AO On Site – Art Basel, Switzerland: Art 41 Basel Preview, Buyers Active

June 15th, 2010

Art 41 Basel, entrance view. All images by Art Observed unless otherwise noted.

AO was on site yesterday at Art 41 Basel, Switzerland, to see the 56 installations exhibited by the eleventh Art Unlimited, a museum-like forum for sizable and high-priced pieces. Installations of established masters and up-and-comers alike are characteristically oversized this year, with six pieces taking up over 200 square meters.  Despite the diversity of work, galleries, and featured artists, a distinct tonal resonance pervades Art Unlimited.  The lustrous style favored by Art Unlimited’s formative years gives way to a bold, rustic minimalism.  Although an intellectual understatement saturates this year’s Art Basel, Art Unlimited is hardly a quaint affair.  Economists and art experts alike are predicting major acquisitions for the international art elite, with a Giacometti and a Bourgeois notably up for grabs.

More images and text after the jump…

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Labirinto e Grande Pozzo, 1969/2010.

Officially opening tomorrow, Art 41 Basel is today teeming with collectors previewing the show.  Browsing the 303 galleries and 2,500 artists are dealers and buyers, many of whom are newcomers to the contemporary art scene. As Bloomberg reports, Kamel Mennour, a Paris-based dealer explains, “We’re hoping to see a new generation and a new geography of buyers.  There might be only 10 collectors in Indonesia, but they will come to this event.” Non-European buyers, in fact, have an advantage this year.  The decline of the euro against the dollar and other currencies incentivizes a flood of first-timers to travel to Switzerland, contributing to the rising demand for modern and contemporary art that has endured for the past half-year.  A member of Art Basel’s selection committee, Xavier Hufkens, adds, “We’ve heard from our VIP services that for the first time we’re going to see a lot of groups from Asia.”  Among the featured art that collectors will browse is a $25 million Alberto Giacometti and an important Louise Bourgeois, one of the late artist’s last pieces.

Dan Flavin, three sets of tangented arcs in daylight and cool white (to Jenny and Ira Licht), 1969. David Zwirner Gallery.

Among the most talked about installations is Dan Flavin‘s three sets of tangented arcs in daylight and cool white (to Jenny and Ira Licht), 1969, presented by David Zwirner Gallery, the gallery that represents the Flavin Estate as of last fall. The undulating fluorescent piece has only been exhibited once before, at the National Gallery of Canada, in 1969.  Of this year’s installations, Zwirner Gallery’s Ales Ortuzar says, “It is one of the best years of Art Unlimited… The works are much more committed and large-scale.  People are taking risks again, and are prepared to invest in bold statements that they hope will pay off.”

Ortuzar’s words ring true indeed: although Art 41 Basel has not yet fully opened to the public, pieces are selling quickly and competitively, with waiting lists growing steadily longer.  A 2010 Mark Grotjahn (shown above) sold immediately at Basel, for $600,000.  Blum and Poe is honoring the artist and his new catalog at a dinner Thursday night.  Other snatched up works include a $750,000 Albert Oehlen, a $70,000 Glenn Ligon, a $200,000 Tom Sachs, a $135,000 Heinz Mack, and a $225,000 Otto Piene, and a $15 million dollar Pablo Picasso. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Val Kilmer both appeared at the preview.

Swarm Light, rAandom International, Art 41 Basel. Image via rAndom International.

Interactivity is a key component to this year’s Art Basel.  Audiences physically navigate larger, maze-like installations, hear lectures and speeches from gallerists and artists, and, in the case of rAndom International’s sculpture, contribute to the art-making process itself.  A standout feature of Art 41 Basel, this London design group-brainchild processes audio picked up by surrounding microphones and transforms the nearby sounds into light animations in real time.

Following Sigmar Polke‘s death on the 10th, friend and longtime gallerist Gordon VeneKlasen paid tribute to the artist last night at Art Basel.  “No artist has influenced other artists more than Polke… And people have yet to appreciate fully how extraordinarily vast his practice was.  He worked across so many fields, from photography, sculpture, painting, film… there was nothing he hadn’t done. He was always moving forward, making every exhibition fresh and new. In addition he was incredibly learned, and had an amazing library with everything from art history volumes to books about Mesoamerican studies of geography and geology–everything fascinated him,” eulogized VeneKlasen.   VeneKlasen went on to note the artist’s influence on Martin Kippenberger, Alberta Oehlen, and Peter Doig, to comment on his humor, generosity, and precision, and to highlight his uniqueness: “Polke was unusual in that he had no assistants, so I functioned a bit as his personal assistant…”

AO will be on site, reporting at Art 41 Basel through its June 20th close.

Johan Koenig and Gabirlle Giattino, in front of the Johan Koenig booth

Liz Deschenes Tilt Swing, 2010.

Guy de Cointent, A New Life, 1981.

Gerda Steiner & Jorg Lenzlinger, The Conference, 2010.

Latifa Echakhch, For Each Stencil A Revolution, 2007-2010

Haegue Yang, Doubles and Couples-Version Berlin, 2010.

Alicia Framis, Lost Astronaut, 2009

-L. Kissel

Related Links:
Art Unlimited opening: It’s big but it’s not brash [The Art Newspaper]
Buyers Eye $25 Million Giacometti at Biggest Contemporary Fair [Bloomberg]
In Memoriam, Sigmar Polke [Art Basel Daily Edition]
‘Swarm Light’ by rAndom International [rAndom International]
Abramovich Prowls in Basel; 15$ Million Picasso Sculpture Sold Sells [Bloomberg]
Collectors Storm Art Basel, Driving a Bull Market [ArtInfo]