The 15 Best Booths at Art Basel in Basel
Two hundred and ninety galleries are currently showing more than 4,000 artists for Art Basel’s hometown edition, on through Sunday. The fair opened on Tuesday with a number of significant sales, particularly of works by Joan Mitchell. Many of the fair’s most worthwhile gems to seek out are located away from the mega-galleries that line the Messe Basel’s central courtyard. Here are 15 presentations you shouldn’t miss.
Feature, Booth J11
With works by Helen Chadwick
Installation view of Helen Chadwick, Wreath of Pleasure No 1 - 13, 1993-4, and Piss Flowers, 1991-2, at Richard Saltoun Gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. © Estate of the artist. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery.
Richard Saltoun’s booth centers on two seminal works by the late Helen Chadwick, whose work examined gender representation and attempted to break down binary oppositions. Wreaths to Pleasure (Bad Blooms) (1992–93) is on offer from a private collection in London for just under $500,000, according to the dealer. It’s comprised of 13 brightly colored tondo photographs of flowers suspended in various gels and creams, which Saltoun said is typical of Chadwick’s play with beauty and repulsion. Meanwhile, there are also a dozen sculptures on view that make up Piss Flowers (1991–92), created when Chadwick was at a residency in Canada in 1991. The artist and her partner urinated into mounds of snow and created casts out of the resulting cavity in the ground using plaster. The work is an edition of five, priced at just under $300,000.
Galleries, Booth F13
With works by Alberto Burri
Installation view of Alberto Burri, “Plastiche,” 1962-65, at Tornabuoni Art’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Eight works from Alberto Burri’s “Plastiche” series feature in this solo booth, priced in the range of €5 million to €14 million. The works on view here were created between 1962 and 1965, a time when the plastic sheeting that the artist used was a relatively novel material. A video screening in the booth provides a glimpse of his method: Burri would light the sheeting on fire with a torch and then sculpt the resulting holes while the material was still partially aflame. The unconventional pieces have a visceral quality that is absent in many of Burri’s series more often seen on the market, like his “Celotex” works (on offer from Luxembourg & Dayan in Art Basel’s Unlimited sector).
Feature, Booth C3
With works by Irving Penn
Installation view of work by Irving Penn at Hamiltons Gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Irving Penn is best known for the photographs he took in the studio: mostly solitary figures posed against a grey backdrop. But the fashion photographer and portraitist, who spent some 66 years working for Vogue, was also a keen observer of the American landscape—particularly towards the beginning of his career. At Art Basel’s Feature section for curated projects, London-based Hamiltons Gallery is showcasing a selection of these early photographs, images of signs and storefronts that Penn took in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The photographs on offer span from those taken in Penn’s home of New York (like Kosher Butcher, New York, 1939, where salami is offered at $0.40 a pound) to others taken on trips through the American South—like Your Own Fish, American South (1941), which captures a store window advertising fish and prawns and, oddly, what looks to be a human chest X-ray.
White Space Beijing
Statements, Booth N7
With works by Christine Sun Kim
Installation view of work by Christine Sun Kim at White Space Beijing’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Christine Sun Kim has gained acclaim for her works that explore her relationship, as a deaf artist, to sound and language. This recent series, on view at White Space Beijing’s booth, charts new territory Sun Kim has encountered since having a child last year. How much sound should she expose her daughter to, the artist wonders, and to what sorts of sounds? The resulting “sound diet,” as Sun Kim calls it, features across the works here. The charcoal-on-paper drawings say things like: “Suggested amount of sound toys for a baby to play with,” “Suggested amount of allowing friends to sing songs to a baby,” and “Suggested amount of spoken language with a baby whose parents communicate through sign language,” with musical notation underneath that references the prescribed proportion of quiet and noise. The works address practical concerns: Because her daughter will be exposed to spoken language in the wider world, Sun Kim and her partner have chosen to emphasize the use of ASL at home. But they also explore more personal unease around certain sounds she could be exposed to. A baby monitor she purchased, for example, offers the ability to play a selection of lullabies, but, as Sun Kim writes, “The idea of playing songs for my child that I am not familiar with gave me a feeling of unease, so I factored them out of the sound diet.”
