vast majority of the artists we have shown this year. From the artists we have represented for over 30 years such as Anish Kapoor, Art & Language and Shirazeh Houshiary, to our earliest discoveries such as Donald Judd, Richard Long and John McCracken, right up to more recent connections, Ai Weiwei and Ryan Gander, it’s always critical that we find the right homes for these artists’ works. This has worked incredibly well at Art Basel this year, where we have sold many important works by a broad range of artists to discerning collectors.

Besides meeting collectors, our presence at the various Art Basel fairs benefits our Lisson Presents international collaborative programme by enabling us to connect with more curators, NFPOs, off-spaces and artists with whom we may like to collaborate curatorially.”

‘This year was calm, focused, and serious. The Venice Biennale had provided the art world with brain-food and the considered tone continued at Art Basel. And without a doubt the museums in Basel collectively provide the very best context for the world’s best fair.’
Sadie Coles, Sadie Coles, London




 VOLTA, Art Basel , Volta9
VOLTA Basel Proves A Success For Emerging London Galleries - ArtLyst Article image

VOLTA Basel Proves A Success For Emerging London Galleries

DATE: 16 JUN 2013
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The eager visitors to Dreispitzhalle, VOLTA’s ninth Basel edition were not dissapppointed. The bright color of the carpet, ‘hot pink’, overshadowed the earlier inclement weather that has been soaking Central Europe for weeks, and the peeks of blue sky echoed in satisfactory sales throughout a steadily flowing opening day.

For those less familiar with the network of Art Basel satellite fairs, VOLTA is a platform for presenting the vision of contemporary art galleries of global repute whose artists represent new and relevant positions for curators and collectors alike. Conceived to bridge a gap between Basel’s pre-existing fairs, VOLTA showcases galleries – whether young or mature – that choose as their mandate to work with the most exciting emerging artists. These galleries must maintain deeply meaningful connections with their artists and follow them throughout their careers.

Encouraged by the response of collectors and curators during the last editions’ solo presentations and carefully considered booths, a much stronger emphasis for VOLTA will be placed on single artist presentations or on booth concepts that bring the work of two artists into dialogue with one another, thus giving emphasis to artists by allowing for a greater understanding of different individual practices.

EB&Flow (London) sold all three of young artist William Bradley’s vivid abstract paintings (range 4,000 – 10,000 EUR) to a Zurich- based collector, plus noted keen interest in Chris Aerfeldt’s photorealist portraits. Next door, The Hole (New York) sold one of Kadar Brock’s abraded and textured abstract monoliths ($12,000) to a New York collector and by mid-afternoon had two others on hold ($10,000 each), plus dealer Kathy Grayson recorded strong interest in and good questions regarding paint chemist Holton Rower’s conceptual Focus series. On reactions to Ed

Young’s red-and-white mural MY OTHER RIDE IS YOUR MOM (emulating an outsized bumper-sticker) outside the fair, SMAC Art Gallery (Stellenbosch/Cape Town) dealer Marelize Van Zyl commented, “there have been lots of compliments and discussions on the role and the value of public art”, plus in Young’s identity as a South African artist. She fielded interest in Young’s murals from a Berlin-based collector, adding that the bumper-sticker-sized versions at the booth “could go viral! Now Ed is facilitating the ‘performance’.”

Deliberation and good questions were a theme of the day. Adnan Manjal ofAthr Gallery (Jeddah) found much local attention to Sami Al-Turki’s large-scale Barzakh prints, particularly from collectors who had other Middle Eastern artists. Meanwhile, Kristian Jarmuschek of Jarmuschek + Partner (Berlin) was pleased by interest in Carina Linge’s new still-life photography series and inNika Neelova’s massive parquet floor waveFragments Shared against the Ruins, Variation 2. According to Leigh Conner of CONNERSMITH. (Washington DC), “We knew we were taking a risk with a solo booth of works unlike others at the fair,” commenting on the gallery’s triad of light alchemist Leo Villareal’s engaging LED works, “but the interest and conversations have been worth it.”

A pedigree of art buyers shined throughout. CHAPLINI (Cologne) of Philip beguiling planes to a London museum,sold one Siebel’s woodgrain while HilgerBROTKun sthalle (Vienna) cleared an entire hanging of Venice Biennale El Salvador representative Simón Vega’s mixed-media works to a prominent Swiss foundation.Dealer Michael Kaufmann recorded interest from a German collector in fellow South African Pavilion artist Cameron Platter’s enormous carved Jacaranda wood sculpture Advertising Tombstone Wall, No. 3, situated outside Dreispitzhalle, plus further attention onLeila Pazooki’s spheres seriesEmpty space in your mind, which the young Iranian artist conceived at a workshop in Indonesia. SLAG Gallery (Brooklyn) sold one Dumitru Gorzo painted print and one concrete-slathered photograph by Naomi Safron-Hon (approx. 9,000 EUR each) to the same collector, amid a very bustling booth. And while Jesper Elg of V1 Gallery (Copenhagen) enthused about selling two of John Copeland’s visceral abstract paintings (approx. 11,000 EUR each) and a modified Playboy, he was particularly pleased for focused interest in Jacob Holdt’s American Pictures series, including from a Chinese museum curator and other collectors.

Intense attention followed VOLTA9’s unique booth concepts.CHARLIE SMITH london (London) sold a monumental (and sehr unheimlich) Eric Manigaud print for just under 10,000 EUR to a well-respected billionaire collector from Virginia, plus recorded keen interest from international collectors in creepy works byJohn Stark, Wendy Mayer, and Tom Butler (that’s photorealistic paintings, doll-like sculpture, and modified albumen prints, respectively). “There’s been a very positive response to the curatorial emphasis of my booth, and particularly the subject of the uncanny,” remarked dealer Zavier Ellis. Meanwhile Gallery Skape (Seoul) sold two of Myeongbeom Kim’s hyper-surrealistic sculptures, including a large deer-head taxidermy ($30,000) to a Basel collector, plus counted much attention to Yujung Chang’s ethereal translucent prints of disused industrial spaces. Over in Hall B, Mira Bernabeu of espaivisor – Galería Visor (Valencia) enjoyed much success in his booth of ‘career Conceptualists’. He sold one Braco Dimitrijevic print (5,600 EUR) and four works by Hamish Fulton (7,200 – 13,000 EUR), plus recorded recurring interest in the “Walking Artist”‘s Limited Edition print for this year’s fair. “A lot of collectors congratulate me on my booth ‘exhibition’,” Bernabeu related. “It’s not just the selling that is important, but the reputation and interest in the artists.”

A stellar list of international collectors and professionals attended VOLTA9’s preview, including Susan and Michael Hort (New York); Ole Faarup (Copenhagen); Alain Servais (Brussels); Carole Server and Oliver Frankel (New York); Cornelia Dietschi (Switzerland); Thomas P. Jochheim (Germany); Dr. Heinz Stahlhut (Curator, Kunstmusem Luzern); Anne-Marie Melster (Artport Co-Founder and Director, Spain); Wolfgang Schoppmann and Karin Pernegger (Director/Curator of Kunstraum Innsbruck, Austria); curators from Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); plus many other art- minded patrons.

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A sense of relief abounds at the 44th Art Basel in Basel as we finally reach the finishing line to a manic 2013 art world Grand Prix that started in New York, moved to Hong Kong, crossed Venice and ended in Switzerland. As expected, the calendar has become a hot topic amongst the bleary-eyed. Discussions on bringing forward the 2015 Venice Biennale’s opening to the first week of May are already raging.

Yet, with exhaustion comes renewal. Having launched Hong Kong successfully, Art Basel is clearly using the momentum of 2013 to re-launch itself in the city where it all began. Originally, Art Basel was known simply as ‘The Art’. It has long been, in the eyes of the art world, a benchmark – the top of the pile. Art Basel’s pre-eminence is historical. Launched in 1970, it quickly surpassed Art Cologne (the first modern and contemporary art fair established in 1967) in popularity precisely because of its international focus.

Forty-four years on, the focus is global. This year, aside from shaking up the floor plan (galleries have been moved around to people’s delight and disdain), with the Statements, Magazine and Art Unlimited sections taking over Herzog and de Meuron’s newly-designed extension at Hall 1, Art Basel (in Basel) includes the largest number of exhibitors with spaces in the Asia-Pacific region, with galleries from Singapore and the Philippines present for the first time (Tyler Print Institute and Silverlens, showing Maria Taniguchi at Statements, respectively).

Art Unlimited is curated for the second time by Gianni Jetzer; with large-scale works including the realization of Lygia Clark’s aluminium plate sculpture, Fantastic Architecture, devised in 1963 and realized now. In truth, the section feels, at times and as one curator from a reputed European institution quipped, ‘a collection of set designs!’ Yet high points include Teresa Margolles’s cadaver-infused water dropping onto hot metal plates, (Plancha, 2010); Liu Wei’s cities cut out of books (Library II-I, 2012); Karla Black’s world of paint and bath balls on cellophane surfaces (Doesn’t Care in Words, 2011); and the best of the best, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s Artichoke Underground (2012/13) – a sprawling environment that includes a Chinese takeaway with objects composed of rice in one room.

Then there is Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s 1972 installation, Enough Tiranny; objects from vases, fake plants and a disco ball highlighted by certain fluorescent tones (lights) evocative of those used in Rob Pruitt’s Unlimited offering at; Not Yet Titled (2013), a series of rudimentary portraits scribbled over the same acid-hued gradiations featured in Jeremy Deller’s 2005 work Bless this Acid House showing at Art: Concept in the Galleries sector. Deller’s work fits perfectly with other gestures in Galleries; from François Curlet’s neon, Western (2005/06), in which the words ‘SPAGHETTI CONCEPTUAL ART’ are spelled out at Air de Paris, to Jeppe Hein’s neon Happiness Does Not Come from the Accumulation of Things (2012) at Galerie Johann König, around which a collector was overheard exclaiming, ‘happiness is expensive!’

Aside from these light critiques, Art Basel 44 packs some heavy punches. In Unlimited, Johan Grimonperez’s The Shadow World (2013), unflinchingly uncovers the violence of trade and consumerism in a film that splices interviews with an arms dealer (Ricardo Priviterra) and an ex-war correspondent for the New York Times (Chris Hedges). It is one of those works – like Alfredo Jaar’s offering The Sound of Silence (2006) that acts as a memorial to photojournalist Kevin Carter (responsible for the Pulitzer Prize winning image of a baby girl being circled by a vulture during the famine in Sudan, 1993) – which reminds the viewer of a certain web of implication.
There is talk about this year’s Basel marking a shift towards abstraction (so The Art Newspaper reports). Apparently, this is a sign that the work of the ‘boom times’ – the ironic, Richard Prince one liners, for example – have fallen out of favour. But rather than a ‘move to abstraction’, selections and presentations have really just complexified; a reflection on the urgency of the times and the impact the economic crisis has had on both the commercial and institutional sectors.
Artist Tunga’s Unlimited film installation Ão (1981) – a 16mm black and white film of the curved interior of the Dois Irmãos Tunnel in Rio de Janeiro – provides some respite to the moral dilemmas wracking many a conscience stalking Art Basel’s labyrinthine corridors. The film reel rolls around a demarcated space within a darkened room where the work is projected, as Frank Sinatra’s Night and Day playa in a seemingly eternal loop. It recalls what András Szántó observed during an Art Conversations talk on Museums and Austerity (in a fair Szántó described as ‘a mecca for corporate sponsorship’) that these days, when we talk about art, it feels like we are speaking about ‘two art worlds’.

