While only there for a few hours, Art Basel Switzerland was an unbelievable and truly remarkable art adventure. This year commemorated Art Basel’s 49th edition. Hundreds of galleries from around the world infiltrated two floors and two related fairs, Design and Unlimited, also added to the amazement of the evening. Below, we go over some of our favorite memories from the six hours there.
The Nara Roesler gallery displayed works by Brazilian artist Paulo Bruscky, who has incorporated technology uniquely into his pieces for decades. Always seeking to innovate and experiment, Bruscky has used fax machines, photocopiers, and even polygraph machines to create his works. Seeking a collaborative approach, he has also created art by mailing pieces to other artists and inviting them to add to his work before mailing it back. Bruscky’s pieces are wonderfully imaginative and witty, while also reflecting the political climate of the time they were produced.
French artist Marcel Duchamp, one of the most innovative and iconic modern artists of the 20th century, will always be particularly special due to my involvement in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 100th Anniversary of Fountain just last year. At Basel, the readymade miniature objects that Duchamp created from pervious works, including Fountain, have always been a classic in the art world. Duchamp even coined the term “readymade” with these pieces! This gallery was quite notable not only for its Duchamp collection, but also for its unparalleled collection of additional works featuring Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Indian, including a silver version of the iconic LOVE statue.
By some, Yayoi Kusama is considered one of today’s greatest living artists and visionaries, creating pieces that compel massive audiences from far beyond the art world to view her imaginative and interactive installation rooms. Kusama, who is 89 years old, currently resides as a voluntary patient in a mental hospital near her studio and diligently continues to work every day. Even in this small space at Basel, the Victoria Miro Gallery is able to perfectly convey Kusama’s spirit though a number of paintings, as well as a giant pumpkin and flower sculpture. The viewer cannot resist the childlike glee that emerges when viewing her works as if submerged in an ethereal hallucinogenic realm.
As the focal point of her photography, artist Naama Tsabar consistently portrays instruments that she herself have played. In this piece, Tsabar is pictured with a beautiful silver double guitar. The actual guitar is exhibited next to the photograph and even more impressive in person. The guitar leaps to life as a work that can be considered a sculpture with utility, beyond its eye-catching presence.
Cajsa von Zeipel, a world-renowned sculpture artist, oozes cool and contemporary while demanding admiration for her life-size works. Her sculptures are consistently larger-than-life white figurines, always made of plaster, and compel the viewer into an emotional reaction. The subject matter is usually sexual in nature, interacting with the viewer as if watching a live, freeze-framed performance, and her work at Basel certainly continued this theme. In this piece, a carefree woman points her platform heels towards the sky while her dress cascades around her on the floor. Von Zeipel enjoys playing with gender stereotypes and questionable moral behavior in various settings, calling on the viewer to question not only their interpretation of the art but also pervading societal norms.
Rashid Johnson’s installation presents as one of the most awe-inspiring works of the fair. In the Unlimited section of Basel, which impressively displays 72 works from around the world and houses many of the exhibition’s massive installations, Brooklyn-based artist Rashid Johnson outshines rest. His work consists of immense black steel beams, lush emerald plants, wood pieces, videos, grow lights, rugs, and a piano. The work is a commentary on the prison system, indicating how from even bleak industrial structures, new life can grow. The undertones of the piano and the monitors serve to make the work’s energy even more vibrant and active. Johnson continues to present notable and challenging works while cementing himself as a compassionate, thought-provoking innovator. Each piece is both profoundly personal to him and impactful on its viewers.