The original Art Basel draws the art world’s denizens each summer to its namesake, a historic Swiss city straddling the Rhine. Its 48th edition, kicking off next week, comes during a particularly exciting period for cosmopolitan art lovers: Documenta 14 is taking place in Kassel, Germany, and Athens, Greece, and the Venice Biennale runs through the summer. Into this fray come 291 of the world’s top galleries from 35 countries, with works on display from over 4,000 artists. Seventeen of those galleries are exhibiting at Art Basel in Basel for the first time. Here are 12 to watch.
After many years participating in Liste, Hopkinson Mossman makes its debut at Art Basel in Basel with Berlin-based artist Oscar Enberg, whose presentation in the Statements sector will feature a film and sculpture examining the Australian opal-mining town of Coober Pedy.
“Enberg is working in the exploitative tradition of visitors to the town—a town shaped by prospectors, colonizers, and the uneasy assimilation of non-native cultures and economic interests,” says gallery director Danae Mossman.
The presentation is in step with the Auckland, New Zealand-based gallery’s mission of inviting international dialogue into its home country, while simultaneously promoting prominent contemporary artists from New Zealand and Australia.
“New Zealanders are very engaged, and very outward-looking,” says Mossman. “You have to be—we are a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”
The gallery is a favorite of Melbourne-based curator and scholar Jan Bryant, who says one of the gallery’s strengths is combining its artists “in unpredictable ways.”
“There are always new effects to be found, and in turn their artists come to you in new ways, no matter how familiar you thought you were with them," Bryant says.
In its 20-plus-year existence, San Francisco gallery Jenkins Johnson has gathered an impressive roster of mid-career artists including Julian Opie and Lalla Essaydi, while promoting the careers of emerging artists such as Sadie Barnette, Omar Victor Diop, Annie Kevans, and Mohau Modisakeng, who is representing South Africa in the current edition of the Venice Biennale.
Owner Karen Jenkins-Johnson is using her Art Basel in Basel debut to present three artists whose social critiques on issues such as violence, marginalized communities, and civil rights feel especially topical right now.
Her booth within Art Basel in Basel’s Feature section will exhibit photographs of the Civil Rights movement by the polymath Gordon Parks, including I AM YOU—a portfolio of 12 little-known works.
“The current struggles in the U.S. and throughout the world for racial equality, freedom of religion, open immigration, women’s rights, and LGBTQ equality echo the activism portrayed in Parks’s photographs,” Jenkins-Johnson says.
As part of Art Basel in Basel’s Film section, the gallery will additionally present Modisakeng’s To Move Mountains (2015), which Jenkins-Johnson calls “a meditation on violence, directly addressing the brutality directed at the black labor force in South Africa,” and We All We Got (2014), by 2016 Guggenheim Fellow Carlos Javier Ortiz, which portrays individuals affected by gun violence.
Antenna Space founder Simon Wang says his initial mission was simply “to show my friends,” artists from China and elsewhere including Yu Honglei, Li Ming, Nadim Abbas, Xu Qu, and Guan Xiao. The gallery was launched in 2013 and is based in M50, the Shanghai contemporary arts district sited in a formerly industrial neighborhood.
Wang, who has shown at Art Basel in Hong Kong since 2013, will present two of the gallery’s artists for his first appearance at Art Basel in Basel. Guan’s newest work, Air Freshener, Spray, is an ecosystem with a light-box background and materials including artificial plants, projector machines and vehicle exhaust pipes. It builds on earlier works Sunset and Sunrise, which Wang describes as “atmospheric situations created for stimulating synthetic feelings.”
In the Parcours section of works presented around the city of Basel in public spaces, artist Wu Tsang will produce a performance piece, The Secret Life of Things is Open, an installation in the exclusive private Club de Bâle of films, sound and text from her collaboration with the theorist and poet Fred Moten that will become a portal to performances happening throughout the week and on Saturday evening for Parcours Night. Her appearance at Art Basel in Basel anticipates her September solo exhibition at Antenna Space.
Gypsum Gallery, which operates out of a converted 1920s-era apartment in Cairo’s Garden City neighborhood, was launched in 2013 by curator and gallery director Aleya Hamza to bring the region’s cutting-edge work into the commercial realm.
Hamza, who trained at London’s Goldsmith College, has been affiliated with several other Cairo art institutions, but saw room for a for-profit gallery that would help foster “the progressive and investigative art practices that in the region of the Middle East had been associated with the non-profits,” she says.
The work by Cairo-based artist Maha Maamoun that Hamza will present at Art Basel in Basel’s Statements sector is emblematic of her program, which she says is “built on an in-depth engagement with sociopolitical, cultural, and formal questions.”
Called The Subduer, Maamoun’s project stems from a trip to one of the many public notary offices in Egypt. “In these offices, citizens, state functionaries and legal and bureaucratic processes strain on a daily basis to continue functioning with and against each other,” Hamza explains. “In the midst of these tense relationships, or maybe because of them, prayers abound.”