There is talk about this year’s Basel marking a shift towards abstraction (so The Art Newspaper reports). Apparently, this is a sign that the work of the ‘boom times’ – the ironic, Richard Prince one liners, for example – have fallen out of favour. But rather than a ‘move to abstraction’, selections and presentations have really just complexified; a reflection on the urgency of the times and the impact the economic crisis has had on both the commercial and institutional sectors. Long March Space, which showcased painting in the Miami and Hong Kong fairs, presents a very different booth at Basel, with a greater sculptural focus, including Xu Zhen’s C-print mounted on aluminium (it looks like a granite landscape sculpture) aptly titled (for the context of the fair): The principal motor of action in this view is self-interest, guided by rationality, which translates structured and institutional conditions into payoffs and probabilities, and therefore incentives’, water, proteins, glucose, mineral, salt (2012).

Then there is Galerie Hans Mayer, (whose Hong Kong booth was small in reflection of the local context), with one of the most ambitious booths of the fair (Mayer is a founding gallery of Art Basel). An entire section of the booth has been devoted to Robert Longo, including a gigantic bronze slab of what looks like an enlarged version of Jasper Johns’s American Flag works blown up and painted black, filling half the booth’s space; The Last Flag: The Ballot or the Bullet (1990).

In general, Galleries highlights include Air de Paris (with an incredibly considered curatorial); Modern Institute (one of the best selection of film works on show courtesy of William E. Jones); Dublin-based Kerlin Gallery (a creative layering of minimal sculpture); Thomas Dane (showing an exquisite grouping of works evocative of the Istanbul Biennale 2011 including Kutlug Ataman, Akram Zaatari, Hank Willis Thomas); Timothy Taylor (showing a lot of Susan Hiller); Sean Kelly (showing an exquisite oil on wood panel diptych by Laurent Grasso, Studies into the Past (2013)); and also Galerie Greta Meert, Andrea Rosen, Paula Cooper, Galerie Nordenhake, Galerie M Bochum, Massimo Minini, Magazzino, and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, presenting an extraordinary Robert Longo bronze, Heretics (After Goya’s Procession of the Flagellants) (2013). Galleria Christian Stein, has isolated key works in the design of the booth, including a Jannis Kounellis and a marvellous Pistoletto, while Galerie Nelson-Freeman, presents artists including Pedro Cabrita Reis, David Adamo and Jan Dibbets in a wonderfully composed group of works, and at Mai 36, John Baldessari has been paired with Manfred Pernice.

Meanwhile, in Features, mfc-michèle didier’s collection of works by Samuel Bianchini, On Kawara, Leigh Ledare, Allan McCollum, Annette Messager and Maurizio Nannucci is perfectly presented, while Kolkata space, Experimenter, is stand out, showing Bani Abidi, Naeem Mohaiemen and Hajra Waheed. There is also a wonderful installation by Ciprian Muresan at Galeria Plan B, in which cast copies of museum objects are placed over wooden boards that are in fact pressing etchings for the duration of the fair. At Statements, an overview of fresh, contemporary practices include Beijing Commune showing Hu Xiaoyuan, The Third Line showing Laleh Khorramian, Melas/Papadopoulos showing Kostas Sahpazis, Tilton Gallery showing Egon Frantz, and Galerie Hubert Winter showing a daringly minimal installation made up of electric wire and pencil by Judith Fegerl, as well as Baloise Art Prize winners, Jenni Tischer showing at Gallery Krobath and Kemang Wa Lehulere showing at Gallery Stevenson.

And so, with Art Basel entering a new phase of its existence (Art Basel was recently rebranded as Art Basel in Basel/Hong Kong/Miami), what is ‘The Art’s’ evolving global function? During the opening night for Parcours, we chanced upon a performance by Michael Smith, Avuncular Quest (2013). He first acted like a typical art fair visitor (carrying a tote bag filled with so much ‘stuff’ everything gets lost within it), before turning into an infant. Overcome by choice, we can become infantilized by abundance; but ‘The Art’ is still a place to gauge how society looks from the perspective of those whose profession (and passion) it is to reflect it.

But what we have to keep in mind, as Szántó noted, is that ‘it’s not just about money, but about the status of art in society.’ In other words, the social value we place on ‘Art’ – an idea worth revisiting, if the works by readymades belong to everyone® showing at Jan Mot’s excellent booth are anything to go by. The title of one 1988 work reads: You can change it all by saying yes, the letters printed over an empty boardroom table. But yes to what? The ultimate – and eternal – question.


Jeppe Hein
Happiness Does Not Come from the Accumulation of Things, 2012
Galerie Johann König

A view of Hall 2 exterior, Art Basel

Installation view, Air de Paris

Francois Curlet
Western, 2005-2006
Air de Paris

Installation view, Galerie Buchholz

Jeremy Deller
Bless this Acid House, 2005
Art Concept

Joham Grimonperez
The Shadow Lands, 2013
Art Unlimited

Installation view, Thomas Dane

Installation view, Kerlin Gallery


Lygia Clark at Art Unlimited

Hu Xiaoyuan at Beijing Commune, Art Statements

Jannis Kounellis
Untitled, 1993
Christian Stein

Installation view, Christian Stein

Michael Smith
Avuncular Quest, 2013
Art Parcours

Pistoletto at Galleria Christian Stein

Installation view, PKM Gallery

Readymades belong to everyone
You can change it all by saying yes, 1988
Jan Mot Gallery

Robert Longo at Galerie Hans Mayer

Susan Hiller at Timothy Taylor Gallery

Xu Zhen
The Principal Motor…, 2012
Long March Space

Installation view, Mai 36 Galerie

Ciprian Muresan at Galeria Plan B

Installation view, mfc-michéle didier



Contemporary art Interview Fairs Switzerland

My Basel top 5

Hoor al-Qasimi gives her tips for the Swiss city

Hoor al-Qasimi. Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

Hoor al-Qasimi has overseen the Sharjah Biennial since 2003. The daughter of the Emir of Sharjah, she received her fine arts degree from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and a masters degree in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London. She was on the curatorial selection committee for the 2012 Berlin Biennial and is a visiting lecturer at the Slade.

1) Museum: Museum der Kulturen at the Münsterplatz in Basel. The striking courtyard annex at this ethnographic museum, one of the most important in Europe, has been designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The museum’s 300,000-strong collection, initially founded by a range of private collectors, is impressive with significant objects on show from Oceania, Indonesia, South, Central and East Asia. But I’m also drawn to its collection of 50,000 historic photographs.

2) Exhibition: Fondation Beyeler. This gallery is, in my opinion, one of the best design projects by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. With a large collection of important works of art and interesting exhibitions, I would recommend putting aside a morning to visit. A retrospective of Max Ernst’s work is on view at the moment (until 8 September) and Maurizio Cattelan’s exhibition has just opened (until 6 October). After seeing the Ernst show at the Albertina in Vienna, I would say you shouldn’t miss seeing it at the Fondation Beyeler.

3) Away day: If you have a day free and want to get away from the crowds at Art Basel, I would suggest taking a train to Zurich’s Löwenbräu Art Complex, where you can visit many art spaces including the Kunsthalle Zurich and Parkett’s Space.

4) Movie: Catch a film at the Filmpalast, an independent 28-seat cinema on Binningerstrasse in central Basel.

5) Public art: Tinguely-Brunnen at the Theaterplatz, located near the Kunsthalle Basel: this assortment of moving sculptures by Tinguely are powered by water. Also the Jean Tinguely Museum, housed in a building designed by Mario Botta, situated directly on the Rhine (Paul Sacher-Anlage 2) has an interesting selection of works, photographs and documents.



Art Basel: Mirrors, Mirrors on the Walls

[image] Art Basel

Anish Kapoor’s ‘Untitled,’ left, and Doug Aitken’s ‘MORE (shattered pour),’ both of 2013, at the Regen Projects gallery outpost at Art Basel.

Contemporary artists are getting reflective.

Earlier this week, mirrored objects—from silvery faux fireplaces and staircases to looking-glass panels smashed into kaleidoscopic fragments—were selling big at Art Basel, the Swiss contemporary art fair that closes Sunday.

During the fair’s VIP preview on Tuesday, New York’s 303 Gallery sold two versions of Doug Aitken’s $250,000 “Movie,” in which the artist used foam clad in reflective glass to spell out the word in giant letters. For the same price, Los Angeles-based Regen Projects sold a similar piece by the same artist that spells out the word “More.” At Lisson Gallery, Anish Kapoor’s 6-foot-tall stainless steel bowl, “Parabolic Twist,” has been stretching viewers into funhouse-mirror shapes. It is priced to sell for around $1.1 million. (The British sculptor is an old hand at using mirrorlike surfaces.)

Virginia Overton coated a sheet of plexiglass in acrylic-mirrored paint and then covered the surface with scratches that appear to glow. That’s because the artist, born in Nashville, Tenn., framed this 8-foot-wide glass sheet atop a light box outfitted with fluorescent tubes. Mitchell-Innes & Nash sold it for around $50,000 during fair previews on Wednesday.

Artists have long experimented with mirrors in their work—from the room-reflecting convex hanging in Jan van Eyck’s iconic 1434 “Arnolfini Portrait” to the see-me-twice hand mirrors wielded by sitters in Salvador Dalí’s surreal portraits.

The material itself has morphed from a Renaissance-era status symbol into a hardware-store staple chopped up by midcentury artists like Christian Megert, a Swiss member of the Zero Group, who sought to make art from everyday materials like nails and eggshells. During previews on Tuesday, London’s Mayor Gallery sold a rotating “Mirror Object” assemblage (1966) by Mr. Megert for $23,300.

Today’s rising stars in the art world appear to be using mirrors primarily because they reflect the image of the observer—a useful tool for conceptual artists seeking to implicate viewers in their politically potent pieces.

In New York dealer Gavin Brown’s fair booth, Rirkrit Tiravanija showed for the first time a series of mirrored wall panels covered in protest slogans like “Less Oil More Courage” and “The Days of This Society Is Numbered.” The gallery said that several sold during the fair’s opening hours but declined to divulge prices.

Artists today also often enlist mirrors as a way to play off the vanity of collectors who seek pieces that literally reflect themselves, said Swiss painter Arnold Helbling, who doesn’t use mirrors in his own work. Zurich lawyer and collector Klaus Neff agreed, saying, “When people see something they love, they often want to see themselves in it.”

Berlin dealer Eva Scherr conceded that “narcissism often plays a role” in the appeal of pieces like Jonathan Monk’s “Paul Together Alone with Each Other,” a 2012 installation that features a scraggly-haired puppet of a man in a suit sitting on a crate and staring into a door-size mirror. The installation sold for $60,000.

Besides mirrored pieces, collectors are buying plenty more at this fair—lending a solid, reassuring atmosphere, with pieces under $1 million selling at a brisker pace than the few masterpieces priced at $10 million-plus. Collectors spotted during the VIP preview on Tuesday included Kanye West, financiers Leon Black and Donald Marron, and Russian philanthropist-socialite Dasha Zhukova.

