The 10 Best Booths at Art Basel in Basel Online
Hank Willis Thomas, Kama Mama, Kama Binti (Like mother like daughter), 1971/2008. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman.
On Wednesday, Art Basel’s newest online viewing rooms opened to VIPs in advance of Friday’s reveal to the digital public. The fair, which was supposed to enjoy its 50th anniversary celebration this year in Basel, had originally postponed its in-person festivities in the Swiss city and was recently forced to cancel them entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, like many other fairs this season, it has mounted a giant, virtual presentation featuring choice works from 282 galleries, spanning 35 countries and territories. The organizers have made strides in their online offering, improving on March’s Art Basel in Hong Kong viewing rooms by adding video capabilities for every artwork posted by a gallery.
Galleries are also getting clever, finding new ways to connect with collectors. In addition to launching viewing rooms, a number of Art Basel in Basel’s online participants are presenting virtual shows on their own websites, and some are even staging old-fashioned physical exhibitions, available to socially distanced locals. König Galerie, for example, has mounted a show in its Berlin home, the former St. Agnes church, to coincide with the virtual fair, as well as a sprawling online offering dubbed “Messe in St. Agnes.”
Early sales reports from the online stand-in for the world’s most important art fair bode well for participating galleries. On the opening day of the fair’s VIP preview, David Zwirner announced it had made more than 10 sales already through its own viewing room, “Basel Online: 15 Rooms,” totaling more than $8.6 million. The mega-gallery also revealed it had made a concurrent blockbuster sale through a different online portal: a massive Jeff Koons sculpture titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red) (2013–19), priced at $8 million. Four months into the global lockdown, it’s still hard to believe how much of life and the art world’s usual ways of operating have shifted—it’s nearly comforting to know that, no matter what, people will still buy a giant Koons.
With works by Chen Tianzhuo, Jin Shan, and Patty Chang
Tianzhuo Chen, still from Trance, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and BANK MABSOCIETY.
Watching Tianzhuo Chen’s 12-hour, 8-channel film Trance (2019)—priced between $25,001 and $50,000—seems like an excellent way to spend your free time in lockdown. In Shanghai gallery Bank’s viewing room, you can watch a trailer, which features snippets of dancers and musicians gyrating against a soundtrack of steadily building techno beats. They’re either wearing very little or elaborately costumed—in flouncy pink jackets and masks, for example. According to the gallery, the full artwork spans six chapters, throughout which “a web of narrations evolves, all interconnected and branching with different pasts leading to different presents and different futures.”
The performance marathon in Trance kicked off Tianzhuo’s 2019 survey exhibition at M WOODS Museum in Beijing. According to Bank’s public relations director Min Cheng, the artist and his collaborators transformed the institution into “an expanded theater/nightclub/interactive experiential body sculpture/orgy of the senses.” For the last three hours of the multi-day event, the artwork “crescendoed into an ecstatic rave where viewers were inevitably swept along in the irresistible energy.” Come to Bank’s booth for that elaborate party, and stay for a number of expressive photographs by Patty Chang and fantastical multimedia sculptures by Shan Jin.
With works by Lucia Laguna, Ernesto Neto, Marina Rheingantz, Valeska Soares, Gokula Stoffel, Janaina Tschäpe, Armando Andrade Tudela, Cristiano Lenhardt, Julião Sarmento, Erika Verzutti, Simon Evans™, Jac Leirner, Ivens Machado, Gerben Mulder, Damian Ortega, and Luiz Zerbini
Lucia Laguna, Paisagem no 122, 2020. © Lucia Laguna. Courtesy of the artist and Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo / Rio de Janeiro.
This charming booth features a number of videos with presenting artists. Painters including Julião Sarmento, Lucia Laguna, Cristiano Lenhardt, Valeska Soares, and Janaina Tschäpe have all filmed themselves speaking—in English or Portuguese—about their works. The videos feel unrehearsed, which gives the virtual viewing room a personal, intimate dimension. Laguna’s new canvas Paisagem n. 122 (2020) is a particularly lush escape, featuring leaves, trees, flowers, and watery blues. In lockdown, the painter has been inspired by gardens and the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.
