Beyond boundaries: Cutting-edge art & mega-watt celebs at Basel

Art Basel brings together cutting-edge art and mega-watt celebrities by the all-night party scene of Miami Beach, Florida. 
Claudia Comte at Basel’s Messeplatz
Claudia Comte at Basel’s Messeplatz

The numbers are impressive. The 48th edition of Art Basel, to be held from June 15 to June 18, in Switzerland, will feature 291 leading international galleries, from 35 countries across six continents, 
presenting works ranging from the early 20th century to contemporary artists.

This time too, a handful of Indian names will jostle with artists from across Europe. Bengaluru’s GALLERYSKE (Booth – K16) will lead the Indian presence by hosting recent works by Avinash Veeraraghavan, Dia Mehta Bhupal, Sunil Padwal, Astha Butail, Pors & Rao, Sakshi Gupta, Sudharshan Shetty and Bharti Kher. Butail and her work In the Absence of Writing will tour through Iran, Israel, England, and India, as she was named as the next BMW Art Journey winner.

Nick Cave’s <em>Speak Louder </em>(2011)
Nick Cave’s Speak Louder (2011)

Collage diaries
The main section of the festival, Galleries, will feature 226 exhibitors showcasing works of painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, photography, video and editioned releases. Dedicated to prints and limited-editioned works, the Edition sector will bring together 15 specialists in the field.

The Feature section will present 32 galleries with curatorial projects, showing both historical and contemporary creations. Highlights will include rare Max Beckmann prints from the 1910s and 1920s, large-scale Eye Paintings created between 1963 and 1964 by Ernst Wilhelm Nay, wall sculptures by Canadian artist Liz Magor, apart from rare collages and drawings by the artist and filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek.

Further highlights from the Feature sector will include multimedia works by South Korean artist Nam June Paik, a survey of the works of Margot Bergman, a series of Poubelle works from the 1970s by Arman, and a spotlight on Gordon Parks, showing dramatic scenes from the Civil Rights movement in America in the 1950s and 1960s.

There will also be a two-part installation documenting a US drone operator’s live-fire mission, and a presentation on Robert Frank’s contribution to 20th-century photography. 

Sunil Padwal’s <em>Imbricated minutiae </em>
Sunil Padwal’s Imbricated minutiae 

Bodies politic
Every year, the work of emerging artists and young galleries can be discovered through solo presentations in the Statements sector. Highlights from this sector include a presentation devoted to Guan Xiao’s installation Air Freshener, Spray, as a part of the artist’s explorations into “the atmospheric situations that stimulate synthetic feelings”.

There will also be a multimedia presentation of ‘psychogeographic’ films by Malawi-born Samson Kambalu, inspired by the folklore from the American West and early cinema prototypes. Antonio Vega Macotela will premier The Chisel and the Sinkhole, a sound sculpture of music boxes and mining machinery from colonial Latin America, while Sam Anderson will show an orchestra-inspired ensemble of clay figure sculptures.

Albanian artist Lui Shtini will present Couples, a series of canvases in which the artist builds a composition of two bodies colliding into one another, exploring themes of character and identity. Joanna Piotrowska will show her performance work, in which she adopts subjects from her earlier photographs and techniques drawn from self-defense manuals.

Alongside, there will be new works by the collaborative duo Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho, works on paper by Sam Pulitzer referencing culturally dominant symbols and imagery in today’s society, as well as new works by Oscar Enberg. 

Phyllida Barlow’s <em>untitled:100banners2015</em> (2015)
Phyllida Barlow’s untitled:100banners2015 (2015)

Raising one’s sites
Parcours, a series of site-specific sculptures, interventions and performances by renowned international artists and emerging talents, will be curated for the second year by Samuel Leuenberger, founder of the non-profit exhibition space SALTS in Birsfelden, Switzerland. Parcours will take place around Basel’s Münsterplatz and is open to the public free of charge. 

Screened at Stadtkino Basel, Art Basel’s Film programme will be curated for the third consecutive year by Cairo-based film curator and art lecturer Maxa Zoller. 

There’s more. Conversations and Salon, a programme of talks and panel discussions, offers audiences access to first-hand information on the international art world.

Meanwhile, Design Miami Basel, the global forum for collectible design, runs June 13-18, with the Collectors Preview on Monday, June 12 (by invitation). The 12th edition will present over 50 participating galleries showing historic and contemporary design. 

During Art Basel, the city’s museums will once again offer a series of significant exhibitions. Home of the world’s oldest municipal art collection, the Kunstmuseum Basel will unveil The Hidden Cézanne: From Sketchbook to Canvas. The exhibition will showcase over 150 works from the museum’s prints and drawings department, which houses the most significant collection of Cézanne drawings in the world. 

