The Art Basel Unlimited section for large scale works curated by Simon Lamunière was again very good:
The 1960's art movement, Arte Povera, continued to see a revival, especially among US collectors. Just like last year, there was also a large igloo installation by Mario Merz at the Art Basel Unlimited section.
The Art Newspaper reported the sale of the remarkable neon installation called 'Untitled (from the body of work: My Madinah: In Pursuit by my hermitage...)' of 2004 by Jason Rhoades for $ 1 million to Dasha Zhukova. The work is part of the artist's 'Pussy Trilogy' and consists of 96 neon signs suspended from the ceiling. The colorful signs show multi-lingual expressions for the female genitalia. The artist (1965 - 2006) investigated the limitations and taboos in contemporary art.
Another great work at the Unlimited was 'Impenetrable' of 2009 by the Beirut born artist Mona Hatoum. It is a cube made of suspended barbed wire rods. The title refers to Jesùs Rafael Soto's hanging installations called 'Cube Penetrabile'. I like the way how this work combines issues of art history with current political questions.
Hans Op de Beeck presented his new video 'Sea of Tranquility'. It is a 30 minutes hyper-aesthetic film about an imaginary futuristic cruise liner. The bored passengers could do anything there from plastic surgery to a funeral. In advertisement like slow-motion pictures without dialogues, he unfolds a 1970s science fiction scenery. The Belgian artist questions our all too high values of spare time and luxury. It is really worth to spend the half hour to see the whole viedo!
There was also a touching cooperation of the Scottish painter Callum Innes with the Irish writer Colm Tóibín. After they met for the first time at the beginning of last year, Mr. Tóibín wrote the short story 'water/colour'. Its main character is a middle-aged woman called Nora, who must handle the sudden death of her husband. After reading Tóibín's story, Callum Innes made 101 small-scale abstract works on paper. Their room at the Unlimited had a very intimate atmosphere.
If there were real shooting stars deriving from this year' s Venice Biennale, then I would say these were Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla. It was a very brave decision to feature their performance and appropriation art at the US pavilion. Here in Basel, they present their large-scale sculpture 'Scale of Justice Carried by Shore Foam' of 2010. A readymade scale (of justice) seems to balance or about to fall from the crest of synthetic polymer foam. I think it is a great work; however it will not be easy so sell for Carousel Gallery of Paris.
I am excited to see, in which direction Art Basel will go: Only recently, they bought a major stake of Hong Kong International Art Fair. This may be a smart move, as statistics say China did already overtake the US and Europe as the largest global market for art.
Art Basel now has to take the decision to sell the same global brand name art in all three of its locations (Basel, Hong Kong and Miami). Or, to add a more local flavor to its three outlets. I definitely would prefer the later approach!
Art Basel from 15 - 19 June 2011