Impressions from Art Basel 2016: Julia Knolle’s review of the world’s most famose Art Exhibition
At first glance, selling art in stressful times would seem to be a challenge. The 47th edition of Art Basel is debunking that and showing good numbers already on the second day after the preview. Especially those works with price tags in the millions are going fast, Paul McCarthy’s “Tomato Head Green” from Hauser & Wirth for 4.75 million dollars and a 1973 Frank Stella sold by Sprüth Magers for 1.1 million dollars among them. This time, an up until now substantial number of 88 large format works were seen in the side hall at “Unlimited”. Not curated strongly enough, however, and without a central theme – the critics all agreed. What do we need a room with Wolfgang Tillmans photographs in this segment for? This was the kind of justifiable question one didn’t have to pose when looking at the 24 TV screens of Gretchen Bender´s “Total Recall” (1987) from Metro Pictures Gallery. Back to hanging works in the main hall, like every year the Gagosian stand had the most going on. Here, unmarked but guarded by security, an Ed Ruscha was hanging next to a Cy Twombly. Every day Berlin gallerist Johann König hangs around his Jeppe Heins, Jorinde Voigts, and Alicia Kwades. David Zwirner is there with Josef Albers, whose estate he started managing recently, plus Sigmar Polke, Bridget Riley, and Bruce Naumann.
There were some notables from this year’s “Statements” area, where young galleries are promoted. We saw Micky Schubert with Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili and Sociétè bring along a religious stone cave by artist Timur Si-Qin. The 18th Baloise Art Prize, which was to be awarded here, went however to the New York gallery Foxy Productions and to “Soft Film” artist Sara Cwyar, as well as to the film “This Is Offal” by Mary Reid Kelley (Arratia Beer).
In the end, 286 galleries from 33 countries presented 4000 art works here. Exemplary as a whole, and even the extremely heightened security measures this year couldn’t change the cross-border sense of community. The program away from the fair was impressive, as well. Kunstmuseum Basel opened a new building that was finally completed. “Sculpture on the Move” presented Brancusis, Giacomettis, and Calders in one room – because they can. Millions in private donations (in this case, from the Laurenz-Stiftung der Mäzenin Maja Oeri) made this new high standard possible. (After almost 30 years, Reinhard Mucha got another solo exhibition at the “Gegenwart” branch of the museum, easily reached on foot). Calder was present again in the Fondation Beyeler – here curator Theodora Vischer presented an overarching theme of balance with works by Fischli & Weiss displayed both at the same time and as a counterpoint. At Kunsthalle Basel, one could see the also-in-Berlin-omnipresent artists Anne Imhof and Yngve Holen. On Wednesday evening, it was about the shuttle to Vitra, where another new building was being celebrated: the architects Herzog de Meuron gave the substantial archive a new home here. And last but not least, Design Miami is also always worth a visit. Swarovski presented the three winners of this year’s Design Awards on the top floor (by the way, no less than Lidewij Edelkoort was sitting on the jury) and we found the grass carpet in question by Alexandra Kehayoglou that once adorned the runway for Dries van Noten and was last seen during Berlin Fashion Week at Kaufhaus Hertzog again in the entry way. For whoever may have thought that was enough already, Manifesta (curated by artist Christian Jankowski) opened in Zurich the weekend before and on Wednesday the Tate in London opened their own whole new building. So, very commendable, dear art world – you’re really NEVER standing still. Very commendable, indeed.
Impressions from Art Basel 2016
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Translation: Melissa Frost
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.