Day four in Basel, Switzerland, took me to the Volta and Liste art fairs. Volta, Basel’s art fair that declares itself the show of “new international positions”, made good on the name. Paying close attention to the precarious predicament of the world’s inhabitants due to climate change and political upheaval, Volta subtly informed and involved those who viewed the work at the fair. Geraldine Swayne’s, oil and acrylic canvas painting, “Queer Altarpiece,” 2019, at CHARLIE SMITH LONDON’s booth was perhaps the most beautiful figurative work on view. Depicting a seated woman, looking off to the side, the figure’s haircut, clothes and mood recalled artists’ work of 1930s Germany, explaining the title. A quiet, thoughtful work, it allowed painting, done in a contemporary way, to elicit empathy for the subject. Valerie Hegarty’s “Five Tulips with Frame Elegy,” 2019, made of wood, wire and … [Read more...] about BASEL 2019 DAY FOUR: VOLTA AND LISTE
Art Basel Switzerland
The work in Galleries, the biggest sector of the Art Basel 2019 art fair, with 273 galleries displaying artwork, ranged from very bad to superlative. From large, childlike, messy, grease crayon drawings and similarly unfinished paintings to the refined glitz, and smooth stainless steel and optic glasswork, this sector provided the low and high points of the fair. Not surprisingly, there was much handmade textile work, the best being Sheila Hicks’ “Calligraphy Sauvages,” a 2019 sculpture of 15 chords of silk, wool, linen, bamboo and synthetic fiber — in bright, coordinated colors. Her 2018 linen line drawing, “Je veux être seul,” reminded me of 1930s Bauhaus geometric work. Robert Mapplethorpe’s “Stars,” created in 1983, of stained wood and carpet, presented a rare foray into Mapplethorpe’s textured relief sculptures. At Sperone Westwater’s, New York, New York, booth, Emil Lukas’ “Twin … [Read more...] about ART BASEL 2019 DAY THREE: GALLERIES, AND STATEMENTS
Unlimited, a sector of the Art Basel art fair, took up most of my second day there. Earlier in the day, at the Art Basel press conference, Marc Spiegler, the global director, pointed out that this year’s artists were more open-minded with broader practices than 10 to 15 years ago. He noted that “our old notions of borders are broken down.” Spiegler referred to art’s borders — those of materials and labels. It is difficult, if not impossible, to label installations — sculptures or paintings — with the overarching mixed media category prevalent, and installation being the preferred term to include sculpture and two-dimensional work. It seems that as new borders are erected and maintained between nations, art’s boundaries have widened to include diverse practices, subject matter and artists. That subject matter includes references to — current and in the recent past — events and … [Read more...] about ART BASEL SWITZERLAND 2019 DAY TWO: THE BEST OF UNLIMITED
Amidst pouring rain, carefully walking on the cobblestones of the Messeplatz in Basel, Switzerland, I explored Parcours at Art Basel. The exhibits in buildings leading up to and surrounding the Messeplatz were concerned with environmental and political issues but did not have the impact of the similarly concerned exhibits I recently saw at the Venice Biennale 2019. Rather, they slowly caused me to think about the concerns presented. The best of them, Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s “The Recovered Manifesto of Wissam (inaudible),” a 2017 arrangement of artificial orange trees, mini-cassettes, speakers painted to look like stones, printed sheets and 3-channel audio, explored the intersection of sound and politics. The accompanying literature pointed out that old cassette tapes are wrapped around fruit trees to keep birds and insects from eating the fruit. One day, Abu Hamdan discovered a … [Read more...] about ART BASEL 2019: FIRST DAY AT PARCOURS
Last year, the Parcours sector at Art Basel was so good I did not think it could be topped, and I was right. Perhaps overconfidence, or the fact that the really good projects were done last year emerged, but this year’s Parcours just did not measure up to the quality of the projects from the last two years. The highlights of the sector were video and sculpture, with the best Julian Charriere’s film, An Invitation to Disappear (2018), with techno beats, backgrounding strobe sequences, and a visual grid of a plantation that recalls the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia 200 years ago. The similarities between environmental disaster and party lights and sounds creates an edginess in the piece. With Cate Blanchett featured in thirteen roles, Manifesto, a film by Jullian Rosefeldt (2017) presents the philosophies of artist manifestos including Fluxus, Dada, and surrealism acted in … [Read more...] about Parcours at Art Basel 2018. The good and the bad.
The Unlimited sector at Art Basel 2018 had great video and fabulous installations that alternately made me laugh, think and cry. Lots of work could be categorized as social justice, running the gamut. Alfredo Jaar’s The Hong Kong Project, including A Hundred Times Nguyen, runs four different images of a little girl who befriended Jaar in a Vietnamese refugee camp, repeating to total 100 pigment prints. Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s installation, Ponte City, 2008-2014 (Lelong Galerie, New York and Paris). Displayed their six-year documentation of the social community within a fifty-four story Johannesburg apartment building. Their installation exposes problems and relations in attempting to gentrify a run-down apartheid era building. In Ponte City, community comes to the fore as relationships build amongst the former white, privileged inhabitants of the apartments under … [Read more...] about Unlimited at Art Basel: Ritual and Community Building