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Inside Art Basel

By art advisor and curator Caroline Bøge

As I am writing these lines, I am sitting in my garden comfortably shaded from the sun, listening to the birds, only occasionally interrupted by my son’s outbursts from losing a FIFA game in his room. Right now, my world is the complete opposite of last week, when I was in Basel. The Art Basel week this year was a blast; full of experiences, new connections, re-connections, drinks, and of course – art.

Here are (some of) my highlights of the week:

I started the week at the opening of the smaller satellite fair LISTE that presents cool and emerging galleries from all over the world. Located in an old brewery building, visitors must navigate through narrow, labyrinth-like hallways and relatively small exhibition rooms. All quite charming, but also somewhat laborious – especially during the opening hours when there were simply too many people in one place. LISTE is known as the place to find the next ‘big thing’, and no one wants to miss out on that!

Sven Loven & Rolf Nowotny at Christian Andersen’s booth at LISTE
Amitai Romm at Bianca D’Alessandro’s booth at LISTE

From Denmark, both Christian Andersen and Bianca D’Alessandro participated. Andersen showed Sven Loven and Rolf Nowotny, whilst D’Alessandro came with a solo by Amitai Romm. Both presentations were very precise, and it was amazing to see two such great representatives from home. I also very much liked Jan Kaps’ presentation by Violet Dennison, Carlos Ishikawa’s line up of new paintings by Issy Wood, KOW’s booth including an interesting work by Marinella Senatore, Runo Lagomarsino at Francesca Minini, and finally Madragoa’s commissioned installations by Rodrigo Hernández and Luís Lázaro Matos.

Violet Dennison at Jan Kaps’s booth at LISTE
Issy Wood at Carlos Ishikawa’s booth at LISTE
Marinella Senatore at KOW’s booth at LISTE
Runo Lagomarsino at Francesca Minini’s booth at LISTE (detail)
Rodrigo Hernández & Luís Lázaro Matos at Madragoa’s booth at LISTE

After forcing myself through the crowded rooms of LISTE, I went on to the opening of Art Basel’s Unlimited section. With that came the first massive line up of the week, as everyone had to pass through body scanners and bag inspections upon entering. Fortunately, Ruinart champagne was lined up inside the venue, and expectations were high.

The Unlimited section consists of monumental paintings, sculptures, and installations as well as films and performances that transcend the traditional art fair stand. This year’s edition was curated by Gianni Jetzer (independent curator and critic as well as Curator-at-large at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden), and it offered many extraordinary experiences.

I especially enjoyed Arthur Jafa’s captivating work ‘APEX’ – an eight minute long conglomerate of hundreds of images accompanied by a pulsating soundscape reaching for his often cited mantra ‘a cinema capable of matching the power, beauty, and alienation of black music’ .

Philippe Parreno presented by Pilar Corrias at ART BASEL UNLIMITED

Another highlight for me was Philippe Parreno’s ‘For Eleven Months of the Year it’s an Artwork, and in December it’s Christmas (July)’. The work exists in a series of eleven, each unique, stainless steel trees. As the title indicates, the work is a hybrid as its meaning shifts according to specific spatial and temporal contexts, and Parreno plays with our very understanding of the art object.

Donna Huanca presented by Peres Projects at ART BASEL UNLIMITED
Adrian Piper presented by Lévy Gorvy at ART BASEL UNLIMITED
Susan Hiller presented by Lisson Gallery at ART BASEL UNLIMITED
Enrico Castellani presented by Lévy Gorvy & Magazzino at ART BASEL UNLIMITED

In addition, I enjoyed seeing the holistic performance ‘BLISS (REALITY CHECK)’ by Donna Huanca, Adrian Piper’s performance based photographic work ‘Food for the Spirit’, ‘Die Gedanken sind frei’ – Susan Hiller’s sculptural display of hundreds of political songs from various countries and eras leaving it up to the visitors to choose their own soundtrack, and the wonder of stepping into a Castellani.

Mostly, however, I enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by Indian artist Subodh Gupta and his team in a so-called ‘cooking and eating performance’. The performance titled ‘Cooking the World’ took place inside an installation consisting of used aluminum cooking utensils hung from the ceiling in transparent fishing lines. The ritual and symbolism of food consumption and preparation lie at the core of Gupta’s work that has become ever more relevant in our current political climate. Sharing a meal is a strong symbol of inclusion and acceptance, and it was a great experience to take part in this ritual in the midst of Art Basel.

Supodh Gupta presented by Galleria Continua & Hauser & Wirth at ART BASEL UNLIMITED
Supodh Gupta presented by Galleria Continua & Hauser & Wirth at ART BASEL UNLIMITED
Supodh Gupta presented by Galleria Continua & Hauser & Wirth at ART BASEL UNLIMITED
Supodh Gupta presented by Galleria Continua & Hauser & Wirth at ART BASEL UNLIMITED

On Tuesday morning, Art Basel opened its doors at eleven AM to the so called ‘First Choice VIP’ card holders. Only at four PM the ‘Preview VIP’s were let in, and I believe all other visitors had to wait until Thursday to gain entrance. I was in the courtyard at ten AM for the ‘Champagne Brunch’ that mainly consisted of champagne and oysters – not a bad way to start the day. At eleven, we were let in and the fun could begin.