Lawyer Kurt Büsser of Wiesbaden, Germany, and his wife, Maria, came to the fair on Wednesday in hopes of taking home a piece by Terry Fox, a Seattle-born artist whose wordplay installations have been gaining favor since he died a few years ago in the German city of Cologne. The couple’s pick from Fox’s one-man show at Galerie Löhrl? The artist’s $12,600 oval mirror from 1989 entitled “The Eye Is Not the Only Thing that Burns the Mind.”

Mr. Büsser said he likes the idea that he will be able to see his own face in the reflection of a mirror that’s already oxidizing, both changing over time: “I like that the edges of it look like they’ve been eaten apart by baby mice.”



What to See at Art Basel 2013

Posted: 06/14/2013 12:02 pm
Unlimited: Friedrich Petzel Gallery, Sean Landers, Moby Dick (Merrilees), 2013, Oil on
linen, 112 x 336 inches 284.5 x 853.4 cm. Courtesy the gallery and the artist

Art Basel, the world’s most important contemporary art fair, returns this week for its 43rd edition (June 13-16) with over 300 galleries exhibiting the works of 4,000 Artists while 60,000 art lovers take the city by storm. Art Basel is considered the event on the peripatetic art world calendar, attracting major collectors and A-list galleries who save up the very best visual art of the 20th and 21st centuries to showcase here.

Art Basel is organized by sectors, each of which is committed to a particular type of gallery, artwork or artist. These eight show sectors offer a diverse collection of artworks, including pieces by established artists and newly emerging artists, curated projects, site-specific experiential work and film. Organizing the fair this way allows visitors to explore the many dimensions of modern and contemporary art including paintings, sculptures and classical photography, as well as works of an outsized scale, various projects and site-specific artworks and interventions around Basel.

                Nahmad Gallery, Art Basel 2013                                               McKee Gallery, Art Basel 2013
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG                                              MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG


The Galleries sector is the main focus of Art Basel. This year, for the first time in the show’s history, galleries from the Philippines and Singapore will be present along with galleries from around 40 countries. Galleries exhibiting within the sector for the first time, having previously shown in Statements or Feature, include: Alison Jacques Gallery (London), kaufmann repetto (Milan), Galerie Guido W.Baudach (Berlin), Galerie Jocelyn Wolff (Paris) and McCaffrey (New York). Adding to a strong presentation of vintage photography will be first time exhibitor Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York).


The Feature sector presents curated projects that may include solo presentations by an individual artist, or juxtapositions and particular exhibits from artists representing a range of cultures, generations and artistic approaches. This year’s edition will feature 24 galleries from 16 countries, the highest number of galleries since the sector’s introduction in 2010.

One of the highlights of this sector includes the gallery Take Ninagawa (Tokyo) bringing historic works by Japanese artist Tsuruko Yamazaki, including a piece originally realized for the “1st Gutai Art Exhibition” in Tokyo in 1955.Tsuruko Yamazaki is a founding member of the Gutai Art Association, one of the most important avant-garde groups in postwar Japanese art. Starting in the 1950s, she created washes of colored dye, using hues of indigo, violet and magenta on outdoor installations in public parks before moving on to more Pop-influenced paintings in the 60s. She has presented a range of works throughout her decades-long career, and has produced work on the themes of real and virtual images and sight/cognition/recreation that expresses her unique outlook on the relationship between the individual and the world.


Tsuruko Yamazaki, Work, 1955 (reproduced in 1986), Mirror, acrylic and paper on board, 230 x 183 cm, Tin Cans, 1955 (reproduced in 1986), Dye, lacquer and thinner on tin cans, Dimensions variable. Courtesy of LADS, Osaka and Take Ninagawa, Tokyo. 


In this sector, Art Basel presents exciting new solo projects by young, emerging artists. The Statements sector has promoted young artists since 1996, providing a special platform that puts them in front of the eyes of an international audience of curators, collectors and art critics. Sited within the new exhibition hall, these solo presentations will offer an opportunity to discover the work of emerging artists and young galleries. Each year, two outstanding artists in this sector are awarded the Baloise Art Prize. The Baloise Group also acquires works by the award-winning artists which it donates to important European art institutions.

This year, 13 of the 24 galleries exhibiting will be new to the show. Highlights of Statements will include an installation of video, drawings and sculpture by Los Angeles based artist Erika Vogt presented by Overduin and Kite (Los Angeles). Chinese artist Hu Xiaoyuan will present a new series of works consisting of wood pieces with Beijing Commune (Beijing). Another newcomer is The Third Line Gallery (Dubai) presenting a solo booth by artist Laleh Khorramian. The works on display are fragments of a future science fiction film titled M-GOLIS, with Khorramian’s presentation focusing on paintings and objects related to the making.

Laleh Khorramian, Shrine, 2013, refrigerator, glass, fluorescent, amber, paper, wood, tin boxes,
LED, 3 dvd minidisk players. Courtesy of The Third Line Gallery.


Leading publishers of editioned works, prints and multiples exhibit the results of their collaboration with renowned artists. Some of the Edition galleries include Brooke Alexander, Pace Prints, Three Star Books, Alan Cristea Gallery, Crown Point Press, Atelier-Editions Fanal, Sabine Knust, Carolina Mitsch, Lelong Editions and many more.


Curated by New York-based Gianni Jetzer, Unlimited is Art Basel’s pioneering exhibition platform for projects that transcend the limitations of a classical art show stand. Unlimited provides exhibiting galleries with an opportunity to showcase large-scale sculptures, video projections, installations, wall paintings, photographic series and performance art which cannot be displayed within the limitations of an art fair stand.

This year Unlimited will feature 79 artworks – the largest number of projects to date. Not to miss is the largest painting ever exhibited within the sector: ‘Two into One becomes Three’ (2011) by Matt Mullican, which measures 22 by seven meters and will be presented by Klosterfelde (Berlin) and Mai 36 Galerie (Zurich). Gagosian Gallery (New York) and Massimo De Carlo (Milan) will jointly present Piotr Uklański’s enormous textile installation reminiscent of human anatomy, ‘Open Wide‘ (2012).

A growing number of artists from Asia and South America, will be represented in Unlimited this year, including Chinese artists Huan Yong Ping’s controversial installation ‘Abbottabad’ (2012), presented by Gladstone Gallery (New York), in which he replicates the compound in which Osama Bin Laden was found. Long March Space (Beijing) will show Chinese artist Liu Wei’s installation ‘Library’ (2012), in which anonymous urban landscapes shaped by familiar landmarks have been created out of books. Luhring Augustine (New York) will present Brazilian artist Tunga’s historical 16mm film installation ‘Ão’ (1981) and ‘Fairytale Ladies Dormitory’ (2007) by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will be presented by Galerie Urs Meile (Beijing, Lucerne).


Parcours, curated by Florence Derieux, is the sector which engages the city’s historic quarters with site-specific sculptures, interventions and performances by renowned international artists and emerging talents.  For its 2013 edition, Parcours has moved into the Klingental neighborhood of Basel, one of the city’s most culturally diverse and creatively active quarters. The 16 works presented here will engage with Basel’s past and present, weaving artistic interventions into the different locations in the neighborhood. The sector will open to the public on Wednesday with a night of special performances by L.A Dance Project, Marc Bauer and Michael Smith. (Image: Danh Vo, Gustav’s Wing, 2013. Courtesy the artist & Galerie Buchholz; Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie; Galerie Chantal Crousel; Marian Goodman Gallery).


Art Basel’s week-long program of films, featuring over 30 titles by and about artists, is curated by Berlin film scholar Marc Glöde and Zurich collector This Brunner.  Highlights will include ‘Paris: Capital of the XXIst Century,’ the last film ever made by Malcom McLaren, and ‘Kader Attia, Collage,’ a single-channel video about the lives of transsexuals in Algiers and Bombay that questions the possibility of objective testimony. At the same time, it challenges the structural coherence we associate with artistic narrative. ‘Cutie and the Boxer‘ by Zachary Heinzerling is a touching film that documents the lives of the Japanese artist couple Ushio and Noriko Shinohara and which won the prestigious Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival 2013.

 Paris, Capital of the XXIst Century, Malcolm McLaren,           Untitled (Collages), Kader Attia, 2011-2012
Courtsy of gallery & artist                                                           Galerie Krinzinger. Courtesy the gallery & the artist    


Art publications from around the world display their magazines in single stands or a collective booth. Editors and publishers are often present at the show and many magazines contribute presentations to the Basel Salon talks, a schedule of presentations, lectures and discussions. Some of the participating magazines include: Aesthetica, Art Press, Arte, Artforum, Art Review, Canvas, Frieze, Sculpture, The Art Newspaper and many more.

Satellite fairs:

With so much to see at the main fair is hard to believe there is more, but the action is not only at Art Basel but at the satellites fairs positioned around the city. From design to cutting-edge contemporary art, here are some of the other must-see venues on everyone’s itinerary:

   Design Miami/Basel

   June 11–16
Hall 1 Süd, Messe Basel

The eighth edition of the elite design fair encompasses 48 galleries, 8 of which will feature solo presentations. Occurring alongside the Art Basel fairs in Miamieach December and Basel each June, Design Miami/ has become the premier venue for collecting, exhibiting, discussing and creating collectible design. This year features both the functional,such as a 2012 cabinet in iron and yellow-glazed lava stone by Christophe Côme, via Cristina Grajales (New York),and the decorative, with Anish Kapoor’s square Atlas Ring (2012), at Louisa Guinness (London). The complex design took the London firm Goldsmiths three weeks to execute. Also on view is Benjamin Graindorge’s Fallen Tree bench(2011), the key piece from the young French designer’s first solo with Paris gallery Ymer & Malta.

June 11–16
Burgweg 15

What began as an initiative by young gallerists in 1996, developed into one of the most important fairs in the world, which they did by making significant contributions to the promotion of young artists and galleries. This contemporary-focused fair stays innovative by restricting itself to galleries founded within the past five years. Among the 300 applications, only 66 galleries from 22 countries were selected. The intentionally low number of galleries and the high level of sophistication of participants are the reasons for the fair extraordinary success and international reputation.

June 12–16
Uferstrasse 40

Presenting its 7th Basel edition this year, this contemporary art show includes 75 international exhibitors, with an emphasis on the Middle East including galleries from Tehran (Shirin Art Gallery), Ankara (Siyah Beyaz Galeri) and Abu Dhabi (Salwa Zeidan Gallery). Riyadh’s Lam Art Gallery (Riyad) will partner with the Switzerland-based AB Gallery toshow Iranian mixed-media artist Samira Hodaei and Pop-influenced Saudi painter Bassem Al Sharqi, among others. With a new location on the Rhine, the pavilion will present large-scale sculptures from three Latin American artists, Gastón Ugalde, Fernando Arias and Sonia Falcone.

The Solo Project
June 12–16
St. Jakobshalle

The-Solo-Project showcases works by leading artists presented by a carefully selected group of international galleries. The Solo Project has quickly established itself as an important satellite fair in Basel. The Solo Project was set up by Paul Kusseneers Gallery (Antwerp) and is supported by an array of partner galleries and aiming towards building of new relationships between galleries and collectors. For the sixth edition, Amaury and Myriam de Solages of Maison Particulière (Brussels) present Italian artist Angelo Musco in conjunction with Argentine art collective Mondongo. Luxembourg’s Galerie Nosbaum& Reding hangs its booth with manipulated architectural photographs by Maja Weyermann.

