It was pretty much a tie for me as to which fair was better, Art Basel or Volta Basel. Whereas Art Basel did little to startle, presumably deeming more serious (and environmental) artwork more appealing to buyers, including my favorites: Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Chromogenic print, “Optiks, 224,” 2018, at Marian Goodman Gallery, with blues and greens added to his formerly mainly black, white and gray palette; Njideka Akunyili’s Crosby’s “Garden Party,” 2019, acrylic, colored pencil, collage and transfers on paper, at Victoria Miro, and best of all for me, Alex De Corte’s “The End,” 2022, velvet, EPS, thread, at Sadie Coles HQ, London. I want that flowered wreath permanently in my house.
Volta Basel similarly provided beautiful landscapes and glorious depictions of people and the environment for younger and less wealthy buyers to take home with them. Charlie Smith (London) won my heart at Volta with Emma Bennett’s 2022 oil on canvas landscape foregrounded with roses called “(Towards) full fulcrum.” A close second was “Wild Night: Are You Shining Just for Me?,” Yuri Cataniya’s “Crypto Girls,” 2021, black bounded ground covered with a wild array of colorful blooms, in a very Victorian style comprising the latest work of the black flowers secret garden project on show in Volta.
At the Unlimited section, where large installations are shown by individual artists, I was most impressed by Lelong-sponsored artist Leonardo Drew’s cavalcade of black ephemera, colored paper and shards of material seemingly blown up and caught against the white divider wall. The 90-degree pile seemed oddly ordered in shape leading to the merging of chaos and order of the universe. At the galleries sector of Art Basel, my pick was Ed Ruscha’s “Light Leaks,” 2003, acrylic on canvas, and Cristina BanBan’s “Cuattro Mujeres, 2003, oil and oil stick on linen, at Skarstedt, recalling Picasso but with contemporary figures.
But best of all for me in Basel last week was the Picasso/El Greco show at the Kunstmuseum Basel. With paintings of Picasso and El Greco coupled to show the influence El Greco had on Picasso, El Greco’s work enthralled, with the portrait’s eyes searing through me, that layered paint carrying the gaze through human matter to reach hearts, whereas Picasso’s figured reached mind. I left that show unable to consider any other artwork as its effect was so large. Luckily, the day was late. Another Art Basel, a smaller Art Basel, a better Art Basel and the best museum show I have seen in Basel. So, who wins? Sorry to the modern masters, but hands down, it’s El Greco for me.
(Art Basel Miami Beach 2022 takes place on December 1 through 3 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1910 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, Florida. For more information, visit artbasel.com.)