The gallery has also choreographed its booth, turning the presentation into a performance itself. “Our selection takes the viewer through a script, which unfolds across three scenes in multiple locations, urging us to reflect on pressing matters intensified by the current situation,” the dealers write. Through various videos and artwork images, Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel aims to transport viewers to the “Burning Forest, Sea of Dirt and the Cliff,” “Scattered Ruins, Routine Archeology, Nowness,” and, finally, into the soul itself.
With works by Shreyas Karle
Shreyas Karle, Stay home (incense powder): Found Object I, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.
Dubai gallery Grey Noise has photographed Shreyas Karle’s sculptural installation in its gallery space, allowing viewers to slowly piece together what this show might look like in person. Altogether, the objects evoke domestic settings. Extended Play (2019–20) resembles a wall-mounted dish rack, while Stay home (incense powder): Found Object I (2019), priced at $500, is simply a container of incense powder. One terracotta sculpture, …and it spat out its interior (2019–20), priced at $6,000, even resembles a small home. Karle found many of the exhibited objects during travels in various cities. By Thursday morning, three works had sold.
Karle’s presentation, seen in fragments and virtual photographs, adopts an especially haunting aura. All these signifiers of home suggest that inhabitants should be nearby, but the virtual spaces are pristine and empty.
With works by Philip Guston, Mark Bradford, George Condo, Ed Clark, Luchita Hurtado, Paul McCarthy, Simone Leigh, Rashid Johnson, Nicolas Party, Avery Singer, David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Max Bill, Günther Förg, and Louise Bourgeois
Max Bill, Konstruktion aus einem Kreisring (Construction from a ring), 1942. © Angela Thomas Schmid / 2019, ProLitteris, Zürich. Photo by Jon Etter. Courtesy of the Max Bill Georges Vantongerloo Foundation and Hauser & Wirth.
Luchita Hurtado, Distant Gravity of a Day, 1977. © Luchita Hurtado. Photo by Jeff McLane. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
Hauser & Wirth has decided to honor Art Basel’s 50th anniversary its own way. In addition to mounting a lovely online viewing room presentation, which includes work by giants of modern and contemporary art—Philip Guston, Louise Bourgeois, Glenn Ligon, and Mark Bradford, to name a few—the gallery has also launched a special page on its website devoted to Art Basel memories from years past. Gallery president Marc Payot, who called Art Basel in Basel “the most important moment in the art world’s annual calendar,” said it was “incredible, humbling” to think about “what has happened in art—and in the world at large—over the 50 years since Art Basel began.”
The gallery’s offerings span far beyond the period that the fair has been around. The earliest work, Max Bill’s white sculpture Konstruktion aus einem Kreisring (Construction from a ring) (1942)—priced between $500,001 and $1 million—was made in a pre–art fair world. At the other end of the spectrum, Bradford, Ligon, George Condo, Simone Leigh, Nicolas Party, and Avery Singer are all represented with paintings and sculpture made in the past year. “It was very important to us that the process here reflected the way we work generally and everywhere: our artists lead in everything we do,” said Payot. By the end of the VIP preview’s first day, the gallery had sold 20 works—including Bradford’s painting The Press of Democracy (2020) for $5 million—for a total opening haul of more than $13 million.
With works by Diedrick Brackens, Nick Cave, Geoffrey Chadsey, Hayv Kahraman, Meleko Mokgosi, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Gordon Parks, Claudette Schreuders, Hank Willis Thomas, Carlos Vega, and Andy Warhol
Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Brushing hair), 1990-1999. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman.
Toyin Ojih Odutola, A Parting Gift; Hers and Hers, Only, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman.
With the help of Guggenheim Museum curator Susan Thompson (who’s currently on leave from the institution), Jack Shainman Gallery has organized a moving presentation centered around the theme of touch. The works resonate with our socially distant moment, when displaying physical affection can seem downright dangerous. Thompson “had a clear vision from the start,” said Jack Shainman, “so we were more than comfortable giving her carte blanche with our roster and inventory, which meant including a few older works that are not available, in order to tell a stronger story.”
