Preview: Art Basel 2017

©Art Basel

Art Basel 2017: Julia Knolle on the most important fair for contemporary art in Switzerland

The art calendar is rarely so packed full as it is this year. First there was the division of documenta 14 between Athens (the opening already happened weeks ago) and Kassel, then there was the Skulptur Projekte Münster as well as the timing clash with Art Cologne and Gallery Weekend – and then in September everyone will come together once again at the newly merged “happy solution” of ArtBerlin.

But first, it’s still revolving around a few days in Basel. From the 15th until the 18th of June, the tranquil Swiss epicenter will be turned on its head. Messe Basel is the host of the official event, which has been wowing collectors since 1970 and recorded an impressive 95,000 visitors last year.


There’s no semblance of downtime, considering that the Unlimited sector with its focus on exorbitantly large and classical art stand transcending artworks is becoming ever more popular. Going with tradition, it will open on the day before the official fair opening and will be curated by Gianni Jetzer (Hirshhorn Museum, Sculpture Garden Washington DC) for the sixth time in a row. This year, works by Doug Aitken, Carl Andre, John Baldessari, Julian Charrière, and Julius von Bismarck will be on show.

From Wednesday until Sunday, the Conversations program has big things planned and is streaming (I assume for the first time) live via Youtube. Among the (political) discussion points: “Do Artists Need to Leave Africa to be Successful?” with artist Candice Breitz and “Russian Conceptualism: Silent Resistance” with Ekaterina Inozemtseva, head curator at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.

As for the 291 galleries involved, the following highlights can be found in the preview mails: Sprüth Magers is there with Andreas Gursky and Louise Lawler; David Zwirner with Sigmar Polke and Neo Rauch; Kewenig Galerie with Imi Knoebel and Pedro Cabrita Reis; Hauser & Wirth with Mark Bradford and Philip Guston; and Berlin’s Galerie Neu with Kai Althoff and Cosima von Bonin and the KÖNIG GALERIE with Camille Henrot and Katharina Grosse.


The installation NOW I WON by Claudia Comte, which is prominently placed at the fair and consists of two parts, is also attracting a lot of attention – she’s realized an interactive funfair that actively engages the public as they pass by. Pointing out the urge to play as a counterbalance to a critical global situation – it’s an approach that art can from time to time – and sometimes successfully – operate under. When standing in front of this installation, it’s worth taking a look behind you to the left: Design Miami has docked itself for the twelfth time alongside this popular fair and is showing globally positioned galleries from 11 countries. Pivotally active in this is Swarovski – on the 14th of June, there will be a talk to present the three “Designers of the Future”: Jimenez Lai, Marjan van Aubel, and Takt Project. BMW will present artist Astha Butail as this year’s Art Journey winner.

It’s also worth taking a look at the side events. Fondation Beyeler is dedicating a solo exhibition to photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Vitra Design Museum is showing Together! The New Architecture of the Collective, curated by Ilka and Andreas Ruby as well as EM2N. Furthermore, the Swiss Art & Design Awards 2017 will be given out. Nothing can stand in the way of inspiring exchanges and good sales – and certainly the euphoric, dual evening dinner and party program will provide some relief. Here’s to a good week!

To stay updated during the event starting of June 15th – 18th 2017, visit their website here, their Instagram account (@artbasel) here or our Instagram account (@heywomancom) here.

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.