The city of Basel was buzzing in mid-June, with the 49th annual edition of Art Basel Switzerland, the world’s most highly acclaimed Modern and contemporary art fair, taking place from June 14—17. Attracting art enthusiasts from across the globe, this year’s fair brought together 290 internationally renowned galleries to exhibit the works of over 4,000 artists.
Anchoring the art fair is the Galleries sector, which showcases individually curated booths by leading Modern and contemporary galleries dedicated to prominent 20th and 21st century artworks ranging from museum-quality painting to pioneering digital art.
Among highlights from this year’s Galleries sector was the late Abstract Expressionist painter Joan Mitchell, whose Estate, as of May 2018, is represented by David Zwirner. Mitchell’s 1959 painting Untitled was sold by the end of the first day for $14 million by New York and London-based art dealer Lévy Gorvy. Untitled was just one of nearly a dozen works by Mitchell presented by at least seven galleries at this year’s fair.
Other highlights from the 2018 Galleries sector include Jacqueline Humphries’ (#J^^):), 2017, presented by Greene Naftali, and Lelong Editions presentation of works by Etel Adnan. Another memorable work from the main fair was Rirkrit Tiravanija’s untitled (freiheit kann man nicht simulieren), 2012, a text driven installation spray-painted directly on the walls of neugerriemschneider’s booth. Roughly translated as “freedom cannot be simulated,” the work serves as a response to xenophobic German politician Thilo Sarrazin’s controversial book Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany Is Doing Away With Itself”) (2010), which argued for restrictive immigration policies.
Introduced in the year 2000, the Unlimited sector at Art Basel showcases large-scale installations, sculptures, and video projections, an event unique to Basel, Switzerland. The 2018 edition of Unlimited was curated for the 7th consecutive year by Gianni Jetzer, curator-at-large at Washington D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Among our favorites from this year’s edition of Unlimited is Robert Longo’s Death Star, 2018, presented by Metro Pictures and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Composed of 40,000 bullet casings, the work reflects the frightening increase in mass shooting incidents in the United States over the last 25 years.
Also worth highlighting is Rashid Johnson’s Antoine’s Organ, 2016, a monumental installation featuring a sprawling, heterogeneous ecosystem injected into a rigid armature of black steel scaffolding. At the center of Johnson’s installation, presented by Hauser & Wirth, is a partially concealed piano featuring pre-recorded performances by classically trained pianist Antoine Baldwin.
Liste is a satellite fair that takes place during Art Basel and is dedicated to young and emerging artists and galleries. The 2018 Liste Art Fair featured 79 galleries from 32 countries. Highlights from this year’s art fair include Kris Lemsalu’s Baubo Dance, 2017-18, presented by Temnikova & Kasela. Maximalist, visceral, and sexualized, Lemsalu merges animals and humans, nature and culture, abjection and beauty into her works, evoking the wild, bestial side of human beings and civilizations.
For summer 2018, Fondation Beyeler presents “Bacon – Giacometti,” an exhibition exploring the relationship between Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti. As friends and rivals, both artists occupy themselves with the human body, in all its deformation and fragmentation, Giacometti through sculpture and Bacon through painting. Curated by Catherine Grenier, Michael Peppiatt, and Ulf Küster, the exhibition is comprised of 100 works loaned from major museums and private collections in Europe and the United States.
“Disappearing Acts,” a retrospective showcasing the work of Bruce Nauman, is on view at Schaulager. The exhibition features over 170 works in wide variety of media, including drawings, videos, photographs, sculptures, neon pieces, and large-scale installations. In addition to key masterpieces, the show also presents new never-before-seen works such as Nauman’s 3D video projection entitled Contrapposto Split, 2017, and Leaping Foxes, 2018, a monumental pyramid of animal sculptures suspended from the ceiling.