June 10–15

Returning for its fourth year at the Dreispitzhalle, Volta is a platform for presenting the vision of contemporary art galleries of global repute whose artists represent new and relevant positions for curators and collectors alike. The galleries are selected by an annually changing curatorial board, a group of curators, art critics and gallerists, to give each edition its own clear identity and to redirect focus back on the artists as well as their representing galleries.

Purdy Hicks Gallery (London) is featuring works by Bettina von Zwehl.  Spain present Alarcón Criado of Seville, Nicolas Grospierre and Alejandra Laviada; and Galería Visor of Valencia offers a four-way showof Hamish Fulton, Nil Yalter, Braco Dimitrijevic and this year’s Hasselblad Award winner Joan Fontcuberta.

Major museum exhibitions happening in Basel:

The Kunstmuseum Basel will present two special exhibitions, the first of which is The Picassos are Here!, behind which is an exceptional story.  The city of Basel has had a special relationship with Picasso since 1967. This was when the population of Basel, in a popular vote, decided to release a credit of 6 million francs for the Kunstmuseum, raising an extraordinary CHF 2.4 million from the citizens of Basel, in order to allow the acquisition of two paintings by Picasso, The Seated Harlequin and Two Brothers. Picasso himself was so impressed he gave Basel three additional paintings and a preparatory drawing for the famous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.  With these five paintings as a base, all of the Picasso collections in Basel are brought together for this comprehensive exhibition exploring the important phases of Picasso’s career.  For the first time since the Van Gogh exhibition, the entire second floor of the museum is devoted to a single artist.

Another exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel is Ed Ruscha: Los Angeles Apartments. With the acquisition of nine studies for the graphite drawings of Los Angeles Apartments (1965) as well as of a set of the twenty-five black-and-white photographs from 2003 treating the same theme, the museum laid the foundations for this exhibition. By placing these different media side by side and taking a comparative look at photographs from the Gasoline Stations series (1962) as well as drawings on the theme of Large Trademark (1962) and Standard Station (1963), the show offers an especially vivid illustration of Ruscha’s work.

The Beyeler Foundation presents Maurizio Cattelan (Jun. 8 – Oct. 6). The exhibition, titled Kaputt, presents five taxidermied horses that have been installaed with their heads seemingly polking through the wall of the museum. The exhibition is curated by Sam Keller and Associate Curator Michiko Kono.  Cattelan is one of the most discussed artists of our day. Back in the 1990s he began to produce sculptures that surprised and astonished the public and the art world. His multi-faceted oeuvre is critical and humorous and reflects society’s paradoxes and alienation, as well as individuals’ struggle to find their place in it. On view at the same time is a scholarly Max Ernst retrospective that the Beyeler has organized with the Albertina in Vienna.

Maurizio Cattelan ‘untitled‘, 2007. photo: serge hasenböhler, basel, courtesy fondation beyeler, riehen/basel

Kunsthalle Basel presents two newly opened exhibitions that are worth visiting.  Michel Auder – Stories, Myths, Ironies and Other Songs, presents films and videos that are recordings of his surroundings, his private life and the people around him. The French artist first began exploring video as an artistic medium in the late 1960s. Over the years he has shot thousands of hours of film, in the early days with Super 8, 16mm and 35mm cameras, and subsequently embracing the latest video and digital media as they became available; right up to the camera in his mobile phone. Much of this footage was only edited by the artist many years after it was recorded, and turned into video works ranging from sequences lasting just few minutes to feature-length films.

Pavilionesque is Polish artist Paulina Olowska’s first solo exhibition in Switzerland at Kunsthalle Basel, and features a three-dimensional model, or a life-size sketch for a wooden pavilion.  This is a kind of functional sculpture that serves as a setting for performances, but also for the presentation of newly produced works, such as paintings, ceramics, sculptures and puppets. All these works are informed by the idea of creating a contemporary form of puppet/performance/cabaret theatre. The exhibition brings together all these minor genres in the work of art that may be not only viewed but actually experienced first hand.

Museum Tinguely puts on a show of the works of Lithuanian artist Zilvinas Kempinas that are not only kinetic but also minimalistic. Now a resident of New York, Kempinas uses the simplest of means to create complex and atmospheric room situations of great beauty. His installations play with air and lightness.  The reliefs are based on time and chance. The context for this exhibition within the Museum Tinguely creates an interesting dialogue between the two artists.

Vitra Design Museum showcases its Louis Khan exhibition, about the American architect who is regarded as one of the great master builders of the twentieth century. As the first retrospective on Louis Kahn in over two decades, this exhibition encompasses an unprecedented and diverse range of architectural models, original drawings, travel sketches, photographs and films. All of Kahn’s important projects are extensively documented — from his early urban planning concepts and single-family houses to monumental late works such as the Roosevelt Memorial, which was posthumously completed in October 2012. Highlights of the exhibition include a four-metre-high model of the spectacular City Tower designed for Philadelphia, as well as previously unseen film footage shot by Nathaniel Kahn, Louis Khan’s son, and director of the film ‘My Architect.’



Horses for courses
Art Basel, the world’s premier contemporary art fair, opens in Switzerland on 13 June. More than 60,000 collectors, dealers, artists, curators and art lovers are expected to attend the fair this year, at which nearly 300 galleries will display works. The Beyeler Foundation is exhibiting artby the Italian prankster Maurizio Catellan. (Sebastien Bozon/Getty)



Kanye West Previews ‘Yeezus’ at Art Basel Switzerland

You're Not Kanye West
Getty Images
Kanye West

The rapper holds an impromptu listening event for his upcoming sixth studio album, jokingly introducing himself as a “celebrity boyfriend.”

“KANYE?!!!” The flood of near-identical texts came pouring in last night at around 10 p.m., when Kanye West announced that he would hold an impromptu preview of his album Yeezus at midnight at the Design Miami/Basel Fair. (By the performer’s account, he had been on the prowl for Rick Owens furniture earlier in the day when the idea hit him to use the fair as a venue.) Hundreds of dealers, artists and otherwise – among them Art Basel director Marc Spiegler, Christie’s Loic Gouzer, and new-media collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlach – dropped all other arrangements (including what was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, a surprise concert by Solange at the Absolut Art Bar) and flocked to the Messeplatz hall, where they would mill around an open bar until West could pull together the last-minute prep work necessary to transform the empty first floor of the expo space into a concert hall. (He left a single Owens chair on stage for good measure.)

After jokingly introducing himself as a “celebrity boyfriend,” West reminded the crowd that “I got my start in art,” rattling off the names of some admittedly prestigious art schools who had accepted West – that is, before the aspiring artist dropped out for lack of technical talent: “I realized I would never be a great visual artist of the world, and started to worry that I would end up working at an ad agency – no offense to anyone who does that.”

PHOTOS: Kanye West’s 20 Most Jaw-Dropping Quotes

West dropped a fascinating monologue on the impetus for his album before unveiling the first two tracks, which he played straight from a laptop computer, bobbing over it as the songs played. Before West could release a third, he was interrupted by chants demanding that he sing live. West hesitated, then yielded, delivering an aggressive, a capella performance of “New Slaves,” a potent song that climaxed with an anti-Montauk mantra: “I’d rather be in the Factory than the Maybach” and “F— the Hamptons House!” While he seemed to be biting the hand that feeds him – West casually mentioned that he had been dining with the Kramlachs an hour earlier – the singer concluded the performance by standing at the door, and shaking hands with everyone as they exited.

What should be shocking is that this all took place as mere accompaniments to Art Basel. What began in 1970 as a local trade fair has evolved into a week-long nexus of international culture and extravagant parties, where it is no stranger to spot Kanye than it is to rub elbows with the Princess Eugenie of York. The increasingly stratified system of VIP previews and openings now stretches over the entire week, with the first glimpse of Art Statements and Art Unlimited – sections of the fair dedicated to emerging artists and oversized work, respectively – starting already on Monday afternoon. (This for a trade show that used to open on Friday.)

The extra days leave dealers scrambling for places to dine — Basel isn’t exactly a metropolis, after all. Chez Donati is usually a go-to, but this year David Zwirner stealthily booked it for the entire week. Larry Gagosian preferred to party in a former train station, while 303 Gallery, David Kordansky, Regen Projects and Eva Presenhuber were among the eight galleries who bonded together to host a barbecue at a hilltop dairy (where compliments on the beef muted as the cows starting trudging into the barn behind the guests.) Another option this year was Pret-a-diner, an itinerant “restaurant experience” that brings Michelin-starred chefs (in this case Tim Raue and Oliver “Ollysan” Lange) to pop-up venues around Europe. In Basel they chose an Elizabethan church, whose Gothic architecture and stained glass windows struck a moody setting when, at the stroke of 11 p.m., the space converted into the temporary site of Silencio, the Paris-based club still trading on its (mostly titular) ties to David Lynch. Silencio had to go head-to-head with nightly rowdiness at the Kunsthalle’s Campari Bar, as well as Emmanuel Perrotin’s annual party with Parisian nightlife staple Le Baron on Das Schiff, a multidecked boat docked on the Rhine. Predictably sweaty, smoky and just the right amount of slutty, the Francophile guests gave it their all on the dance floor (with some help from The Gramme), periodically retiring to the top deck for fresh air.

STORY: Kanye West Reveals ‘Yeezus’ Collaborators

Speaking of fresh air, returning this year was the Absolut Art Bar, who followed up last year’s installment – designed by Jeremy Deller – with a tripped-out, ’70s-style lounge, courtesy of Mickalene Thomas. (“It’s like having a party in Mickalene’s brain,” as Lehmann Maupin director Courtney Plummer described it, though apparently the artist had been angling to recreate her mother’s old house.) Wednesday night, a covert operation brought Solange to the club to play for a room of less than a hundred lucky listeners, who were all sworn to secrecy.

Hands-down one of the glitziest affairs was also held Wednesday, at the stately Kunstmuseum, where Tina Brown, Daphne Guinness and Dasha Zhukova hosted an “intimate dinner” preceded by a conversation between Brown and artist Theaster Gates, whose homegrown, Chicago-based activism (“I prefer to think of it as neighborliness”) has rocketed him into the spotlight. The evening drew art world royalty like Eli Broad, Peter Brant, Gagosian, Jay Jopling and Alberto Mugrabi, as well as some actual royalty – the Princess Alia Al-Senussi and Prince Abdullah Al Turki – and a younger crowd of scenesters: Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, Olympia Scarry, Vito Schnabel, Adam Weymouth and PC Valmorbida. Architect Fernando Romero and Soumaya Slim sipped champagne on the stairs, while Naomi Campbell’s ex, the dreamy Russian Vlad Doronin chatted away in his seat next to Stephanie Seymour (who thankfully need not worry about her contracts getting mysteriously canceled overnight). When the news about West’s surprise performance hit, Manila-based collector Robbie Antonio (whose pride rests in an ever-growing collection of portraits of himself from jaw-droppingly diverse artists like Damien Hirst, David LaChapelle and Marina Abramovic) had this to add: “I tried to commission Kanye once, but he was going to cost me even more than Anselm Kiefer.”

Perhaps the most shocking twist of all, however, is that the week isn’t even halfway through. The next few days still hold plenty in store, with the annual nocturne at the Beyeler and a Black Woods getaway dinner, hosted by Maria Baibakova and Alexandra Chemla. Now the only question is, who has time to see the art?