Ruinart champagne brunch at ART BASEL
Ruinart champagne brunch at ART BASEL

It is impossible to start summing up all the great individual works I saw at the main fair, as the list would be too long. However, I will kill quite a few of my darlings, and highlight the following: Nordenhake Gallery had a very strong presentation with spectacular works by Paul Fägerskiöld, Spencer Finch, Rémy Zaugg, John Zurier am.o.. The presentation was very cohesive, and it felt like entering an exhibition, where you wanted to know more.

At Chantal Crousel, I especially liked the work by Roberto Cuoghi (one of the artists currently representing Italy at the Venice Biennale), Jean-Luc Moulene’s hybrid sculpture fusing a car and a woman, and the smaller black Orozco’s that were almost like an implosion of his large scale, golden samurai tree works.

At Kurimanzutto, they were presenting just that on the opening day along with a monumental marble sculpture by Adrián Villar Rojas as well as great works by Gabriel Kuri, Jimmie Durham am.o. Later in the week, they gave the floor to a very interesting and clever work by Damian Ortega, in which the smaller sculptural elements were all taken from the hole in the bigger clay object.

Section of Nordenhake’s booth at ART BASEL
Damien Ortega at Kurimanzutto at ART BASEL
Jean-Luc Moulene at Chantal Crousel at ART BASEL
Gabriel Orozco at Chantal Crousel at ART BASEL

Team Gallery had a strong presentation of new digital works by Tabor Robak, who employs computer generated imaging to create videos of invented worlds. The works rely on algorithms that enable the visuals to transform in an endless flow – giving the power to the computer so to say, and the gallery had cleverly provided viewers with a bench, as the works had a very captivating effect that made you want to stay.

Tabor Robak at Team Gallery at ART BASEL
McArthur Binion at Lelong Gallery at ART BASEL
Ha Chong-Huyn at Tina Kim / Kukje Gallery at ART BASEL

Worth mentioning are also the large scale tapestry by Laure Provoust at Carlier Gebauer, McArthur Binion’s conceptual collage paintings at Lelong, Tina Kim and Kukje Gallery’s joint presentation of artists belonging to the Korean Dansaekhwa movement, such as Park Seo Bo, Ha Chong- Huyn, and Lee Ufan, and finally Urs Fisher’s playful copy of Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’ carried out in modelling clay and left in the hands of fair goers, who transformed the work and its surrounding walls throughout the week.

Laure Prouvost at Carlier Gebauer at ART BASEL
Urs Fisher at Sadie Coles at ART BASEL

In the Statements section that is reserved for solo presentations by emerging artists, Cecil B Evans’ brutalist pavilion at Emmanuel Layr stood out. Inside the architectural structure six viewing rooms enabled visitors to comfortably sit and watch the first episode of her new fictional television series ‘Amos’ World’ in which both digitally rendered and ‘real’ characters, such as the architect and the inhabitants, unfold a drama about the collective narcissism of daily life.

Cecil B Evans at Emmanuel Layr at ART BASEL STATEMENTS
Cecil B Evans at Emmanuel Layr at ART BASEL STATEMENTS

Already before entering the fair, the theme of fun and indulgement was set, as a giant work by Swiss artist Claudia Comte dominated Messeplatz. On one side of the installation smaller fun fair type of stations were set up. Here visitors competed in darts, minigolf, shot drinking, dancing etc.. On top of the structure, giant tree trunks spelled the palindrome; NOW I WON.

Whilst it is not as easy to define (or even adopt) the concept of winners and losers in the art world, as it is in my son’s FIFA game, I did at least feel lucky last week. I got to see some of the best art in the world, and enjoyed my fair share of the myriad of receptions, events, dinners, and parties.

The annual Nocturne event at Fondation Beyeler is always a welcome opportunity to visit the beautiful museum build by Renzo Piano in 1997. The museum oversees the collection of late collectors and dealers Hildy and Ernst Beyeler, as well as presents temporary high-profile exhibitions – this time a retrospective show with works by Wolfgang Tillmans.

Claudia Comte curated by Chus Martinez and supported by König Galerie & Gladstone Gallery at ART BASEL MESSEPLATZ
Andy Warhol at Fondation Beyeler
Ellsworth Kelly at Fondation Beyeler
Ernesto Neto at Fondation Beyeler

Afterwards, finger food and chilled wine were served in the park that btw. holds a massive sculptural work by Ellsworth Kelly – pretty much all you need.

When in Basel, the evenings/nights at Kunsthalle and Drei Könige are legendary, and I must admit that I attended both locations more than once during the week. As Friday night came by, I found myself dancing with a former colleague, whilst wearing a rubber mask in the shape of a horse’s head. Who said art is boring?

Ellsworth Kelly at Fondation Beyeler
Nights at Kunsthalle
Nights at Kunsthalle

My next fair up: Code Art Fair in Copenhagen that I have the pleasure of co-curating this year. We look forward to welcoming several great international galleries, such as Perrotin, Continua, Nagel/Draxler, Galerie Neu, Pilar Corrias, König Galerie, Carlos/Ishikawa, KOW Berlin and many more for the first time in Scandinavia.

Art Basel’s website:
Code Art Fair’s website:
2112 Art Advisory:
Caroline Bøge’s Instagram Profile:

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