Using her cellphone, Maamoun secretly recorded images of these prayers found in various notary offices, written on “a slew of soiled and aging sheets of paper” and “informally pinned or taped on the walls,” in Hamza’s words. The resulting photographic installation and accompanying publication portrays Maamoun’s “personal story slamming against the bureaucratic machine and its idiosyncrasies,” while also representing “a collective fascination with religious representations,” Hamza says.
Chapter NY began in 2013 as a weekend-only project space on the Lower East Side, in a 175-square-foot space smaller than many American closets. In fall 2016, the gallery moved to a larger location in the same neighborhood, but maintained its focus on “intimate exhibitions and projects as a means to understand the diverse development of artistic practice,” according to director Nicole Russo.
Lumi Tan, a curator at The Kitchen, says the gallery’s newer space has allowed its ambitious programming to unfurl, “while maintaining an intimate scale.”
That program includes artists such as Mira Dancy, Willa Nasatir, and Adam Gordon. But Russo also makes a point to experiment with artists she doesn’t directly represent, giving the space over to Keltie Ferris for her “Body Prints” paintings, or to Anicka Yi, who used the gallery to record the first episode of her “Lonely Samurai” podcast series.
For her booth in Art Basel in Basel’s Statements section, Russo will present a new work by Sam Anderson, Antarctica (2017). An installation of clay figures on a series of semicircular risers, it “draws both familiar and peripheral types to center, forming a psychological excavation of identity and role-playing,” says Russo.
Anderson, who was, fittingly, also the first artist Russo showed at Chapter NY, currently has a solo exhibition at New York’s SculptureCenter and will open a solo show at the Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne, Germany, at the end of June.
This Bologna-based gallery was founded in 2010 with a focus on Conceptual and Minimalist artists, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, whose work co-founders Alessandro Pasotti and Fabrizio Padovani felt was underappreciated.
“There are artists who have preferred to work in seclusion, far from the spotlight, or have been forced to do so because their work was not understood,” says Padovani, noting that the current environment allows for greater recontextualization of these artists’ practices.
That mission is particularly important in an era of “amnesia,” says Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of London’s Serpentine Galleries. By showing pioneering artists such as Irma Blank, Paolo Icaro, and Franco Vaccari “in a sustained and profound way,” he says, the gallery achieves “what Eric Hobsbawm called ‘an urgent protest against forgetting.’”
In Art Basel in Basel’s Feature section, P420 will present Croatian artist Goran Trbuljak’s first four solo shows, which ran between 1971 to 1981. The first show had no actual work in it, with Trbuljak merely writing on the poster for the exhibition, “I don’t want to show anything new and original.”
“From the start of his career, Trbuljak has been averse to the production or even the conception of any work of art, focusing exclusively on the mechanisms of the art system, the dynamics through which an artist can gain a reputation,” says Pasotti.
The gallery is also presenting a re-enactment of Trbuljak’s 1977 show at Venice’s Galleria del Cavallino in Art Basel Unlimited, a show that investigated the power relations between artists and their galleries, as well as Turinese artist Icaro’s Foresta metallica, a large-scale installation created in 1967 in his SoHo studio and exhibited here publicly for the first time.
Located in Beijing’s 798 Art District, Magician Space was founded in 2008 by artist Qu Kejie, with Pan Baohui. The gallery fosters an intentionally intimate scale in the industrial area, and was designed by Qu himself.
“Our exhibitions remain focused on challenging the ideas of the artist and its connection with the audience,” says curatorial director Billy Tang. It was initially used it as a project space where local artists could show work at a remove from the pressures created by the country’s fast-growing commercial art market.
The gallery’s emphasis has been on China’s emerging and experimental artists, providing an early platform for newer artists such as Li Ran, Liu Yefu, and Yao Qingmei, but it also highlights figures who have contributed significantly to the historical development of contemporary art in China, such as Liu Chuang, Li Jinghu, and Liang Wei. Tang says the gallery also maintains a “commitment to introducing new critical positions to China by cultivating a dialogue with…international artists and practitioners,” such as Keren Cytter, James Richards, and Timur Si-Qin.
For its debut in Art Basel in Basel’s Statements section, Magician Space will show a new series of sculptures and paintings by the young Beijing-based artist Wang Shang, who is also a certified gemologist with a jewelry line, and who trained as a curator at Royal College of Art. His installations of stainless steel mountains and “scholar rocks” adapt the classical Chinese rock garden and warp it “from a transcendental space of meditation into a contemporary interpretation, full of contested meanings that clash together,” says Tang.
“His installation for the fair will have a quality of a landscape that can channel the flow of people walking through it,” he adds. “Imagine the installation as a setting of a post-Anthropocene landscape…we are curious about how that experience will interact with the setting of the art fair.”
Emanuel Layr, who founded his eponymous Vienna-based gallery six years ago, and has previously shown at Liste, will mark his inaugural Art Basel in Basel outing with an architectural video installation by Cécile B. Evans, a recent addition to his roster.
Titled Amos’ World, the 2017 piece imagines a television show set in a socially progressive housing estate. Amos, an architect, watches the utopian community he has designed degenerate over the course of the episodes.
