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Art Basel 2011: So, This is Contemporary?

Art Basel visitors beside a bronze by Sylvie Fleurie (c) Premier Art Scene


The world's most important fair for contemporary art had its 42nd edition here in Basel, Switzerland. More than 300 International galleries featured works by more than 2,500 artists. Most dealers save every year the best pieces of their artists for Art Basel, as the best collectors and curators come to this fair.



However, I had the feeling, that the contemporary section at the main hall rarely did show the cutting edge of contemporary art: I think that contemporary art has to reflect the time in which it is made. And the world in 2011 is an entirely different place, than it was last year (Arab spring, Fukushima, debt crisis, ...). Many artists at the Venice Biennale did already reflect these issues, but there were only few of these new artists here at the Art Basel. Probably, history is too quick for the established dealers? You can find more of them at the younger satellite fairs (e.g. Navid Nuur at the Liste).




Francis Bacon at the booth of Marlborough Gallery, London © photo by Premier Art Scene



As every year, the modern part of the fair was really impressive: Outstanding was the booth of Marlborough gallery, London, showing a marvelous Francis Bacon one man show. A large Bacon painting priced at $ 50 million was still unsold until Thursday.



If you looked thoroughly, you could also find some of the younger artists from Venice:




Seth Price: 'Essay with Knots pp. 10 - 11' of 2008; silkscreened vacuum formed high impact polysterene with ropes; 48 x 96 inches; 121.9 x 243.8 cm (c) the artist, courtesy of F. Petzel Gallery



I liked the wall objects by Seth Price featured by Friedrich Petzel Gallery. They are cleverly made, somewhere between a minimal-inspired industrially fabricated artifacts and arte povera / pop references.




Markus Schinwald: 'Synne' of 2011; oil on canvas; 132 x 102 cm with frame (c) by the artist, courtesy of Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris



Georg Kargl, Yvon Lambert and Giò Marconi galleries presented great paintings by the Austrian pavilion artist Markus Schinwald. However, Mr. Schinwald is not a painter - he is an entirely conceptual artist: He buys old-master portraits and has a restaurateur paint his so called 'prosthesis of desire' into the original portrait. They look somewhat disturbing and evoke neurotic Freudian theories. All paintings have been sold for € 22.000 - 48.000 already at the preview.




Nari Ward: 'Ahh' of 2010, shoe tongues, nails (c) the artist courtesy of Galleria Continua



A great reference to the political developments of the Arab world was the work 'Ahh' by Nari Ward. It is made of shoe tongues and nails.



Installation view of Ai Weiwei's Fairytale People of 2007, each c-print of 100 x 100 cm (c) the artist, courtesy of Galerie Urs Meile



Pieces by the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei have been shown at many galleries. Currently, Mr. Ai was still in custody of Chinese officials during the art fair. The media attention sourrounding this event may addintionally have boosted interest for his great art. An irony of the art market.



Jason Rhoades: ‘Untitled (From the body of work: My Madinah: in pursuit of my ermitage…) of 2004; 96 neon phrases, 96 coloured Plexiglas panels, 96 transformers, 96 metal hooks, wire and cable, dimensions vary © the artist, courtesy of Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner Gallery; photo by Premier Art Scene

The Art Basel Unlimited curated section for large scale works of art was again very good.


Click here to read on about Art Basel Unlimited 2011



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