Feature, Booth T6
With works by Lubaina Himid
Installation view of work by Lubaina Himid at Hollybush Gardens’ booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Several different series by the 2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid feature here, all of which continue her efforts to celebrate contributions to culture that have been made by black people, particularly in Europe. Her new painting Ball on Shipboard (2018) reimagines James Tissot’s 1874 painting of the same name, with casually dressed black men replacing the fancifully dressed Victorian women of the original work. Meanwhile, the rear wall of the booth features a selection of Himid’s “Negatives Positives / Guardian Paperworks” from 2007 to 2017. Choosing pages of TheGuardian newspaper that depict black individuals, many of them athletes, the artist paints over advertisements and other surrounding articles to force viewers to focus on how people of color are being portrayed in the media.
Feature, Booth T4
With works by Elizabeth Price
Installation view of Elizabeth Price, Kohl, 2018, at Grimm’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Rarely does a work commissioned by a museum make its debut in Basel. But such is the case with Elizabeth Price’s Kohl (2018), which was commissioned by Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center and will go on view there this coming winter. Price, who won the Turner Prize in 2012, positions the work as a ghost story of sorts; throughout much of the 10-minute-long film, a set of four antiquated coal mines are visible on Kohl’s four screens. As a techno track plays in the background, a robotic voice explains that, presumably due to extensive extraction of the resource, all of the world’s coal pits became connected and filled with water, creating “one big wet grid.” At times, these water-laden mines take on the character of a post-industrial nightclub: The music swells; a woman’s ankles and feet, fitted into pumps, dance on a dirty floor. The whole thing is cryptic, but also captivating—and well worth taking the time to watch in its entirety.
Galleries, Booth L8
With works by Ron Terada, Gareth Moore, Geoffrey Farmer, Brian Jungen, Liz Magor, and Elizabeth McIntosh
Installation view of Ron Terada, “TL; DR,” 2017, at Catriona Jeffries’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Two works from Ron Terada’s “TL;DR” series cover nearly the entirety of both walls of this booth. Each is comprised of 52 canvases on which recent headlines from tech publication The Verge have been transposed into the New York Times’s Cheltenham font. Among them: “Mark Zuckerberg Is ‘Actually Not Sure We Shouldn’t be Regulated’,” posted during the Facebook CEO’s media tour following the Cambridge Analytica scandal; “Binge Watching as a Way to Remember,” an essay about using TV shows to relive the recent past; and “Google CEO Makes Fixing Hamburger Emoji His Top Priority,” a story about Sundar Pichai’s response to a Twitter uproar over his OS’s placement of the cheese between the burger and bottom bun rather than melted on top. It’s a humorous jab at both the tech world and the language of internet media, asking its viewers amid the broad techlash and questions about data privacy: “Is this the world we want?” It doesn’t give an answer either way.
Galería Juana de Aizpuru
Galleries, Booth L15
With works by Sandra Gamarra and Alicia Framis
Installation view of work by Sandra Gamarra and Alicia Framis at Galería Juana de Aizpuru’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
This two-person booth pairs works by Peruvian artist Sandra Gamarra and Spanish artist Alicia Framis. Gamarra’s “Indian Red” consists of four vitrines filled with paintings of Andean ceramics that are now in the collections of museums in Spain; each canvas has a word typically used to describe “the other” scrawled on its back. The piece is a pointed critique of the practices of Western institutions which propagate the view that indigenous peoples are somehow primitive. Framis, meanwhile, presents a fashion collection that she created for a recent performance at the gallery; the 15 sheer dresses, hung on clothes lines, each have the words “Is my body public?” written on them in a different language.
