This Art Basel was a lot better than the recent edition. I have the impression, even the blue chip art dealers did realize that the world around them is changing rapidly and it is not contemporary enough to ignore geopolitics. Last year's Venice Biennale and, even more, dOCUMENTA(13) featured many artists, who focus on political issues, such as Arab spring and the like.
A great comment by the artist groupp Claire Fontaine was at the booth of Moscow based Regina Gallery. Also in this (debt?) crisis someone will earn an incredible lot of money...
Impressive was the one man show by Doug Aitken at the booth of Galerie Presenhuber. I liked the earth art fountain.
The reenactment of Marina Abramovic and Ulay's 'Imponderabilia' performance of 1977 at the booth of Sean Kelly Gallery gained a lot of attention.
Relative to its inhabitants Lebanon sent most (10) artists to dOCUMENTA(13). Libanon is not only an artistically interesting area, but also located just beside the current Arab uprising in Syria. At the booth of Beirut and Hamburg based Gallery Sfir-Semler, there were paintings by Etel Adnan the video by Rabih Mroué about the killed Syrian cellphone filmers for sale.
New to Art Basel was Galerie Plan B with a one man show of the talented young Iranian/Dutch artist Navid Nuur. They sold all works in the booth at preview day. I really liked how he plays with the history of painting. In the work 'ICON', he used grinded vitamin D pills and poppy seed oil as paint. Can you see the light?
In general, I noted there was less high gloss glamor art, than two or three years ago. One reason is the ongoing rediscovery of arte povera. There were also a lot of younger artists, who use 'cheap' or every-day materials to create their works. In the face of the ongoing debt crisis and its austerity measures, this may not only be a counter movement against the boom time art, but also a sign of the times in general.
Most dealers seemed quite happy with their economic success at Art Basel. Thaddaeus Ropac of Galerie Ropac, Paris and Salzburg, said, 'It has been the best show for us for a while. The Asian contries have shown a strong interest and sales to Europeans and Americans have been on the same level as last year.'
I would say, Art Basel successfully defended its position as leading contemporary art fair in the world.
Art Basel, in Basel, Switzerland
14th - 17th June 2012