“Fissures in this carefully constructed network reveal a breakdown of person-to-person and person-to-infrastructure power dynamics as the audience themselves look on from units nested within an architectural construction built to echo the one on screen,” says Layr.
The past year has been one of expansion for Layr, with artists such as Gaylen Gerber, Lena Henke, and Anna-Sophie Berger joining the program, and with the gallery opening an outpost in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood.
Henke will participate in Art Basel Parcours, a curated selection of public artworks scattered around the small Swiss city. Her rubber and sand sculptures will be located in a garden along the Rhine, and a surrealist bronze sculpture of New York City will be at the Pfalz, a central square.
Galeria Dawid Radziszewski opened in Warsaw in 2013, but Radziszewski and the bulk of the artists he represents date from the mid-1980s; many of them are artists he’s known since they were students together. The works he shows go back even further in their references, exploring Polish art movements of the 1960s and 1970s, which has spurred further research into Polish subcultures, such as the new age movement and the Polish hippie scene, which Radziszewski says was “not as cool as the United States’s scene yet nevertheless quite exotic.” He noted many of his artists are engaged with music and sound-based events, including the Warsaw Autumn Festival. The gallery has an international scope too, having shown artists such as David Horvitz and Șerban Savu.
For its debut at an Art Basel fair, the gallery will present a performance by Joanna Piotrowska. Working in the medium for the first time (she usually hews to photography and film), Piotrowska has choreographed a piece inspired by self-defense manuals, which will be enacted by amateur performers in the fair’s Statements section.
“She translates everyday gestures and conventional movement practices, such as self-defense, into new scenarios, lending them an almost caricature-like quality,” says Radziszewski. “The resulting photography acts as a performance documentation, rather than a documentary image.”
The chance to present at Basel represents a great opportunity for his gallery, Radziszewski confirms.
“We do it for fame and money, obviously.”
For over two decades, Athens-based Kalfayan Galleries has been a pioneer of Greece’s contemporary art scene. Its roster includes artists from across Greece, the Balkans, the Middle East, and North Africa, “acting as a bridge between Eastern and Western visual culture,” says Roupen Kalfayan, who co-owns the gallery with his brother, Arsen Kalfayan.
For its first appearance at Art Basel in Basel, Kalfayan has chosen a hometown favorite, the post-war Greek artist Vlassis Caniaris (1928-2011), whose work is showing in this summer’s documenta 14 in Athens. The Basel installation will feature a selection of works, including Caniaris’s installation for the 1988 Venice Biennale, What's North, What's South? (Children and Testimony).
“As an active witness to history, Caniaris developed an artistic vocabulary that was put to the service of a committed political and social message,” says Kalfayan. “From 1959 onwards, he developed a personal idiom known as concrete realism, reminiscent of Arte Povera. His work comments on immigration, socio-political turmoil and issues of identity in a world that is in constant flux, issues that are “highly relevant to the current global situation.”
CANADA opened in New York in 2000 in the basement of a Tribeca building with the goal of supporting emerging artists and promoting the work of more established artists that gallery partners Phil Grauer, Sarah Braman, Suzanne Butler, and Wallace Whitney felt had been overlooked.
They envisioned a “weird clubhouse” populated by artists including Katherine Bernhardt, Matt Connors, Marcus Jahmal, Xylor Jane, Joanna Malinowska, and Michael Williams, all of whom will take part in CANADA’s debut presentation in Art Basel in Basel’s Galleries sector.
Grauer says that this framing helps the gallery, now based on the Lower East Side, be more “invested in art as an instrument for change” and notes that this ethos extends to the staff, nearly every member of which is a working artist themselves.
That spirit has attracted fans such as London collector Ken Rowe, who recalls first hearing about CANADA from British artists who yearned to work with the gallery. At first, he recalls thinking that it “sounded too cool for me.”
“Then I met Phil at Frieze and realized how wrong I was,” Rowe says. “Collecting art for me has always been about discovery and my most satisfying periods of collecting have involved close collaboration with galleries which have integrity and intelligence at their core. My experience with CANADA has led to one of those all-too-rare relationships."
Barely 18 months after opening its doors in January 2016, Los Angeles’s Parrasch Heijnen will make its first appearance at Art Basel with a survey exhibition of early drawings and sculptures by American artist Tony DeLap.
DeLap, an 89-year-old artist whose drawings and sculptures at Art Basel investigate “themes of perception and the nature of transformation,” was critically acclaimed in the mid-1960s and 1970s, explains co-founder Franklin Parrasch, and hails from the same generation as other prominent American minimalists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Sol LeWitt. DeLap’s early advocates included the painter Agnes Martin, who Parrasch says encouraged her own gallerists, Robert Elkon and Nicholas Wilder, to support DeLap’s career.
Heijnen is thankful for his gallery’s “tremendous opportunity” to participate in Basel, one that he says will help provide “a spotlight” for his program, which includes largely West Coast artists that he says “have only recently begun to receive the attention they are due.”