Basel

The Art Angle Podcast: How Art Basel Did (and Didn’t) Change After a Two-Year Hiatus


Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Midnight Publishing Group News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join us every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.

 

 

An art industry ritual returned after an unprecedented hiatus—on a Monday evening last week, art advisors, dealers, and collectors ceremoniously filed into the formidable fairgrounds of Switzerland’s Art Basel.

The premier art fair’s 50th edition was set to take place across a balmy week in June 2020, but it slid back nearly a year and half, its plans marred by a raging public health crisis, limitations on travel, and restrictions on events and gatherings. After so much uncertainty about the state of the art market, more than 270 dealers calculated their risks and ultimately took a leap of faith and brought the best of their rosters to the Rhine. It seems the gambit really paid off—by the late afternoon on preview day, gallerists seemed to really exhale for the first time in months or even a year.

Was it business as usual? Yes and no. The event ran with incredible smoothness, with no issues save for a few spats on Twitter over whether the absence of U.S. collectors was a boon for European deal-making or not. Restaurants were booked out across town for lavish dinners, but being on the guest list wasn’t the only prerequisite—proof of vaccination was required. Sales were strong, but not quite like the old days. And NFTs made a flashy debut.

On the whole, everyone seemed deeply relieved to be back in their booths or perusing the aisles. On this week’s episode, Midnight Publishing Group News’s European Editor Kate Brown was joined in Basel by European Market Editor, Naomi Rea, and Senior Market Editor, Eileen Kinsella to take the temperature of the scene.

 

Listen to Other Episodes:

The Art Angle Podcast: Writer Roxane Gay on What Art Can Teach Us About Trauma and Healing

The Art Angle Podcast: Keltie Ferris and Peter Halley on the Mysterious Joys of Making a Painting

The Art Angle Podcast: How Facebook and the Helsinki Biennial Share a Vision for the Art World’s Future

The Art Angle Podcast: Artists in Residence at the World Trade Center Reflect on 9/11

The Art Angle Podcast: Genesis Tramaine on How Faith Inspires Her Art

The Art Angle Podcast: The Bitter Battle Over Bob Ross’s Empire of Joy

The Art Angle Podcast: How Britney Spears’s Image Inspired Millennial Artists

The Art Angle Podcast: How the Medicis Became Art History’s First Influencers

The Art Angle Podcast: How Two Painters Helped Spark the Modern Conservation Movement

 

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The 5 Most Arresting Works at Art Basel, From an Epic $750,000 Painting by Meleko Mokgosi to a Low-Fi Video That Went Viral on TikTok


While many people say art fairs are a bad place to see art, the good ones—like Art Basel in Switzerland, which runs through Sunday—do have at least one major thing going for them. They are by far the most efficient way to take in the work of established artists, blue-chip estates, and emerging talents from around the world in one fell swoop, delivering the collective pulse of the moment. Here are five arresting works that stopped me in my tracks as I whizzed around Art Basel this week. Each one captures something profound about our current and rather vexed zeitgeist.

 

Lily van der Stokker’s Childcare (1991–2019)
Air de Paris, Paris
Price: €65,000

Photo: Kate Brown

Photo: Kate Brown

The 65-year-old Dutch artist Lily van der Stokker tricks you into considering tough topics with a veneer of cuteness. She creates critical statements about banal or taboo social issues like illness, aging, housework, and child-rearing, but packages them as joyfully colored paintings and sculptures. It’s not until the second look that you realize they are a bit more sinister. 

At Air de Paris’s booth, a largely empty canvas emblazoned with the word “Childcare” leans against the wall. (It was included in the artist’s  retrospective, titled “help help a little old lady here,” at Zurich’s Migros Museum last year.) The empty space leaves one to wonder: yeah, what about childcare? It’s quite unsettling, especially after a year and a half when children were largely left at home, often to fend for themselves. Van der Stokker meticulously painted the word from a blown-up image on a projector, which was then remade onto canvas, giving the painterly strokes a unique sort of restraint. 

While not too many people are ready to collect her large-scale paintings, the artist has caught the eye of curators and institutions—a solo exhibition is in the works at the Camden Art Centre in 2022.

 

Matt Copson’s Of Coming Age (2021)
High Art, Paris and Arles
Price: €30,000, edition of 5

Courtesy High Art.

Courtesy High Art.