Art Basel at the Centre of the Art Market

Basel, 13 June 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).

There isn’t a single art market, but rather several, which respond to very different demands; there is a clear distinction, for example, between the antiques market, and the market dedicated to works of art. Yet, whilst the market for ‘classical’ pieces is long-established, with existing points of references points for the valuation of works, the current art market must develop its own mode of practice – it must develop its own valuation system, and work to improve the standing of contemporary pieces. With this in mind, the importance of biennials and fairs should not go unrecognised, and they should be essential in shaping the form which a market for contemporary works takes. Biennials allow galleries to increase the prominence of their represented artists, whilst fairs allow buyers to invest in contemporary works. Nevertheless, it is vital that these two forms of art event -which are in fact complementary- are not dissociated from one another. The reputation established by an artist during a biennial directly impacts upon the value their works are able to achieve when presented at subsequent fairs.

Today, the contemporary art market is undergoing a period of rapid expansion. According to an annual report given by Artprice, contemporary art represented 11% of total arts sales at the end of 2011, a figure which was less than 4% at the end of 2000. Between 2011 and 2012, nearly €860m worth of contemporary art works were sold at auction. And these are only the figures concerning auction sales – it is important to remember that both fairs and galleries act as important centres for the sale of other contemporary works.

Considered to be one of the most important international contemporary art fairs, Art Basel plays an essential role in the development of the contemporary art market.

Art Basel held its first edition in 1970, four years after the Cologne fair, thanks to the initiative of three Basel-based gallerists: Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner et Balz Hilt. They set out with two ambitions: to find a forum for gallerists to engage in their greatest interest, and to establish Basel – their home – as an international centre for contemporary art. The first year saw participation from over 90 galleries, with over 16,300 visitors in attendance, giving clear evidence of public interest in a fair of this kind. 2013 marked the 44th edition of the fair, and saw the presence of over 300 galleries from 39 countries. The high-level of criteria for participating galleries means that Basel currently stands as one of the international art world’s most important events. Participating galleries are selected according to several criterias: they must not only present emerging artists, but also established artists – demonstrating proof of their representation of the latter. They must also show evidence of having taken an active role in the production of art works.

The evolutionary history of this fair demonstrates the event’s capacity to develop and adapt rapidly. In 1976 – just 6 years after the fair’s first edition – Art Basel had already attained its present size, with 300 participating galleries. This year, 304 galleries eagerly awaited the opportunity to present their artists; whilst a vast majority of these institutions were European, many had also travelled from Asia Pacific.

Reasons for international recognition

There are several reasons which explain why Art Basel retains the title of the best international art fair. The event’s strict selection criteria is one of the primary reasons that the fair has been able to establish itself as a strong leader in its field, with only 30% of total applicants earning a stand at Art Basel. This is a figure which rises to 35% for editions of the event held in Hong Kong and Miami. Each gallery’s proposed exhibition is considered for a long period of time before being realsed. The rigour of this selection process is based on two important factors which help to explain Art Basel’s international renown: quality and a commitment to renewal. This commitment to renewal means that galleries can only present propositions for stands which are innovative. Each year, visitors to the fair therefore have the opportunity to discover new things – both with regard to the material composition of works presented, and the manner in which they are displayed, which might be so innovative that it becomes a benchmark for the form of the gallery (or galleries’) future exhibitions. The fair also avoids any risk of ‘déjà vu’, so often seen in terms of the results of art auctions, but especially in terms of image: Art Basel acts as a window onto the most beautiful works, and exhibition formats, which contemporary galleries are capable of providing.

The quality of the works presented is also a deciding factor in the fair’s renown, with galleries providing works which are of museum quality. The quality of the works presented results from the strict selection process, carried out by the fair’s committee, and recognises the high sales figure which the event is capable of generating. Galleries retain their finest works for Art Basel. Showing works which are merely beautiful does not suffice: at Basel, galleries must represent the very best of their artists. This culture of showing truly exceptional works means that Basel exists as a platform of detrimental importance to the international success of its participating galleries.

From a more pragmatic point of view, the need to present pieces of an excellent quality with a view to selling them, in part, explains the need for galleries to make their appearance at the fair profitable. With the price of a single square metre of gallery space exceeding €500, Art Basel is one of the most expensive fairs. The quality of works exhibited is therefore an essential factor in Basel’s international renown, and is the reason that major representatives from the art market continue to return to the event year after year. Representatives include not only buyers and collectors, but also conservators, commissioners and other influential members of international cultural organisations. It is collectors, however, who largely contribute to the renown of Art Basel.

Collectors come to the festival to buy, with a view to making investments which contribute to their existing catalogues of works. In an economically difficult climate, where the public sector is hesitant to spend, the importance of collectors has never been more important. With this in mind, the fair does everything it can to retain its wealthy clientele, who are responsible for a significant quantity of the event’s most important sales. According to an article which appeared in Artinfo, last year, no less than 300 private jets landed at Basel’s Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport- during the fair, the average number of incoming flights per day was 123 – a figure which falls to just 18 outside of the fair.

These figures demonstrate that Art Basel is seen as place both to see and be seen. This sentiment is re-inforced by VIP hours for visitors who have a significant influence upon international art. VIP hours give a chosen few access to gallery previews. A large number of sales are realised during this period, demonstrating just how important it is to continue to give privilleged treatment to the fair’s wealthiest collectors.

Art Basel was the first fair to create a VIP access scheme of this nature, a factor which has no doubt reinforced its international reputation, but which has perhaps also contributed to the development of a superficial side. This superficial side – which seems paradoxically far away from the idea of art itself – is a culture which has also been seen at the Venice Biennale, often touted as the ‘Cannes Festival of Art’. Nevertheless, it is collectors who make the market, with their purchases deciding the trends of the market and the cost’s achieved by an artist’s works. The decisions of collectors have a formative effect on the shape of the market, and might be considered to be one of the deciding factors in both the style and material composition of works.

Finally, the last reason for Basel’s international reputation is the location of the fair itself. Basel is a town renowned fors its museums and foundations, and is notably home to the Beyeler Foundation, created by one of the fair’s founding gallerists. Moreover, Basel is home to a host of important collectors and patrons – all factors which contribute to the town’s strategic position in the art market.

Art Basel’s impact on the art market

It would seem that the quality of works included in the fair rests the primary reason for the event’s international renown, but also for its impact upon the art market. It is this factor which prompts three of the major actors in the art market to converge, with a notion of quality bringing gallerists, artists and collectors together.

By participating in the fair, galleries reinforce the prominent roles which they have to play in the art market. For gallerists, participating in the event also allows them to meet with new collectors. Represented artists benefit from this association with collectors, with their proximity translating into higher sales prices. Frequently, an exhibition at Art Basel is the highlight of an artist’s career.

For collectors, the fair guarantees encounters with exceptional pieces, created by both recognised and emerging artists. Participating in the evolution of a little-known artist might also be an appealing notion for collectors visiting the fair, allowing them to shape the form of tomorrow’s art market whilst also nominating themselves as figures capable of creating and directing trends.

Due to its international renown, Art Basel has become, not just a fair, but a label, existing as a benchmark both for contemporary art and contemporary art fairs. Its popularity is such that Art Basel expanded, opening Art Basel Miami in 2002, and Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013 (a fair which formerly existed as ART HK). Today, in a context where the number of fairs dedicated to contemporary art is expanding at a considerable rate, the possession of this ‘benchmark’ status is invaluable. Art Basel Hong Kong, which took place between 23 and 26 May 2013, immediately gained credibility due to its association with Art Basel – this was emphasised by the professional focus which the new manifestation of the fair took.

The development of the ‘Art Basel’ label has also contributed to the equally important – if not indispensible – feeling of trust on the part of collectors, who sense that the Basel name offers them a guarantee of quality. Nevertheless, this is a nuanced factor which did not necessarily contribute to galleries at Art Basel Hong Kong having sales which were as good as they might have anticipated. It is important, therefore, to question whether a fair based in this region can make significant profits: buying tendencies in the area see fewer people make impulsive, or instantaneous purchases.

Yet it is important that Art Basel’s impact upon the art larket in general does not have a negative effect on the health of galleries. In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Marc Spiegler (director of Art Basel) explained that the role of Art Basel should be to bring new collectors, not only to the fair, but to galleries themselves. Spiegler admitted that the habits of collectors have evolved, and that buyers tend to spend less time in galleries than they once had. Art Basel must work to re-ignite buyers’ interest in galleries, encouraging them to not only visit their stands at the fair, but to visit galleries themselves. Galleries represent an essential component of the contemporary art market, promoting the work of artists; any diminuation in their presence would be fatal for the health of the art market in general. Art Basel presents the chance for galleries to exert a visible presence, and to hold their ground against increasingly strong sales at auction houses. Art Basel also allows galleries to continue selling artist’s works, with a large portion of the money raised from these sales going to artists themselves – a situation which is not always the case with auctions.

The impact of the Venice Biennale on Art Basel

These two events are both anchored in the past, and both place a special focus on, not simply presenting works by contemporary artists, but of fostering an awareness of past works. This ambition was a prominent component of the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale, and remains a very important factor for Art Basel – even if historic pieces are becoming increasingly rare.

Art Basel and The Venice Biennale are held together by strong bonds – perhaps explained by the absence of commercial sales at the Biennale. It is vital that galleries are able to equate the prominence they gain at the Venice Biennale with commercial sales, and it is Art Basel which allows them to do so. It is commonly said that what is exhibited in Venice will be sold in Basel. A difference between the works exhibited at the two fairs is nevertheless visible: as the Venice Biennale has no commercial intention, it is much easier for artists to show works which might not sell well (installations, for example).

The links uniting Art Basel and the Venice Biennale can be found when examining the presence of participating artists on an international level. Many prominent artists are present a both events, notably Ai Weiwei, Jeremy Deller, Valentin Carron and Camille Henrot. This dual visibility can have a considerable effect on the cost of artists’s works and can launch the career of an emerging artist. Artists also benefit from the prestige of the festival, becoming a similar benchmark for quality – if not artistically, at least symbolically. At Art Basel, however, selection is based predominantly on the presentation produced by galleries, with artists subsequently acquiring commercial recognition.

The Biennale’s influence upon Art Basel is therefore highly evident: the Biennale is a trampoline for the international presence of artists, which is translated into their commercial success.

Art Basel has established itself as a reference fair, thanks to the strict mode of selecting exhibitors and the high quality of works displayed. But its renown is also due to its ability to reinvent itself throughout the course of its successive editions. Indeed, the history of the fair is full of organisational innovations. By adding internal events such as Unlimited (Art Unlimited until 2012) and Off fairs, Art Basel offers something different each year, and thus maintains its interest and appeal to collectors and galleries.


Gallery: Art Basel modern art exhibition

Basel’s expanded exhibition centre is playing host to the 44th edition of the modern and contemporary art show Art Basel this week.

Nearly 40 countries across five continents will be represented, with the UK contributing 40 of the more than 300 total galleries alone.

Up to 65,000 visitors are expected, among them some of the world’s wealthiest art collectors and dealers, and the prices on show look set to reflect this.

Last year one gallery sold painting A.B. Courbet, by German artist Gerhard Richter, for £12.8million ($20m).

