As the days of summer tick by, and the weather grows ever warmer in Europe, the art world once again returns to the namesake home of the Art Basel fair, which takes over the Swiss city for its annual run of sales and project exhibitions, held in conjunction with a number of various exhibitions and shows across the city. Marking the final run of market activity before a well-deserved summer recess, the fair should offer a last glimpse at the European art market’s health before the fall season.
As far as monolithic fair projects go, few can compare with the sprawling expanses of the Messe Basel. Taking up multiple floors and halls at the site, Art Basel’s programming for its home fair is expansive, to say the least. There’s the main exhibition fair, sprawling across much of the main floor, as well as the smaller booths dedicated to smaller galleries and special projects, but there’s also Unlimited, the perennial exhibition of massive installations, sculptures and other works that are a feat in their own right, each offering their own take on a fair that seems as much about exploration as it is about selling. With so much work, one seems predestined to have to pick their own route through the fair.
Almine Rech is bringing work by Günther Förg and Tom Wesselmann, while Simon Lee Gallery will bring works by George Condo and Mel Bochner, among others. Gagosian has a major piece by Douglas Gordon planned for the show, while Marianne Boesky is bringing works by Matthias Bitzer, Donald Moffet and Maria Lai, presenting an impressive look at the gallery’s roster.
Also of note is this year’s feature section, where a range of booths will focus on the standard-bearers of the early 20th Century European avant-garde. Gallery Jörg Maass Kunsthandel will be featuring an impressive selection of woodcuts by Max Beckmann and Otto Dix, for instance, focusing on a specific thread of traditional European craft in exchange with modernist explorations of the art form. In the fair’s feature section, one will be able to explore a range of works from Mathis Altmann at Freedman Fitzpatrick, strange assemblages of material that underscore a certain sense of dystopian architecture. Meanwhile, mor charpentier will bring a video installation by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, showcasing the artist’s nuanced explorations of violence and identity.
At the Unlimited session, artist Ai Weiwei will return, sharing a project for both neugerriemschneider and Lisson Gallery, and is joined by Francis Alÿs, who will show work in the section courtesy of David Zwirner. Also of note is artist Paul Chan’s presence in the section. The artist has posed a range of intriguing shows and projects in recent years, and his work for this edition of the fair should be equally compelling. Robert Longo will also join the section, bringing work courtesy Metro Pictures.
Complementing the blue-chip masterpieces on view at the Messe Basel, Liste Art Fair also returns for another year at its home at the former Warteck brewery. Spread across the space’s unique post-industrial landscape, the fair’s focus on new voices and fresh concepts makes it a must-visit for those looking for a full view of the week’s offerings in Basel. This year is no different, with Liste’s group of exhibitors bringing strong work and strong concepts to show. New York’s Bodega will be on-site, bringing with them a body of photographs by artist Em Rooney, while Rome’s Frutta will show work by Jacopo Miliani, focusing on the creation of different forms of language. Also of note is the Guatemalan gallery Proyectos Ultravioleta, which is showing work by Japanese artist Akira Ikezoe, nuanced arrangements of kinetically-charged bodies in blank space that call to mind an interest in both comic panels and Greek mythologies of transformation and bodily metamorphosis.
The fair also returns its popular performances section, curated by Eva Birkenstock. Expect works by Luci Lippard, Vaginal Davis and a special collaboration between Susanne Sachsse & Xiu Xiu, marking a continuation of the fair’s interest in dissolving boundaries between pop, music, art and dance, and allowing the varied forms to create rich spaces where collaboration and the sharing of ideas becomes increasingly possible.
For those interested in even more art after wandering through the spacious halls of both fairs, the city’s museums and galleries will also be open, with a group of high-profile shows timed around the fair. Of particular note is an exhibition of the works of Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager Collection, an opportunity to see an expansive exploration of the artist’s work before it’s mounted at the Museum of Modern Art later this year. Compiling a broad range of the artist’s works, the show is sure to offer a premiere opportunity to see a landmark voice of contemporary art in all of his nuance. Also of note is a show by Raphaela Vogel, Ultranackt on view at the Kunsthalle Basel. The exhibition presents a series of impressively arranged sculptural installations, often poised in a precarious sense of balance, and unfurls a world at once thrilling and dystopian.
The week’s fair proceedings begin early with the VIP previews on Tuesday, and will run through the weekend.
— D. Creahan