The French gallery High Art’s booth is empty, save for a rope that cordons off a large flickering projection of a swinging baby. The installation by the London-based artist Matt Copson is one piece of what he calls a three-part “laser opera.” A small cherub sings like a jaded, omniscient Greek chorus. He taunts from a swing in melancholic, sorrowful song: “I’ll play with you / through the fire / All day with you / distracting me / strange situation / earthly castration / strange situation / entertainment damnation.”

Another portion of the same work was included in a recent exhibition at High Art in Paris; it is also on view at CLEARING in Brussels (through October 23). But the installation hit the big time when it somehow went viral on TikTok, leading groups of non-art-world TikTokers to line up to see it in person, astounding the gallery.

Its digital fame is somewhat ironic given that it is devoutly analog, made with club lasers that are mirrored and projected on the wall. The rapid amalgamation of still images flicker in a way that creates a sense of continuity, without actually being a fluidly moving image. The effect successfully captures our attention in a time of constant tech-addled distraction.

 

Philipp Timischl’s The Embedded Mentality of Self-Sufficiency (2021)
Layr, Vienna
Price: €120,000

Philipp Timischl’s The Embedded Mentality of Self-Sufficiency (2021). Courtesy the artist, Layr Vienna

Too often, class dynamics are left out of the conversation in the affluent annals of the art world, because it is, of course, a bit awkward, isn’t it? (It also causes some cognitive dissonance, like wearing a dress that says “tax the rich” to the Met Gala). But Austrian artist Philipp Timischl has drawn up important questions about class-based exclusion, social mobility, and power dynamics in his practice and especially via his 2021 work The Embedded Mentality of Self-Sufficiency, which was brilliantly curated at Art Basel Unlimited, the fair’s sector for oversize art,  set right in front of the entrance as its curtain-raiser.

For a near two minutes, the screen is just a blazing fire and a foreboding countdown. It starts: on the screens, we see flickers of self-made and YouTube-sourced video, from the artist in drag to Kim Kardashian as she posed on the Met Gala runway in Demna Gvasalia’s now-iconic black-out suit (speaking of zeitgeist, this video was recut to include these newest clips just days before the opening of the fair). An anxious loop of captions about artistic intent scrolls underneath, including one rather searing line: “I can’t even afford my own work.”

The embedded mentality of self-sufficiency’s form is as good as its content: Large LED screen panels were inlayed with two canvas paintings—depending on what was on the screen, the canvases own static textures changed and came in and out of focus. 

 

Meleko Mokgosi’s Bread, Butter, and Power (2018)
Gagosian, Worldwide, and Jack Shainman, New York
Price: $750,000

Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery and Jack Shainman Gallery.

There were more than a few paintings at Art Basel Unlimited that were so large they required their own rooms, but none felt as epically proportioned—both in size and content—as Meleko Mokgosi’s Bread, Butter, and Power. Sprawled across 21 panels, it becomes nearly immersive, taking up nearly all four walls of its dedicated booth. Images span more than a century of history and consider gendered labor as a post-colonial issue.

The cathedral-size work is one of an eight-chapter series called “Democratic Intuition.” The works reference important historical figures, from Angela Davis to Harriet Tubman, and show scenes of both work and leisure that speak to gender divides and the labor undertaken by people of color.  

The work by the Botswanian, U.S.-based artist was, unsurprisingly, snapped up for its asking price on the first VIP night of Unlimited by an American collector.  

 

Bani Abidi’s The Reassuring Hand Gestures of Big Men, Small Men, All Men (2021)
Experimenter, Kolkata
Price: $50,000—90,000, edition of 5 plus 2 AP

Bani Abidi <i>The Reassuring Hand Gestures of Big Men, Small Men, All Men</i> (2021). Image Credit: The Artist & Experimenter, Kolkata

Bani Abidi, The Reassuring Hand Gestures of Big Men, Small Men, All Men (2021). Image Credit: The Artist & Experimenter, Kolkata

This incisive work by Berlin-based Pakistani artist Bani Abidi shows that, despite spanning decades and nation-states, the physical posturing of politicians is universal. Fists, waves, and finger-pointing look similar despite very different messengers (most of whom are men), including Mao, Stalin, and Donald Trump. Accompanied by a sarcastic title, Abidi’s close-up images take away the power of their speakers by amputating them symbolically and physically. What remains is a poignant critique of political choreography which, when divorced from the rhetoric that typically accompanies it, becomes almost comical. 

