Art as a World Power
by Nancy Nesvet
Exciting, innovative, confrontational art covered six halls and exhibition spaces at ArtBasel, the world’s biggest art fair, held in Basel, Switzerland from June 11-19, and artscope was there. Over 200 galleries showed work by contemporary, practicing artists in every art form, along with work by earlier artists. The Parcours sector included performance and site-specific installations around the medieval Cathedral Square; the Liste art fair exhibited young artists’ work, and the Volta art fair held emerging artists’ solo exhibitions, providing a comprehensive look at worldwide art currently produced.
Art Basel 2016 was a testament to the power of art to engage and create awareness of our world, its issues, our place in it and the image we, as individuals and artists, show to the people of the world. As noted in its end-of-show report, Art Basel received widespread praise for its strong booth presentations and for the powerful artistic positions taken. Also, as first noted in artscope’s “Trends at ArtBasel” online coverage, many artists responded to the socio-political situation in Europe and the world.
In their work, many artists posed the questions: Who are we? Where are we going? What forces act to determine our future and how do we respond? Established and emerging artists were concerned with environmental disaster, violence and lack of compassion for others. Jim Dine, in “Muscle and Salt,” a brilliant installation at Parcours, recreated ancient life-sized statues of muses, with an autobiographical portrait in the center, against wall text of hand-written poetry commenting on politics and culture. “Labyrinth,” Sam Durant’s maze of steel chain-link, is a collaboration with prisoners at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Graterford. It recalls the prison that was King Minos’ in Greek myth; you cannot emerge until you find the right path. “The Nameless,” a film by Ho Tzu Nyen shown in the film sector, featured an actor with multiple identities — a triple agent — showing the identity metamorphosis possible in the
age of the Internet while also showing the power and pitfalls of assuming other identities. Such reference and ambiguity exists throughout Untitled and Parcours, to intellectually and emotionally play to all the senses, and to note all the intentions of the artist.