Offerings include an untitled Nick Cave sculpture from 2018 of one black hand holding another; the work is priced at $40,000 (one edition of which sold on opening day). A ghostly arm reaches over a man’s bare shoulder in Geoffrey Chadsey’s drawing Star Spangled Cary (2013–17), priced at $11,000. Claudette Schreuders’s contribution is a bronze sculpture of a post-coital couple, priced at $35,000, while Toyin Ojih Odutola’s black-and-white painting A Parting Gift; Hers and Hers, Only (2019) features a passionate smooch (and sold on the first day of the fair preview). Perhaps the most iconic work of the lot, Carrie Mae Weems’s Untitled (Brushing hair) (1990–99), from her beloved “Kitchen Table Series,” provides an intimate glimpse of two women, bound in an affectionate ritual. It is priced at $75,000.
Galerie Jocelyn Wolff
With works by Franz Erhard Walther, Guillaume Leblon, Katinka Bock, Santiago de Paoli, Miriam Cahn, Prinz Gholam, William Anastasi, Francisco Tropa, and Diego Bianchi
Miriam Cahn, traurige kriegerin, 2009+2017 +13.+21.10.19. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Jocelyn Wolff.
Francisco Tropa, Pharmacie, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Jocelyn Wolff.
Every day of the fair, Paris’s Galerie Jocelyn Wolff will present works prominently featuring a single color. As the viewing rooms opened to VIPs on Wednesday, moody blues prevailed. On day two, passionate reds filled the booth. A giant vermillion cabinet by Franz Erhard Walther (Kleine rote Architektur, 1982, priced at $170,000) is on view alongside a neon “café” sign by Francisco Tropa (Café, 2017, priced at $8,500) and expressive, gestural drawings and paintings by Miriam Cahn and William Anastasi.
Wolff’s canny strategy will keep intrigued viewers coming back day after day, to see what new treasures await. The fair’s final day, June 26th, promises to be a riot with its purple and gold motif; if you prefer muted grays, tune in Tuesday. The presentation encourages viewers to think and see like artists—noticing subtle gradations and appreciating the emotive potentials of various shades.
With works by Carl Andre, Ruth Asawa, John Chamberlain, Ed Clark, Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Günther Förg, Sam Gilliam, Adolph Gottlieb, David Hammons, Norman Lewis, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Frank Stella, Cy Twombly, and Jack Whitten
In a tightly curated presentation titled “From Abstraction to Figuration and Back Again,” Mnuchin Gallery is showing masterworks of American art. A finely creased, blotched, coral-and-emerald work on paper by Sam Gilliam (Untitled, 1970, priced at $100,000) evokes summer camp tie-dye in the most beautiful, elegant way possible. Frank Stella’s Port Tampa City (1963), priced at $6.5 million, comprises red lead on a canvas shaped like an eight-sided star, evoking the bygone era when the craze for Abstract Expressionist painting was giving way to a predilection for minimalism. An untitled work by Willem de Kooning from 1977 is on offer for a cool $9.5 million. Just as alluring: an intricate Ruth Asawa sculpture made from interlocking brass and copper wires, Untitled (S. 753, Hanging Ten Interlocking Double Trumpets) (1960), priced at $1.2 million; a teal-infused Richard Diebenkorn canvas, Corner of Studio (1961), priced at $1.65 million; and a lush purple work on paper by Norman Lewis, Untitled (Study in Magenta) (1958), priced at $100,000.
With works by Lynda Benglis, Alexander Calder, John Chamberlain, Mary Corse, Song Dong, Tara Donavan, Jean Dubuffet, Robert Irwin, Donald Judd, Lee Ufan, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Yoshimoto Nara, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Oldenburg/Van Bruggen, Lucas Samaras, Joel Shapiro, Raqib Shaw, Kiki Smith, Tony Smith, Li Songsong, Fred Wilson, Zhang Xiaogang, and Yin Xiuzhen
Tara Donovan, Untitled (Mylar), 2011. © Tara Donovan. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.