If you want to see more of Abidi’s trenchant work but won’t make it to Basel, it is the subject of a major survey at the MCA Chicago developed in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (through June 5, 2022).

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Switzerland Has Given an Eleventh-Hour Reprieve From Costly Additional Testing for Art Basel Visitors Who Received the AstraZeneca Vaccine


Art Basel has updated its health and safety advice for fairgoers after Switzerland changed its policy to allow people vaccinated with AstraZeneca outside of the E.U. to get the country’s Covid certificate.

From today, September 20, foreign visitors who were vaccinated abroad with any jab approved by the European Medicines Agency (including AstraZeneca) will be able to obtain the certificate allowing them to enter restaurants and large-scale events, including Art Basel. It is welcome news for fairgoers from the U.K., India, and Israel who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, as previously only vaccines approved for use in Switzerland (AstraZeneca is not yet approved there) were allowed to get the document (with the exception of E.U. citizens, as the country agreed to accept the E.U.’s Covid certificate).

The development comes after visitors who received the jab in the U.K. and elsewhere were frustrated to discover earlier this month that they would have to repeat a rapid lateral flow test—costing CHF37 ($40)—every 48 hours to gain access to the fair, or else pay for a more expensive PCR test every 72 hours.

The fair scrambled to find a solution for exhibitors who were affected by offering to pay for PCR tests that would exempt them from further testing. While most dealers were satisfied with the fair’s solution, the requirement for extra testing was an additional deterrent for foreign visitors who were already hesitant, with London-based art advisor Wendy Goldsmith telling Midnight Publishing Group News that authorities not recognizing the AstraZeneca vaccine was “the last straw” for her in deciding not to attend the fair. 

“We are pleased to inform our visitors to Art Basel in Basel 2021 that in line with new regulations announced by the Swiss Federal Council, as of Monday, September 20, all guests vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be granted access to our halls without the need to test,” a statement from the fair said.

The EMA has approved the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and the AstraZeneca vaccines. 

“Upon presentation of their vaccination certificate at our designated Covid-19 Certification Center, visitors will receive an Art Basel wristband that grants them entry into the fair,” the fair said.

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Here Are 5 Booths You Won’t Want to Miss at Volta Basel Next Week


Strange as it may seem, art fair season is back in fairly full swing. Hot off the heels of the Armory Week shows in New York, collectors and gallerists are already jetting off to Switzerland for Art Basel. While the Volta Art Fair was absent from the New York circuit this year (but don’t count them out, they will be back next year) the fair will be presenting in Basel.

Though in past years the fair has emphasized one-artist presentations, this year, galleries can showcase curated multi-artist booths. Many have still opted for solo or two-artist presentations even so. 

“While in the past, Volta opted for a single-booth presentation, we can’t force galleries to just showcase one artist, especially in times like these where galleries need to sell. Having two-artist booths makes it look cleaner and galleries like to have dialogues between their artists and their works,” said fair director Kamiar Maleki.

In a newly renovated space, Volta returns for its 16th edition with some 69 galleries from across five continents and 50 cities. There’s a lot for the eyes to take in, so to get you started, we’ve picked five booths worth looking out for.

 

Yoca Muta at Gallery Kogure

Yoca Muta, Awakening (2021). Courtesy of Gallery Kogure.

Yoca Muta, Awakening (2021). Courtesy of Gallery Kogure.

Tokyo’s Gallery Kogure, a long-time fair exhibitor, is presenting work by the dazzling ceramic artist Yoca Muta. Called kutani-yaki (Japanese porcelain), the often whimsical sculptures blend traditional methods with pop culture references like western drawings and contemporary Japanese manga. 

 

Boldi and Mózes Incze at Léna Roselli Gallery 

Mózes Incze, Assisted Advent (2021). Courtesy of Léna Roselli Gallery.

Mózes Incze, Assisted Advent (2021). Courtesy of Léna Roselli Gallery.

Budapest’s Léna Roselli Gallery is presenting works by two artists, the sculptor Boldi and Hungarian painter Mózes Incze. Incze’s oil paintings combine Surrealist passages—floating limbs and De Chirico-esque architectural spaces—with impassioned abstract passages. Boldi’s marble sculptures, on the other hand, follow in an aesthetic of modernist sculpture that references Henry Moore and Cubist sculptors.

