June 12-19, 2017
Art Basel 2017 is over, but not really so. The fair’s traces remain fresh in the mind. It was a smashing follow-up to the hype Hong Kong venue last spring. News has it that the top tier world galleries showing at Art Basel performed significantly well: widely known galleries confirmed selling the likes of works by Carl Andre, Wolfgang Tillmans, Andreas Gursky, Ron Gorchov, Sigmar Polke, Jim Nutt, Phillip Guston, John Chamberlain and Jean-Michel Basquiat, while other established galleries were placing works by Tobias Rehberger, Thomas Saraceno, Ed Atkins, Ghana Amer, Julie Mehretu or Arthur Jafa. Galleries or younger dealers from around the world sold works by Rodrigo Torres, Lui Shtini or Wang Sheng to highlight a select few. Price points were vast, and sales were made to private and institutional collections worldwide.
Every day was a meetup either around the three major halls containing the eight Art Basel sectors (Galleries, Feature, Unlimited, etc.) or at “Conversations,” a formal discussion among professionals held daily before a live audience. The numerous museums and foundations such as Beyler, the Tinguely Museum, the Kunsthalle Basel, Fondation Fernet-Branca or at the abundant satellite fairs, it was a bustling attendance. The VIP lounge boomed with activity as well offering wine tastings, aperitifs, cigars, and coffee. Art Basel, the art fair brand continues its tradition as the leading world class art fair.
I have noted that a fairly recent trend among all the international fairs over the last few years is for galleries to shed light onto older, veteran artists whose careers have fallen through the cracks at some point, stunted internationally, or even forgotten. This has proven significant at Art Basel with artists exhibiting in numerous galleries at the fair. Such is the case with artists like Ron Gorchov, Irma Blank, Paulo Icaro, Barbara Kasten, Phyllida Barlow, Goran Trbuljak, Tony DeLap or Margot Bergman, to name a few from this ‘new recognition period’ of elder artists.
There is little doubt that the international art world attends Art Basel, reigning as the most important art event of the year for meetings, contacts, and sales. For the most part, I noted every ‘contact’ book where my card was stapled into was filled up. The galleries exhibiting there raised the stakes with vast, generally “A” level presentations. My favorite booth (based on a jungle installation) curated by the artists, including notably Laura Lima and Rodrigo Torres, and the gallerists of A-Gentil Carioca of Rio de Janeiro was a momentary escape into the South American psyche interweaving objects and the fourth dimension.
Beyond the immersive art event at the Messe, the program continued elsewhere with the 3rd edition of Art Basel’s “Parcours,” an ‘art in context’ walk around Münsterplatz. One could see marvelous works by Katinka Bock, Ai Weiwei, Amanda Ross Ho, or Latifa Echakhch, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg amongst others. Parcours maintained art in the public arena (an adopted trend since the days of FIAC’s (Paris’ acclaimed art fair) sculpture exhibition in the Tuilleries and Plant Gardens. I especially liked this project as it was outside the realm of a sector.
I also had the inkling to visit Basel’s satellite art fairs: Liste, Volta and Photo Basel. Liste, being the referential veteran, exhibited galleries showcasing Camilla Wills, Maria Magdalena Z’Graggen, Cristina Tufiño and Zak Kitnick; Manuel Franquelo Giner (son of Manuel Franquelo) or Yuval Yairi at Photo Basel; Koseki Ono, Olivia Mihaltianu, Jane Benson and Michael Whittle at Volta.
The totality of the experience: the art market’s example during the last days of spring, an abundant growth of creativity, continuity, and longevity make great waves around the world stemming from the miniature city of Basel.
For the first time at Art Basel, one artist to consider well before her current rise is Marsha Cottrell (born 1964). She makes unique platinum prints, testing and beating the boundaries computer composed imagery, printed from the digital dimension. A single work was marvelously exhibited at Anthony Meier Gallery (San Francisco) at the “Galleries” section of the fair. Marsha Cottrell exhibited at G-Module in Paris in 2003.