Art Basel, THE contemporary art fair
If you want to invest on a Basquiat or Andy Warhol piece, you do not have to go very far! You just need to go to Basel, in Switzerland, and visit Art Basel! From every European art fairs this one is, without a doubt, the most prestigious and selective one, when it comes to art galleries and respective represented artists.
It’s not for everyone!
It is not light-heartedly that we state that this fair is extremely selective. The art galleries that want to participate on Art Basel go through a very strict selection process, made by six art dealers, which became the most powerful people and tastemakers of the art world. Hundreds of art galleries apply, every year, to get a spot at Art Basel, even when the application process is quite complex: description of the growth of the gallery, exhibition history, artist’s biographies and even a mockup (with tiny reproductions of the artworks included) to simulate the composition of the booth at the fair. In fact, with a process like this, only the best of the best manage to get a spot at this fair.
The best art of every shapes and sizes
Regarding the fair itself, with the galleries already very well settled in, when we arrived at Messeplatz we were immediately confronted with a huge pavilion that made us feel butterflies in our stomach. The fair had over 200 art galleries, from all around the world, that exhibited artworks from the 20th and 21st century on the categories of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, printmaking, photography, video and digital art, from more than 4000 artists. It was truly impressive to walk by the booths, because at each corner you could see a piece that steals your attention. Then, when you get closer, you could find artworks from Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Joseph Beuys, Tracy Emin, Bruce Nauman, Thomas Hirschhorn, Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei, Anselm Kiefer, Lucio Fontana, Hans-Petter Feldman, among many others.
Besides the fantastic art galleries present at Art Basel, this fair pushes the boundaries of a more conventional art fair, by creating a sector dedicated to art that cannot be showed at the traditional booths, called “Unlimited”. This area was reserved for large scale sculptures, video projections, site-specific pieces, performance art and installations. Curated by Gianni Jetzer, from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington DC, this space was composed by 74 contributions from art galleries. Here we had the opportunity to delight ourselves with pieces from Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Dan Flavin, Pedro Reyes, David Shrigley, Martin Creed, Ryan McGinley, among others.
Of course the surprises were not only happening behind the pavilion’s doors. The fair extended itself to the historical corners of Basel, with an artistic program throughout the night, entitled “Parcours”. The party plan included artistic moments, which were located in several spots of the city, exterior and interior. Therefore, every interested person could see amazing performances at the Natural History Museum, or under the shape of a procession starting from the mother church, site-specific installations, light and sound performances and much more.
Taste it and cry for more
We could not mention Art Basel without highlighting one particular installation from the sector “Parcours” entitled “Painting the Roof of your Mouth”, a collaboration of the artist Davide Balula with chef Dainel Bruns. The chef decided to interpret four artworks of the French artist through ice creams! And thus four new flavors were born based on Balula’s paintings: smoke, burned wood, dirt and river. The most spectacular fact is that the ice cream tasted exactly like the canvases: smoke, burned wood, dirt and river.
It is clear that Art Basel overcomes any expectation and leaves anyone astonished with its quality and originality. For art galleries it represents prestige and, obviously, sales and for art professionals is a learning experience. For the artist, the fair serves as inspirations and for art lovers a bit of everything. The dates for next year’s edition (16-19 June 2016) are out, so there is no excuse to let it slide.