 

Galerie Thomas Fuchs

Yongchul Kim, Hund und Kaktus. Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Fuchs.

Yongchul Kim, Hund und Kaktus. Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Fuchs.

Volta patron Galerie Thomas Fucjs is bringing new works by five artists: Rainer Fetting, Sebastian Gumpinger, Jochen Hein, Ruprecht von Kaufmann, and Yongchul Kim. The presentation leans mostly toward contemporary painting. German artist Rainer Fetting, now in his 70s, presents bright new paintings inspired by the island of Sylt. Ruprecht von Kaufmann, meanwhile, presents a mysterious world of dream-like symbols and figures. Even the one sculptor in the bunch, Sebastian Gumpinger, calls his steel and copper plate works “steel paintings”—he uses an angle grinder to draw a continuous line on the surfaces offering delicate, almost paper-like creations.

 

Austin Eddy and Natalia Wróbel at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery

Austin Eddy, Untitled 2. Courtesy of Abigail Ogilvy Gallery.

Austin Eddy, Untitled 2. Courtesy of Abigail Ogilvy Gallery.

The gallery refers to artists Austin Eddy and Natalia Wróbel as “two true painters.” Eddy’s works are semi-representational and attempt to capture the moods and emotions of different individuals, which he conveys in the most reduced terms possible, all while toying with the playfulness and perceived seriousness of painting. Wróbel paints in bold, pulsating swirls of color that draw inspiration from such disparate ideas as jazz, neural networks, and lyric poetry, all varied interpretations of interconnectedness.

Galerie Mark Hachem

Dario Perez Flores, Prochromatique no 1117 (2020). Courtesy of Galerie Mark Hachem.

Dario Perez Flores, Prochromatique no 1117 (2020). Courtesy of Galerie Mark Hachem.

Paris’s Galerie Mark Hachem has a longstanding commitment to supporting artists of the kinetic art movement, from the progenitors of the style to those exploring similar ideas today. This year it has devoted its presentation primarily to artists working in kineticism and Op Art. Historically significant works by Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz Diez will be on display, along with the works of two contemporary Venezuelan artists, Darios Perez Flores and Rafael Barrios, whose works center around questions of perception.

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The Best & Worst of the Art World This Week


Wealthy Women Spur Market Recovery – Art Basel’s market report reveals that high-net-worth millennial women are fueling the gallery recovery.

Art Fair Fare – The first major IRL art fair is happening now in New York, and sales were swift at the Armory Show’s opening day.

Sotheby’s Nabs Macklowe Trove – The auction house won the rights to sell the divorcing couple’s more than $600 million art collection.

Basel’s Big Fund – In an effort to quell nerves ahead of its Swiss edition, Art Basel created a “solidarity fund” as a safety net.

Twenty Years On – On this week’s episode of the Art Angle, four artists who had residencies in the Twin Towers reflect on how 9/11 shaped their art and lives.

A Magical Armory Experience – At this year’s fair, a witch channeling the spirit of Hilma af Klint is reading tarot cards.

Silicon Valley Backs Art Institution – San Francisco is getting a new contemporary art venue that will emphasize diversity.

Iron Age Discovery – A rookie metal detectorist literally struck gold, and the stunning trove is now on view at a Danish museum.

Christopher Columbus Replaced – Artist Pedro Reyes is designing a new monument in Mexico City featuring Indigenous women; it will replace a 150-year-old statue of Columbus.

Removing Robert E. Lee – The largest Confederate statue in Richmond, Virginia, has been dismantled and removed from sight, marking a milestone for the country.

 

Bannon Ousted From Italy – At long last, Steve Bannon’s far-right school has been evicted from the 800-year-old monastery it inhabited.

House Oversight Lead Demands Receipts – Representative James Comer is urging Hunter Biden’s art sales to be made public.

M+ Museum Removes Ai Weiwei Work – The Hong Kong-based museum took down Ai’s infamous Tiananmen Square photograph as it awaits government review.

Another Art Fair Bites the Dust – Paris’s local Salon Galeristes called off its event for October, even as some larger fairs barrel ahead.

Hedge Fund Titan Trumps Turkey – A judge ruled that businessman Michael Steinhardt, and not the nation of Turkey, owns an ancient Stargazer idol.

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