One of the indisputable advantages of an online viewing room is that galleries are unlimited by space restrictions and shipping costs. “For Art Basel, we took full advantage of the digital nature of the fair to mount a wildly imaginative presentation that would have been impossible within the environment of a convention center,” said Samanthe Rubell, senior director at Pace Gallery. The gallery is presenting over a dozen large-scale sculptures, many intended for outdoor display. Highlights include Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s fun, jazzy Leaning Clarinet (2006), priced at $3 million, and a giant bronze sculpture of a girl’s head by Yoshitomo Nara, Long Tall Sister (2012), which sold in the fair’s opening hours for an undisclosed sum.
The presentation is unified in palette as well as scale. Many of the works are in black: Tony Smith’s Smoke (1967), possibly the entire fair’s most expensive trophy with its $10 million asking price; Louise Nevelson’s Night Wall – Frozen Laces (1976–80), priced at $4 million. Some are in white: Sol LeWitt’s Hanging Complex Form (1989), priced at $475,000; Mary Corse’s Untitled (Beams) (2019), priced at $1.2 million. And a few are both: Jean Dubuffet’s Arbre biplan (1968/2019, fabricated posthumously), priced at $2.8 million; Fred Wilson’s The Mete of the Muse (2006), priced at $285,000. Rubell noted that the gallery has “strong reserves” on five works. “Understandably, given the nature of large-scale sculpture, we expect buying decisions to take somewhat longer!” she added.
With works by Franklin Williams
Installation view of works by Franklin Williams in Parker Gallery’s booth installed in Los Angeles. Photo by Paul Salveson. Courtesy of Parker Gallery.
More than four decades after their making, the Franklin Williams paintings (priced between $35,000 and $100,000) and sculptures (priced between $40,000 and $45,000) on view here still feel funky and fresh—perfectly in dialogue with contemporary art’s current craft obsession. Parker Gallery is showcasing mixed media works the artist made between 1965 and 1975, which zing with lemon yellows, fire-engine reds, and cobalt blues. Williams’s selection of materials is as exciting as his hues: An untitled sculpture from 1965 that resembles a small, potted cactus drooping over the side of a tissue box is comprised of acrylic, graphite, beads, glitter, gesso, crochet thread, yarn, fabric, canvas, cotton batting, and a wooden support. Williams didn’t shy away from sex, and bodily references abound throughout the presentation.
Viewers may find resonance in Lari Pittman’s paintings and Max Colby’s sculptures, which arrived decades later. So why isn’t Williams better known? Although he’s maintained a studio practice since 1960, said gallery founder Sam Parker, “he never sought a ‘career’ as an artist. While he allowed his work to be included in exhibitions, he did not perform the ‘role’ of an artist: [he] rarely attended his own openings and hardly ever socialized with his peers.” If you’re in Los Angeles, you can check out the works in person. The gallery has a booth installed in its backyard and is welcoming in-person visits.
With works by Iman Issa, Ian Law, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Christodoulos Panayiotou, and James Richards
James Richards, installation view of Music for the gift in the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Rodeo, London / Piraeus.
Rodeo founder Sylvia Kouvali calls her booth a “social experiment.” She and her team have chosen to exhibit only sound art, and decided to sell only to collectors who promise to gift the works to museums. “We have had extremely positive responses from many institutions and collectors alike,” said Kouvali. She added that museums need private support to weather tough times, and there’s “nothing better” than to buy a work and give it to an institution that you and all your neighbors can go visit.
Rodeo’s featured artworks make for fittingly idealistic listening, too. Iman Issa’s The Revolutionary (2010), priced between $25,001 and $50,000, explores how a fictional character becomes a leader. Christodoulos Panayioto’s To Be Willing To March Into Hell For A Heavenly Cause (Utopian songs performed by Kristian Finne Kristensen) (2007), also priced between $25,001 and $50,000, features a positively sunny musical performance. The first number, a cover of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie, is unapologetically hopeful—a rare stance in contemporary art.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Art Basel’s online viewing rooms opened Wednesday to all audiences; they were available only to VIPs Wednesday and the digital public Friday.