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