A solo show will celebrate the wit and irony of Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, presenting his iconic digestive machine, The Cloaca. Yan Xing will also unveil a newly commissioned installation to coincide with the group show Ungestalt, bringing together artists from different generations whose works court aesthetic and conceptual volatility.

<em>Oedipus</em> by Avinash Veeraraghavan
Oedipus by Avinash Veeraraghavan

A kernel of truth
Curated for the second year by Samuel Leuenberger, the Parcours segment returns with 22 site-specific artworks sited around Basel’s historical Münsterplatz.

Parcours will feature works by both internationally renowned and emerging artists including Ai Weiwei, Katinka Bock, Pedro Cabrita Reis, Miriam Cahn, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Latifa Echakhch, GCC, Amanda Ross-Ho, Cally Spooner, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Wu Tsang. 

Engaging with Basel’s past and present by weaving artistic interventions into the fabric of the city, this year’s edition of Parcours portrays a series of intimate experiences, with artists addressing the truths that concern their daily experiences.

Visitors will enter public as well as private spaces, discovering institutions and churches built in various centuries. These places – through their own histories and interactions with the public – will contextualise each artist’s personal thoughts. On June 17, Parcours Night will feature a specially 
curated programme of live performances.

Barbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca, <em>Faz Que Vai</em> (2015)
Barbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca, Faz Que Vai (2015)

Installed on Münsterplatz, Ai Weiwei’s monumental sculpture Iron Tree (2016) will create a contemplative environment for viewers to reflect on their relationship to nature, culture, history and the self. Site of the Fall: Study of the Renaissance Garden (2016-17) by Iranian artist Reza Aramesh will consist of three hand-carved and polished Carrera marble sculptures presented in different contexts: beside the masterpieces of the Antiquities Museum, upon the banks of the Rhine River and before the threshold of Basel’s civil courthouse.

By formally alluding to Renaissance ideals, Aramesh presents the beautiful as the damned: victims excluded from paradise, questioning the traditional representation of suffering throughout the Western art-historical canon.

Latifa Echakhch’s work Screen Shot (2015) is comprised of three-panel screens of the artist’s height, arranged like a labyrinth, draped with clothes immersed in black India ink; each item leaving drippings on the panels and floor, reminiscent of wet clothing that has been lost on the run.  

Ai Weiwei’s <em>Iron Tree</em> (2016)
Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree (2016)

Keys and make up
As it is often the case with Katinka Bock’s works in the public arena, Parasite Fountain (2017) has both a poetic and a direct relationship to its environment. More of a leak in the system than a fountain, the sculpture has a rather parasitical existence: it takes water from a neighbouring fountain and does not return it to its original circuit.

Since the end of the 19th century when indoor plumbing began providing water to Basel’s residents, the purpose of the city’s numerous public fountains has been for the most part, decorative. To emphasise their original purpose, Footnote to a Fountain (2017) by Sophie Nys places jerry cans at several fountains throughout the city, commemorating these urban springs as social hubs and paying 
tribute to the perpetual source of free drinkable water, accessible to all.   

At the Bartels Foundation, visitors will encounter And As The Medieval Cloisters Connect Seamlessly With The Corridors of Power... I’m quietly confident… (U-turn!) (2013), a sound installation by Cally Spooner, addressing language and political leader-ship, specifically within British politics.  

Nam June Paik’s <em>TV Buddha</em> (1989)
Nam June Paik’s TV Buddha (1989)

In The Green Room & The Science Lab (2017), performance artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd incarnates a mad scientist at the center of a highly theatrical, fantastical laboratory. Filled with dry ice and illuminated by theatre lights, the papier-mâché laboratory draws inspiration from Jerry Lewis’ iconic Nutty Professor, as Chetwynd metamorphoses between a gawky scientist and an unapologetic diva.

Elsewhere, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg will show Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017), mixing animation, sculpture and sound, and presenting psychologically charged 
scenarios that explore human nature’s capricious and erotic inclinations.

For Untitled Findings (ACCESS) (2017), Amanda Ross-Ho places enlarged replicas of keys that open doors to a range of cultural institutions and private spaces in Basel. Visitors will discover the keys 
one-by-one, as if they had been dropped by careless owners.

A sculptural replica of the artist’s own carabiner keychain completes the work. Christodoulos Panayiotou’s Untitled (2017), on the other hand, is not tied to a location. For the duration of Art Basel, Panayiotou will bestow jewels and necklaces to people, with the instruction to wear them through the festival’s course. 

Jun 15-18. Visit

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