For more Life & Style galleries click here



Inside Art

At Art Basel, an Unslaked Appetite for Buying

Courtesy of Mickalene Thomas and Roberto Chamorro/Absolut Art Bureau

Mickalene Thomas’s “Better Days” installation, running in conjunction with the Art Basel fair, where her works are on sale.

BASEL, Switzerland — Within a five-minute walk from Art Basel, the world’s leading fair for contemporary art, is a small upstairs space frozen in the not-so-contemporary 1970s. Mirrors and imitation wood paneling line the walls. A patchwork of African textiles covers the furniture, and the floors are a mix of linoleum, wood and carpeting. There is a bar, too, with lava lamps and a fake copper ceiling. Hits by Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer and Diana Ross play every night at ear-piercing decibels.

Courtesy of Claes Oldenburg and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Claes Oldenburg’s “Scissors Monument Cut-Out.”

On Wednesday morning, standing in the middle of it all dressed in baggy pants and a T-shirt was Mickalene Thomas, the 42-year-old Brooklyn artist who created the environment here. She calls it “Better Days” after a group of her mother’s friends who would hold parties, plays and fashion shows to raise money to fight sickle cell anemia, a disease that runs in her family. “Better Days” is the installation for the Absolut Art Bureau, sponsored by the Swedish vodka company Absolut in partnership with Art Basel, where more of Ms. Thomas’s work is on display.

“I’ve done environments before, but this is the most three-dimensional,” said Ms. Thomas, who recently had a much-praised exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.

At the nearby fair, which runs through Sunday, her Chelsea dealer, Lehmann Maupin, is showing several of her paintings. One, “Hair Portrait Series #10,” depicting the braided hair of four African-American women on wood panel with acrylic and rhinestones, was snapped up for $55,000 just hours after the fair opened.

“Collectors these days are looking for artists that have museum and curatorial support,” said David Maupin, one of the gallery’s founders.

The cavernous convention center that houses the fair has booth after booth filled with blue-chip masters like Warhol, Picasso, Bacon and Calder, or artists who, like Ms. Thomas, have been the subject of recent museum exhibitions or are featured at the Venice Biennale, which opened this month.

There are also examples of works similar to those that brought enormous prices at the May auctions in New York.

“Galleries bring what they know the market wants,” said Allan Schwartzman, an art adviser from New York.

As large and lively as ever, with 304 galleries exhibiting from 39 countries, Art Basel is still a magnet for big-money collectors and museum directors. Among those at the invitation-only opening on Tuesday were New York financiers like Donald B. Marron and Leon Black, the Miami collectors Donald and Mera Rubell and the Russian oligarch Roman A. Abramovich. Also seen perusing booths was Richard Armstrong, who runs the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Alain Seban, president of the Pompidou Center in Paris; and Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate in London.

“I’ve been coming here since the 1980s, when dealers would bring works they couldn’t sell in their galleries,” said Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “Now these dealers are like museum curators, working for months on their installations.”

Just weeks after the buoyant May auctions, collectors still appear to have money to spend. Among the dealers reporting brisk sales was the Helly Nahmad Gallery. Its New York branch was represented here with a large booth filled with paintings and sculptures by Calder, Lucio Fontana and Bacon. By the end of Tuesday, more than six big-ticket works had been sold, including a 1961 Calder mobile for $12 million and a 1968 painting by Fontana for $6 million.

The Nahmads, a dynasty of dealers with spaces in the Carlyle Hotel in New York and on Cork Street in London, have been in the spotlight recently. In April, Hillel Nahmad, 34, known as Helly, was charged by federal prosecutors with playing a leading role in a gambling and money-laundering operation that stretched from Kiev and Moscow to Los Angeles and New York, where he is based. Mr. Nahmad, who has denied these charges, is missing from the fair this year; as part of his bail he had to surrender his passport.

But his cousin in London, who runs the family’s Cork Street gallery and is also called Helly, said he had seen a lot of new buyers. “They are from all over — Europe, China, Latin America and Italy,” he said.

Late Picassos have been top sellers at auctions in recent years, and at Dominique Lévy, the New York dealer, “Tête d’Homme à la Pipe,” from 1971, hung prominently in her booth. Priced at $15 million, it had been sold by Thursday. Ms. Lévy is also in discussions with a collector to sell a 1959 untitled Barnett Newman drawing listed at $7 million. (At Sotheby’s last month Newman’s seminal painting “Onement VI,” a deep-blue abstract composition from 1953, sold for $43.8 million, a record for the artist at auction.)

One of the more talked-about collateral exhibitions in Venice during the Biennale’s opening was an immersive installation by the Italian-born artist Rudolf Stingel. He covered the Palazzo Grassi with his own Persian-inspired carpeting on which he hung his abstract and photo-realist paintings. In Basel, canvases by him were in several galleries. Three of his works, each priced around $2 million — at Massimo De Carlo, a gallery with spaces in Milan and London; Sadie Coles from London; and the Gagosian Gallery — were reported sold.

Drawings and sculptures by Claes Oldenburg, whose retrospective is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through Aug. 5, could be spotted in many places, too. Leslie Waddington, the London dealer, was showing “Feasible Monument for a City Square: Hats Blowing in the Wind,” a 1969 group of five crumpled canvas hats painted with enamel and shellacked. It was Mr. Oldenburg’s visual reference to Adlai Stevenson, who in 1965 had a fatal heart attack on a London street as his signature hat was blowing away. (Priced at $700,000, it sold on Thursday.)

A larger installation of Mr. Oldenburg’s work was at the Paula Cooper Gallery from New York. Drawings, watercolors and sculptures, mostly from the 1960s, were on display. Among them was “Scissors Monument Cut-Out,” a watercolor of two halves of a pair of scissors, from 1967. It sold to a New York collector for $200,000.

Although her gallery has been showing Mr. Oldenburg for years, Paula Cooper said that now seemed a good time to bring a group of his works to Basel because of the show at MoMA and one in Cologne, Germany, last year.

“Those people who have always admired Claes are rediscovering him,” she said. “So are a new generation who didn’t know his work until now.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 14, 2013, on page C23 of the New York edition with the headline: Still an Appetite For Buying



Behold a terrible beauty

Artists are responding to a decade of global conflict, but will their work find favour with collectors?

Huang Yong Ping’s Abbottabad, 2012, recreates Osama bin Laden’s final compound

With civil war raging in Syria and anti-government protests taking place across Turkey, the art world goes about its business on the Messeplatz this week—but a number of powerful works relating to war, conflict and terrorism are making an impact in Art Basel this year. Works inspired by sensitive political subjects, usually the domain of non-selling biennials and the Kassel-based Documenta exhibition in particular, have not previously been considered market-friendly.

Visitors are queuing in the fair’s Unlimited section to see the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar’s work about the late photojournalist Kevin Carter, whose image of a starving child in the Sudanese desert won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 (The Sound of Silence, 2006, $500,000; Goodman Gallery, Galerie Lelong, Galerie Kamel Mennour, Galerie Thomas Schulte, U42). Huang Yong Ping’s terracotta model of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan (Abbottabad, 2012, €375,000; Gladstone Gallery, U19), where the Al-Qaeda chief was killed by US forces in 2011, is also sparking debate. Meanwhile, The Shadow World, 2013, a film by Johan Grimonprez (€35,000, edition of 15; Sean Kelly Gallery, Galerie Kamel Mennour, U45) features a South African arms dealer and a war correspondent.

“The reality around us is unavoidable. This dilemma is visible in the work of the new generation; they are simply trying to make sense of the world in which we live,” says Jaar, adding that all art is “intrinsically political”. Artists have always been politically engaged—particularly from the Enlightenment, says Katerina Gregos, the curator of “Newtopia: the State of Human Rights”, an exhibition that took place in Brussels and Mechelen, Belgium, last year. She says that this is now more true than ever, as “we live in volatile and uncertain times”.

Conflict zones

Liza Essers, the director of the Cape Town- and Johannesburg-based Goodman Gallery (2.1/N12), which represents Jaar, says: “The social pendulum has swung back towards the ethos of the 1960s. We are seeing a reaction against the big, shiny, flashy tendencies of the past decade; people are making more meaningful work.” In the past 15 years, works by artists such as Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol have dominated the stands at Art Basel, but now, politically engaged art has been assimilated into the mainstream.

Alfred Pacquement, the director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne within the Centre Pompidou, Paris, says that artists from conflict zones such as the Middle East and Asia are becoming more visible. The museum is in negotiations to buy Kader Attia’s The Repair, 2012, a diptych featuring 80 slides that juxtaposes the disfigured faces of First World War soldiers with damaged African artefacts (Galleria Continua, U73). Attia stresses that upheavals in the Arab world and beyond mean that the “bling-bling era couldn’t last any longer. Art practice is linked to war. The relationship between war and avant-garde art is extremely tight.”

Whether private collectors want to be confronted daily by such issue-based art is, however, debatable, says Gregos, who adds that “most collectors are still attracted to object-based art”. A Middle Eastern collector attending Art Basel, who preferred to remain anonymous, says that politically engaged art speaks to him “because I’m a child of war”, though he believes that other collectors may find this subject matter more difficult.

Museums may be the natural home for these bold pieces. The anonymous Middle Eastern collector says that certain works available in Unlimited “can be so jarring” that he would only donate them to a museum. A number of public institutions have expressed interest in Willie Doherty’s video installation Remains, 2013, a harrowing account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland (€75,000; Alexander and Bonin Gallery, Kerlin Gallery, Peter Kilchmann, U50).

“Perhaps some of the hardest-hitting works, which deal with radical social issues, are destined for institutions or museum collections, but on a smaller scale, we are seeing a rise in private collectors buying works with a social conscience,” Essers says. Her gallery deals with international artists who tackle contentious topical issues linked to Africa. Jaar’s 1995 video Embrace, which depicts the genocide in Rwanda, sold to a French private collection for $36,000. Thomas Dane Gallery (2.1/M15), which is showing several politically charged works, sold Steve McQueen’s lightbox Lynching Tree, 2013—depicting a tree in New Orleans used as a gallows for slaves—for €65,000 to a Beirut-based collector (another edition is on show in McQueen’s retrospective at the Schaulager in Basel).

Some commentators are surprised that the art of conflict is not more abundant at art fairs in these tense times. But the presence of political work at Art Basel at least demonstrates an appetite for grittier, hard-edged art outside the biennial circuit. Ultimately, “artists are the conscience of society”, Gregos says. “They shift your perception and challenge your ideas about the world.”




Contemporary and modern Art Basel display opens to public

The world’s largest show of modern and contemporary art, has opened its doors to the public. Living up to its reputation for VIP guests and high price tags, Art Basel has already boasted multimillion dollar sales.

More than 300 galleries from five continents welcomed members of the public on Thursday for the 44th edition of Switzerland’s world-famous art fair.

An anticipated 65,000 visitors were invited to explore some 31,000 square meters (334,000 square feet) of exhibition space filled with works from leading contemporary and modern artists.

With doors opened to VIP guests for an advanced viewing two days earlier, however, many of this year’s biggest deals had already been closed.

Just half an hour into the exclusive opening the New York gallery Cheim & Read sold a large painting by the late US artist and leading abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell for $6.5 million (4.88 million euros).

According to the Reuters news agency, works by the German painter Gerhard Richter quickly began to fetch similar prices. Richter’s works fetch some of the highest prices of any living artist in the world. The 81-year-old broke his own auction record back in May when auctioneer Sotheby’s sold his painting of Milan’s Cathedral Square for $37.1 million in New York.

