Some 300 participating galleries showing work by more than 2500 artists and visitor numbers in the region of 60000: Art Basel remains unquestionably the largest and most prestigious of international contemporary art fairs.
The 42nd edition of Art Basel takes place at Messe Basel from the 13 to 17 June and, as those who have already attended the fair before will testify, it is a vast, sprawling space that becomes animated with the best that contemporary art has to offer.
In addition to the familiar format of group presentations of works by artists of representing galleries that we instinctively associate with art fairs, Art Basel has developed a number of special sections over the years that provide an even more focussed experience for the visitor. These include the Art Statements section that see galleries offering a solo presentation by a proposed artist represented by the gallery, generally focussing on younger and emerging talent. And there is also the Art Unlimited section, first introduced in 2000, a curated platform – curated by Simon Lamunière- that sees selected artists presenting new single large-scale installation or sculptural works in a massive space in excess of 6000 square meters.
Whilst the latter of these special programmes is very much about showing new work by highly established artists – for example, this year’s list of some 50 artists included the likes of John Baldessari, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Dan Flavin, Anish Kapoor and Robert Rauschenberg amongst many other instantly recognisable names- Art Statements is largely held to be a good place to spot the big names of tomorrow, not only in terms of the presented artist – rigorously selected by the Art Basel committee out of literally hundreds of applications- but also in terms of hot younger galleries arising on the international scene.
As always, the some thirty galleries showing in this section were an international sampling but, once again, there were particularly strong contributions by galleries from countries such as China, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa that have been gaining increased visibility at the highest level of the international art market in recent years.
The South African gallery presented works by the artist Zanele Muholi. Taken from her body of work ‘Faces & Phases’, the solo presentation was a fine example of how she uses photography to address issues of race, sexuality and gender in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Long March Space presented the stunning ‘Against Montage- Intolerance’ video and sculpture installation by Zhou Xiaohu. Consisting of 8 sculptures and 8 claymation animations, the work continues the artist’s investigation into the relationships between sculpture and film. Using a weird and wonderful hybrid of visual languages conflating Chinese sculpture vernaculars with scenes appropriated from D.W. Griffith’s highly problematic early cinema epic ‘Intolerance’, the work creates a piercingly interrogative work about the nature of ideology and ‘political correctness’ through the seductive and disarming medium of claymation.