Art Basel: now a world brand, still a great Swiss show


Michael Craig-Martin, ‘Hammer (Blue)’, 2011
Courtesy the artist and New Art Centre; Gagosian Gallery (photo, courtesy of ArtBasel)

BASEL, SWITZERLAND – Art Basel opens to the public today, 13 June and runs for four days. In the 43 years it’s been in business it’s become one of the hottest spots on the globe for viewing what’s happening in modern and contemporary art, with 304 galleries from 39 countries exhibiting their top artists this year, “11 decades of works”, say the show organizers.

Expect crowds: last year more than 60,000 people visited Art Basel.

There’s room to fit them all: the main show covers 31,000 m2 and spills over into street exhibits of live art and large sculptures designed for open, public areas.

It’s a buyer’s world, with only one-third of galleries that apply getting one of the very in-demand slots.

The art market is thriving, with global sales worth euros 8 billion in 2012, reports AFP, which looks at who was buying what in Basel during the two preview days this week.

Investors in contemporary art, a rapidly growing group, flock here to have a first chance at purchasing new works.

The two winners of the annual Statements award to up and coming artists went to a South African, Wa Lehulere (presented by Johannesburg’s Stevenson Gallery) and Jenni Tischer of Germany. They each win CHF30,000 and some of their works are acquired by Baloise, the insurance company, to be donated to two major contemporary art museums.

Art Basel 2013

Art Basel Unlimited, by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (photo, courtesy of Art Basel)

Art Basel been in the news recently for its new Hong Kong version, which is rapidly becoming the Asian equivalent of the North American version of the show, Art Basel Miami, now in its 11th year. Much is being made of Art Basel’s expansion, in step with the growth in art investment despite  the global economic crisis.

Art Basel basics

  • Getting there: take the train and avoid the parking hassle. Both Basel train stations are close to the newly redone Messe hall that houses Art Basel – Basel SBB/SNCF main station and Basel Badischer Bahnhof train stations are located near the show venue. You can walk the distance in 30 minutes (2.5 km) or take the NFT tram for five stops (St Louis Grenze), 20-25 minutes. If you drive, take the A2 autoroute to the Messe exit, then head to the sign-posted Messe hall multi-storey parking lot that holds 1,200 cars.
  • Hours, Thursday 13 June to Sunday 16 June, 11:00-19:00
  • Tickets: definitely buy your ticket ahead, in the online shop, and print it out. Prices range from CHF20 for an evening pass to CHF95 for a ticket for the duration of the art fair – if you’re staying for at least a couple days be sure to take a walk around the Tinguely-Brunnen water-powered sculptures at the Theaterplatz, near the Kunsthalle, and take the 20-minute tram ride out to the Beyeler Foundation, which is currently hosting a Max Ernst exhibit
  • Easiest way to organize your visit: download the mobile app, iPhone and android available, use it to navigate and see what’s on when. You can get your toes wet gently by starting with the Unlimited section, a large space with work that is not for sale.
  • Take advantage of some of the events such as lectures, around the exhibits

What you can expect to see, where

Art Basel 2013

“Silence”, Chiharu Shiota, Galerie Daniel Templon, photo courtesy of Art Basel 2013

From ArtBasel’s description of some of the key areas to visit:

“Many elements of the show will be housed within the new extension of Hall 1, designed by internationally renowned Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron and directly sited on Messeplatz. While the previously existing part of Hall 1 will be given completely over to Unlimited, the Statements and Magazines sectors, and the auditorium for the Conversations and Salon series, will be sited within the new state of the art exhibition hall.

“The main sector of the show, Galleries, will feature 238 galleries presenting the highest quality of painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, photography, video and editioned works. A strong list of returning exhibitors is joined, following a brief hiatus, by Maureen Paley (London) and PKM Gallery (Seoul), while a number of galleries will exhibit within the sector for the first time, having previously shown in Statements or Feature. They include: Alison Jacques Gallery (London), kaufmann repetto (Milan), Galerie Guido W. Baudach (Berlin), Galerie Jocelyn Wolff (Paris) and McCaffrey (New York). Adding to a strong presentation of vintage photography will be first time exhibitor Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York). The full gallery list

“The Feature sector presents galleries with precise curatorial projects, showing both historical and contemporary work. This year’s edition will feature 24 galleries from 16 countries, the highest number of galleries since the sector’s introduction in 2010. Highlights of Feature will include a presentation by Parra & Romero (Madrid) of historical works by the Uruguayan conceptual artist Luis Camnitzer, many of which have remained unseen since their creation between 1969 and 1980. Leo Castelli Gallery (New York) will show a selection of important works, including previously unseen works on paper, dating from the 1960’s by American artist Robert Morris. Raebervon Stenglin (Zurich) will show new work by veteran artist Robert Kinmont and newcomer Kilian Rüthemann that will explore the differences and similarities of their practice. Work spanning more than a decade of Brazilian artist Sonia Gomes’ practice will be on show at Mendes Wood (Sao Paolo). Take Ninagawa (Tokyo) will show historic works by Japanese artist Tsuruko Yamazaki, including a piece originally realized for the ‘1st Gutai Art Exhibition’ in Tokyo in 1955. Further highlights include Robert Heinecken’s ‘Surrealism on TV’, presented by Cherry and Martin (Los Angeles), representing the first time the work will be shown in Europe, while Herald Street (London) will present a performance piece by Pablo Bronstein, featuring four dancers dressed as famous figures from the French Revolution, lying motionless on camp beds. The full list of features

“Presented in the premier position within the new exhibition hall, the solo presentations of Statements will again offer visitors and collectors a prime opportunity to discover the work of emerging artists and galleries. This year, 13 of the 24 galleries exhibiting within Statements will be new to the show.”