Art Basel is exhibited in three venues annually: Hong Kong, Miami Beach, and Basel itself.

Basel remains the main event, with private jets filling the skies and luxury limousines cluttering the streets around the exhibition since it first opened its doors on Tuesday. Collectors from around the world first flocked to peruse the multi-million dollar artworks. Among the celebrities already reported to have made an appearance were US actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and former Germany football captain Michael Ballack.

The event will remain open for another two days, closing its doors on Sunday.

ccp/msh (AFP, Reuters)



June 14, 2013 6:42 pm

The Art Market: sprint to the finish

Basel closes art marathon; a bogus Ernst; flying carpets; cocktail reconciliation?
Art Basel 2013 | Unlimited | Ai Weiwei | Meile©MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

‘Fairytale 2007, Ladies Dormitory’ (2007) at Unlimited

Art Basel flung open its doors to VIPs on Tuesday, and despite coming at the end of a six-week marathon that included the New York sales, Frieze New York, Art Basel Hong Kong and the Venice Biennale, the appetite for buying art seemed to be undiminished. As the first of two private view days ended, the cash registers rung up some hefty sales.

Galerie Gmurzynska said it sold an Yves Klein fire painting from 1961, tagged at $2.8m. Meanwhile London-based Helly Nahmad gallery, showing a powerful selection of works including Bacon, Rothko and Miró, reported placing Calder’s “Sumac” (1961) for $12m.

There was enthusiasm at lower prices as well: São Paulo gallery Mendes Wood sold all of its woven wall-based sculptures by Afro-Brazilian artist Sonia Gomes at prices between $8,000 and $25,000.

. . .

Unlimited, the section for outsized art projects at Art Basel, is often cited as one of the best things about the event, enabling artists to give free rein to their ambitions outside the booths. This year’s Unlimited has extended to 11,500 sq metres, but big doesn’t necessarily equal better.

Miro painting

‘Peinture (4 mars 1950)’ by Miró at Helly Nahmad in Basel

Some of the works on show are simple repeats of known pieces; others seem to have been sized up for the occasion. While sales from Unlimited are often slower than at the fair – you need a lot of room to accommodate them – Urs Meile sold Ai Weiwei’s “Fairytale 2007, Ladies Dormitory” (2007) – a tent containing simple metal beds with suitcases parked at the foot of each – to a private American collection.

. . .

The Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and his partner Dasha Zhukova were, as always, among the first visitors to Design Miami Basel, the fair held alongside the main Basel event and now housed in the new Herzog and de Meuron building that straddles Basel’s Messeplatz. Among early sales was Jean Royère’s cuddly “Polar Bear” sofa (1946) for €400,000 from Laffanour, while a Russian buyer bagged four 1930s chairs, made for the Red Army Theatre, for €27,000 from Moscow’s Heritage gallery.


Spectator Blogs


Hollywood and oligarchs descend on Art Basel

0 comments 14 June 2013 10:30
Leonardo di Caprio pictured in Cannes last month. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Leonardo di Caprio pictured in Cannes last month. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

The art world has descended on the almost attractive city of Basel in Switzerland this week, for the annual art fair. And where the art world goes, glamorous collectors follow. Leonardo di Caprio appeared to be in the mood for some serious shopping when I glimpsed him, casting his eye over a Warhol or two. He may have been looked at the Alexander Calder, or perhaps he saw the Edmund de Waal or the exquisite pair of Peter Doig etchings. And there’s this chap called Picasso; mark my words, dear readers, he’s going to be big.

Di Caprio had competition from one Roman Abramovitch, who sloped by a few Edvard Munchs, as one does. Cate Blanchett was a radiant study in concentration as she perused the stalls of the finest galleries in the world. And there were unconfirmed rumours that rapper Kanye West was in the house.

These luminaries were outnumbered by the battalions of suited and booted buyers for corporations that invest in important works of art. There is an estimated $2 billion worth of merchandise on show at Basel this week. Business was brisk; all carried out under the discreet eye of Swiss security, oddly reassuring beneath their Frank Spencer berets.

I put away my cheque book and found solace in the company of the vintners and jewellers who were exhibiting their iconic wares in the VIP area. Art Basel is a good gig for them. As one man, closely involved with the delegation from watchmaker Audemars Piguet (Arnie’s watchmaker), put it to me, ‘If you’ve just looked at a $5 million Matisse, $50,000 for a handmade watch is a bargain.’

Mr Steerpike sympathises; but, alas, Swatch is necessarily my territory.



Commercial galleries Trends Fairs Switzerland

The great ‘whether to separate’ debate

Galleries are increasingly splitting their sales and curatorial teams. Some, however, are sceptical

The move away from the old-style relationship between gallery and artist has been likened to the separation of church and state

As the marathon run of international art fairs that began in New York in May, then moved to Hong Kong, now comes to an end here in Switzerland, the last thing that art dealers may be thinking about is their gallery shows. And indeed, some of them won’t have to. Traditionally, gallery staff work with artists, collectors and museums simultaneously, making no distinction between the sales and exhibitions departments. But the onslaught of trade events has led many dealers to restructure their businesses, spinning off specialised sales teams to work at art fairs while the exhibition team stays to mind the gallery at home. Which structure is chosen is an important expression of a gallery’s identity, albeit one that is invisible to the public at large.

Two paths

The move towards the newer model is fuelled by the growth of the art market: galleries are taking part in more international art fairs and biennials than at any other point in history and many have spaces in more than one country. “The success of a gallery’s expansion often has to do with how they set up the structure internally,” says the art adviser Lisa Schiff. Some are hiring management consultants to streamline operations, while others are bringing in freelance curators to organise exhibitions rather than creating them in-house.

Dealers in favour of the new model maintain that it makes galleries more efficient and competitive. Goodman Gallery (2.1/N12), based in Capetown and Johannesburg, recently decided to convert. “The old model works for small galleries, however there is no accountability” for individual staff members, says the owner Liza Essers, who is presenting new work by William Kentridge, Gerhard Marx and David Goldblatt at the fair. The new model, by contrast, offers each employee a strictly defined set of responsibilities. “I found that, as the gallery has more than doubled its turnover as well as increased its activity at international art fairs, restructuring, with curators responsible for artists and exhibitions, and separate from the sales team, is the way to go. Another key reason is that artists require attention, and so I feel that a dedicated team working with artists is important.”

The São Paulo-based Galeria Nara Roesler adopted a similar model after collaborating with an outside consultant and experimenting with different structures for two years. “I think that as galleries grow into bigger enterprises they are forced to specialise staff,” says Daniel Roesler, the gallery’s co-director.

Small galleries are converting as well. “We saw bigger galleries structuring themselves this way, so we thought, ‘Let’s try this,’” says Edward Winkleman, whose New York gallery now employs a sales director as part of its four-person staff. The new structure “really comes down to the old school capitalist idea of specialisation as a means towards efficiency,” he says.

David Leiber, a director at the New York-based Sperone Westwater (2.0/E10), likened the division between exhibitions and sales to a “separation between church and state”. (He notes that his gallery, which is presenting historic pieces including a red punctured painting by Lucio Fontana from 1960 and a large charcoal drawing by Gilbert & George from 1971 priced at over $1m each, operates “somewhere in between”.) At its “least nuanced”, he says it means that the sales staff is “given a list of works at the end of the day”, while the “curatorial staff works only with the artists, almost like a museum”.

The SoHo model

Devotees of the traditional model maintain that it is one of the few factors keeping the art business from becoming corporate. To prevent art dealers from becoming like “so many investment bankers, churning deals when and where they can to make the numbers… both the selling and exhibiting of art need to be a single pursuit”, says the London-based dealer and art world commentator Kenny Schachter.

Refined in the 1960s and 1970s when dealers ran smaller, more localised operations in neighbourhoods like SoHo in New York and Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, the traditional model places a premium on close communication among artists, collectors and dealers. Staff members work with artists on all aspects of their careers, including gallery exhibitions, museum shows and publications, as well as sales.

“The newer model is not necessarily in the best interest of the artist or art and its greater audience,” says Finola Jones, the director of the Dublin-based Mother’s Tankstation (1/S16), which is presenting a series of paintings by Mairead O’hEocha in the Art Statements section. She says it encourages the idea of art as a “branded product”.

“We adhere to the ‘traditional’ model,” says Joost Bosland, a director at the Capetown- and Johannesburg-based Stevenson Gallery (1/S8). “Our clients wouldn’t have it any other way.”

A handful of larger international businesses, like Sprüth Magers (2.0/B19), have also consciously rejected the new model. Although the gallery has 31 staff members spread across Cologne, Berlin and London, its founders Philomene Magers and Monika Sprüth prefer a holistic approach. Directors from all three locations are on hand at the fair, presenting an untitled bristle and wood sculpture by Rosemarie Trockel from 1994, for €300,000 and a digital print on vinyl by Barbara Kruger, Made for You, 2013, for $250,000. “We give the structure a lot of thought, for example, if people only sell, they may be too detached from the content,” they believe. “By structuring the gallery in this way, we can bind different locations together and make information travel.”

Is there a limit?

As a gallery gets bigger, however, “there is a tipping point where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and you become inefficient”, says the New York-based dealer Sean Kelly (2.1/N2). (His gallery employs 20 people who are involved with both sales and artist services.) “We hear this from our artists who work with other galleries that are at that stage, and it makes them very uncomfortable,” he adds.

“Most dealers and artists would love to have a firewall between the grind of sales and challenge of producing art,” says the New York-based artist William Powhida. “As an artist, it’s very important to work with people who have an interest in the development and trajectory of the work beyond sales. It reminds me of the relationship an author has with their editor, versus the relationship they have with their agent.” But he adds: “I can’t imagine an art world—well maybe I can—where wealthy collectors would be entirely happy dealing with a sales person, and not someone who is intimately connected with the development of the work.”

It is unclear how much the division of labour shapes the buyer’s experience. “I don’t feel like there is any lag or lack of information because I’m not dealing with someone who is directly involved with the artist,” says the art adviser Wendy Cromwell. “If the gallery is well-run, there isn’t a difference in service.”

Ultimately, most galleries must be flexible because the needs of artists and collectors are not uniform. Jose Kuri, of Mexico City’s Kurimanzutto (2.1/N1), says: “We operate in a very different way for each project—there is not a model that we follow.”

The commission question

Commission (the portion of a work of art’s sale price that goes directly to the salesperson) is another question. “If it is a fierce commission-based structure, you’re all ruthlessly fighting for material,” says Lisa Schiff. “If you all share a portion of the total profit, you might make less money, but I think it’s a healthier model.”

Sean Kelly (2.1/N2) says his directors do not work on commission for that reason. “It isn’t beneficial to the artists because it pits people against each other,” he says. “Everyone understands that if the company does well, there will be bonuses handed out and they will do well.” Each of the five partners of David Zwirner Gallery (2.0/F5) has a stake in the business. Although there are “commission incentives”, according to the marketing and press director Julia Joern, “they are more like bonuses”.

Gagosian (2.0/B15) takes a slightly different tack. “Everyone gets paid the same commission rate on sales,” which is usually between 10% and 20% on secondary market material, according to court depositions by gallery staff, “but for those who sell less and spend more time working with artists and exhibitions, the base salary is higher,” according to a 2011 Vogue magazine article. A spokeswoman for Gagosian says that this information is not entirely correct but declined to comment further.


