Arriving Tuesday morning, unfortunately missing the initial press and VIP preview days at Art Basel 2022 in Basel, Switzerland, I became part of the larger crowd vying for the attention of artists and gallery owners at the revived fair following Covid interruptions and re-schedulings. Art was selling at multiple booths, but, and this is the caveat: the best pieces were selling quickly while those of lesser quality and often merely picking up on jokes of the past languished. The animal covered with bananas recalling an old joke was ignored. I found multiple pieces, however, that made me smile, incorporating bright colors and ingenious forms.
Resulting undoubtedly from the Covid prohibitions on traveling, much of the work reflected the artist’s own community and place. From Leonardo Drew’s gathering of stuff from around his home, collaged into a massive work at Galerie Lelong’s booth to Marcus Selg’s “Mind in the Cave” at Berlin’s GWB Gallery’s booth, that exigency was on full view.
Interestingly, more global visions were the best and the buyers’ preference including the skyscape at Sfeir-Semler by renowned Lebanese artist, Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Air Conditioning, 2022, inkjet print on Alu-Dibond, Edition 6+2 AP) whose unique interpretation of particular sonic experience, reflected in the intensity of colors brings literally illustrating the volume of sound and the pollution of the soundscape, as the artist wrote, it’s back to artistic rather than technological interpretations (conceding that a paintbrush is technology, but of a basic kind). I was reminded of Mark Dion’s work, gathering material along the Hudson River in New York, where he resides, and of the German artist Anselm Kiefer whose work, “Anselm Kiefer paints Venice” is currently prominently featured in an exhibition in Venice, Italy and whose earlier work collaging remnants of earlier German civilization of the 20th century established a new genre, to which Leonardo Drew’s work clearly belongs.
People over technology definitely prevails in the art I saw at Art Basel. Perhaps by showing the detritus of civilization, leading to change, and the victory of people over technology, we are back to caring about each other in a most human way.
(Art Basel 2022 takes place from June 16-19 at Messe Basel, Messeplatz 10, 4058 Basel, Switzerland. For more information, visit artbasel.com/basel.)