Fairs Analysis USA

Basel mints the next blue-chip artists

But will the wider market and museums buy in?

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (568-1), 1984 (above), at Richard Gray Gallery (2.0/E4), on offer for $6.5m

This year’s Art Basel suggests that the definition of “blue-chip” work is changing, which is reflected in the layout of the fair. There are more contemporary dealers than ever on the ground floor, which has traditionally been home to Modern art galleries. This year, Metro Pictures (2.0/B9), White Cube (2.0/C18) and Lisson Gallery (2.0/B12) have migrated downstairs. They join dealers such as Andrea Rosen (2.0/B5), Barbara Gladstone (2.0/E2) and Xavier Hufkens (2.0/B18), all better known for their contemporary, rather than Modern, programmes. “There has been a continuous migration. Some years, more galleries move,” says Marc Spiegler, the director of Art Basel.

Meanwhile, former specialists in the early 20th century, such as Thomas Ammann (2.0/B13), are now also showing new works of art: on the gallery’s stand, pieces by the late Cy Twombly sit alongside works by the Bruce High Quality Foundation.

“Artists like Picasso, Matisse and Dubuffet used to be the staple here, but [their] works have become fewer as they’ve been dispersed among museums and private collections,” says Paul Gray of the Richard Gray Gallery (2.0/E4), which has been showing at Basel for 20 years.

Diminishing supply

It is not that the demand for Modern art has diminished. On the contrary, some of the most sought-after works at the fair fall within this sector, and they command huge prices. New York’s Helly Nahmad Gallery (2.0/A8) sold Sumac, a 1961 mobile by Calder, with an asking price of $12m, on the first day. “We sold to mostly new buyers—people who want to invest in blue-chip 20th-century masters,” Joseph Nahmad says. But, he says, there is simply “less supply” in this field.

The shrinking supply of Modern art is compounded by the growth of the market. An unprecedented number of people have begun to buy art over the past decade, and the potentially limitless store of works by contemporary (or prolific post-war) artists is driving the redefinition of “blue-chip”. “The nature of buying” has changed, Gray says. “There is a far more diverse market nowadays, especially for artists such as Wool, Warhol, Basquiat and Murakami. It ranges from very serious collectors to those who are just plain wealthy.”

As the number of buyers has increased, “the category of artists considered to be blue-chip has expanded”, says Serena Cattaneo Adorno, the director of Gagosian Gallery, Paris. “There are bound to be artists whom people move towards when they can’t find the earlier ones,” says Nicholas Maclean of the secondary market dealership Eykyn Maclean. Artists such as Warhol (on show at galleries including Mnuchin, 2.0/E9, Daniel Blau, 2.0/B4, and Dominique Lévy, 2.0/F4) and Basquiat (at Gagosian, 2.0/B15, and Acquavella, 2.0/E16) have now almost completely replaced Modern masters, such as Miró, Mondrian and Kandinsky, as the mainstays at Basel.

“The dividing line between what is Modern and what’s contemporary moves with time. History is mobile,” says the art adviser Stefano Basilico. Louise Bourgeois is “the perfect example of an artist who becomes blue-chip over time”, says Florian Berktold of Hauser & Wirth (2.0/C10), which presented a group of the artist’s “Personages” from the 1940s and 1950s. Other such artists include Donald Judd (on show with David Zwirner, 2.0/F5) and Carl Andre (with the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Unlimited, U60).

History might wait to judge the living, but today’s art market moves with more haste. A number of living artists now fall into the blue-chip class and their work is in ample supply at the fair (with prices to rival those of their predecessors). Among them is the German painter Gerhard Richter. A new record for the most expensive living artist at auction was set last month when Richter’s Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan), 1968, sold at Sotheby’s for $37m. Two abstract canvases—a 1992 painting at Dominique Lévy on offer for $20m, and a 1984 work at Richard Gray on offer for $6.5m—are on show at the fair.

Joining the blue-chip club

Artists who came of age in the 1980s are also “now considered truly blue-chip”, says Adam Sheffer of Cheim & Read (2.0/C14). “Enough time and art history has passed for people to realise the importance of artists like Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and Cindy Sherman.” All three are represented at the fair: Holzer’s Truisms: All things are delicately interconnected… ($750,000), which dates to 1987, is on show at Cheim & Read, while Sprüth Magers (2.0/B19) sold Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still, 1979, for $800,000, as well as Kruger’s Made for you, 2013, for $250,000.

Some argue the case for Christopher Wool, whose Untitled, 2001 ($1.5m), and Untitled, 2004 ($845,000), sold at Luhring Augustine (2.0/E13). The market for pieces by Wool, who has a solo exhibition at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum this autumn, has exploded over the past three years.

Ultimately, time will tell which artists enter the canon of art history. “You can be contemporary and be blue-chip, but you have to have had an impact on a certain generation of artists,” says Thaddaeus Ropac (2.0/B11), whose sales include a 2013 work by Georg Baselitz, Not yet titled (Kleine Marokkanerin), for €950,000. “A shooting star is not blue-chip,” he warns.

For the moment, however, collectors are enjoying the intergenerational diversity. The Italian collector Jean Pigozzi says: “I want to see new art, not the same old pieces on and on.”

Trends Fairs Switzerland

Importance of being abstract

Abstract art dominates the fair as collectors seek less flashy works and artists begin to update the form

Gerhard Richter, 924-1 STRIP, 2012, at Marian Goodman Gallery

Abstract art, the form that dominated the 20th century, once again reigns supreme at the 44th edition of Art Basel. As the fair opened yesterday to the great, the rich and the famous—including the man of the month, Massimiliano Gioni, the director of the Venice Biennale, Russia’s power couple Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova, and the actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Lukas Haas—visitors were confronted with a variety of non-representative, non-figurative art.

Historical pieces by abstract pioneers include kinetic sculptures by Alexander Calder (such as Blue Flower, Red Flower, 1975, at Tina Kim/Kukje, 2.0/F6, priced at $2.8m), Minimalist wall pieces by Donald Judd (including Untitled (Ballantine 89-49), 1989, priced at $2.4m with David Zwirner, 2.0/F5) and various large abstract works by Richter (a 1984 example is on show at Richard Gray Gallery, 2.0/E4, priced at $6.5m; a piece from 1992 is on offer with Dominique Lévy Gallery, 2.0/F4, for “under $20m”). In equal abundance are works by contemporary artists who have taken on the abstract mantle, including Christopher Wool (Untitled, 2001, at Luhring Augustine, 2.0/E13, $1.5m) and Albert Oehlen (FM44, 2011, which sold to a European collector for €250,000 within hours of the fair’s opening at Galerie Max Hetzler, 2.0/E7).

“The abstract abounds,” says Lisa Spellman, the founder of New York’s 303 Gallery (2.1/J21). She is showing non-figurative works priced between $150,000 and $250,000, including two large 2013 works by the gallery’s recently recruited artist Jacob Kassay, which were bought together by a European private collector, and six ceramic works by Nick Mauss, which sold for $23,000 each. Sean Kelly (2.1/N2) designed his stand according to “different ideas of abstraction”, centred around Joseph Kosuth’s Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1967, priced at €100,000. “There’s a lot of really good [abstract] work being done across all media right now—painting, photography, conceptual—and we wanted to reflect that,” he says. New works on show include Callum Innes’s Untitled, 2013, a large oil and shellac canvas, which sold to a private US collector for £50,000.

The artist Ad Reinhardt famously said that his 1960s “black” abstract works marked the end of painting, but the abstract form “remains wide open to fresh contributions”, says Robert Storr, the dean of the Yale University School of Art, who is organising a Reinhardt exhibition for David Zwirner in New York this November. It is “one of the great inventions of Modern art that is barely a century old”—rather, it is “a century young”, he says.

Can today’s artist move the once-radical form in a new, meaningful direction? “The problem is, there is a group of lower-tier abstract painters who are good and whose work looks beautiful, but what they are bringing to the table in terms of art history is nothing new. They are not adding to the conversation,” says the New York-based art adviser Lisa Schiff.

She highlights exceptions whom she thinks are “making enough of a formal innovation to stand alone”. These include the US artist Garth Weiser, whose Sedaka, 2013, sold for $55,000 to a private US collector within half an hour of the fair’s opening at Casey Kaplan (2.1/N16). Massimo De Carlo (2.1/N3) has hung three equal-sized abstract works by different artists next to each other, to “explore the possibilities of abstract art”, says Flavio del Monte, the gallery’s institutional relations manager. “We are bombarded by images everywhere today, so it is important for artists to take some distance,” he says. Loring Randolph, a director at Casey Kaplan, says: “The abstract is always relevant; you can have a rhetoric behind it that can be whatever you want.” Today’s practitioners, she says, “think about how the concept [of the abstract] and the process can work together”.

Process is key: artists are experimenting with materials and technology that were previously unavailable, to update the form. Denise René’s stand (2.0/D19) includes works by the Brussels-based artist group LAb[au]. The pieces, such as Particle Springs, 2011, priced at €27,000, use computer algorithms to create moving, smoke-like patterns on monitors. Mitchell-Innes & Nash (2.0/E6) is showing avant-garde masters such as Franz Kline (Provincetown II, 1959, around $10m) alongside younger artists including Keltie Ferris (Laissez-Faire, 2013, $50,000), whose work is inspired by graffiti and digitalisation.

For some, abstract art provides the chance to explore art history in a new way. At Galerie Nordenhake (2.1/P9), the 29-year-old artist Paul Fägerskiöld has used spray paint to create a homage to both Jackson Pollock and the Pointillists in his monochrome Untitled (Yellow), 2013, €25,000, which sold to a private German museum. At Sperone Westwater (2.0/E10), Emil Lukas’s thread-painting diptych panels Curtain East and Curtain West, 2013, which sold for $65,000, are influenced by Sol LeWitt.

The trend is market-led, too. The boom years were characterised by flashy, self-explanatory art, but there has been a return to more thoughtful, abstract forms such as those produced by artists within the European Zero group. “We staged an exhibition of their work in 2008, which raised consciousness for an American audience to whom the work seemed new. The response was strong and has increased,” says Angela Westwater, the co-director of Sperone Westwater. The gallery is showing works by artists associated with the group, including Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, 1958, priced at around €1m, and Otto Piene’s 1975 oil and fire on canvas, Red Matters, priced at €250,000. Meanwhile, post-recession records have been achieved at auction for works by abstract artists, including the $43.8m paid for Barnett Newman’s Onement VI, 1953, at Sotheby’s in New York last month. “Collectors now want quieter, intellectual art with more depth. The years of the loud, funny works are over,” says Bob van Orsouw (2.1/P17), who is showing works including a wall sculpture by the Dutch conceptual artist Ger van Elk (Los Angeles Freeway Flyer, 1973, €125,000).

The fact that much abstract art is easy on the eye (and looks good above the sofa) could be one of the attractions for some of the new buyers who have entered the market since 2008, according to some in the trade. “It doesn’t seem so long ago that figurative art was the latest fashion; now it’s good-looking abstract,” one London dealer says. Others do not see the problem. “Who says that decorative art is not also serious art? Matisse and virtually all of Islamic tradition attest to the fact that it is or can be,” Robert Storr says, adding: “Is Mondrian eye-candy?”


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