Editions, Booth E4
With works by Etel Adnan
Installation view of work by Etel Adnan at Lelong Editions’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Though she is best known for her work as a writer, interest in the 93-year-old Etel Adnan’s visual art has blossomed since her inclusion in Documenta in 2012 (an exhibition of her work also opens this week at Bern’s Zentrum Paul Klee). Prices have risen in step, despite still lagging behind those of her male peers; a painting at Galerie Lelong & Co.’s main Art Basel booth will now run you €30,000–€50,000, according to a Lelong representative at the booth. The gallery’s offshoot for editioned work offers a more accessible entrypoint to the artist, however. This solo booth features prints from the past several years, which start at just €2,000–€3,000. Unique tapestries are also on offer, as is a leporello—a kind of bound, folded leaflet—for €70,000 and €18,000, respectively.
Statements, Booth N3
With works by Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Installation view of Lawrence Abu Hamdan, The whole time there were no land mines, 2017, at Mor Charpentier’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Choppy video recorded on a cellphone plays intermittently on several screens in Mor Charpentier’s booth. Taken in 2011, it shows the first time people crossed the border from Syria into the Golan Heights since the area was annexed by Israel in 1967. People stream up a hillside of what’s known as the Shouting Valley—an area where families who were split up when the annexation took place gather to shout at each other from across the border—and hop a chain link fence. Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s installation The whole time there were no land mines (2017) takes this found footage and intersperses within it audio recordings of families communicating from either side of the Shouting Valley. At a time when globalism is under attack and borders are once again becoming more rigid, the work is a simple but impactful look at the human elements of geopolitics—a reminder that the theoretical debates being had today in Europe and the U.S. are an everyday, lived reality elsewhere.
Galleries and Unlimited, Booth K8
With works by Ai Weiwei, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Olafur Eliasson, and more
Installation view of Rirkrit Tiravanja, untitled 2012 (freiheit kann man nicht simulieren), 2012, at neugerriemschneider’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. © neugerriemschneider. Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
Two works in particular stand out at neugerriemschneider’s booth. Olafur Eliasson’s Moss wall (1994) was made when the artist was 27 years old and just starting to gain recognition in the international art world. The work—which has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, SFMOMA in San Francisco, and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, among other institutions—represents a very personal engagement with the landscape of the artist’s home country of Iceland, completely covering the wall with the white reindeer moss he recalls having laid on in his youth. This engagement with the natural world and ecology would become central to Eliasson’s practice over the following decades.
The other highlight here is Rirkrit Tiravanija’s untitled 2012 (freiheit kann man nicht simulieren) (2012), a text piece spray-painted on the booth’s exterior wall (it roughly translates as “freedom cannot be simulated”). The sentiment is a response to German politician Thilo Sarrazin’s inflammatory 2010 book Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany Is Doing Away With Itself”), which argued for restrictive immigration policies. The book tossed out the strong stance against even the most remote xenophobic rhetoric in German public life since World War II—and it sold in vast quantities. Likeminded arguments have more recently become mainstream in the country—and around the world—with Germany’s far-right AFD party winning seats in the Bundestag for the first time last year.
Gavin Brown’s Enterprise
Galleries, Booth S2
With works by Uri Aran, Hope Atherton, Ed Atkins, Thomas Bayrle, Brian Belott, Kerstin Brätsch, Vittorio Brodmann, Martin Creed, Verne Dawson, Karl Holmqvist, Jonathan Horowitz, Arthur Jafa, Joan Joans, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Alex Katz, Jannis Kounellis, Udomsak Krisanamis, Ella Kruglyanskaya, Mark Leckey, Danny Lyon, Bjarne Melgaard, Elizabeth Payton, Rob Pruitt, Nick Relph, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Steve Shearer, Avery Singer, Frances Stark, Sturtevant, Spencer Sweeney, and Rirkrit Tiravanija
Installation view of Gavin Brown’s enterprise’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
This Harlem-based gallery always has the primo upstairs spot, with the booth falling directly in the sightline of those exiting the elevators on the second floor. Visitors this year are greeted by a gigantic Jannis Kounellis installation of a grey sheet of metal hung on the wall with dark winter coats spread flat on it, affixed to hooks that hold them up. That leads into a jam-packed spectacle of a booth, where a moody Laura Owens painting is paired with an Ed Atkins video of an old man speaking as he’s lit by firelight, both mounted on walls covered with Thomas Bayrle wallpaper. Elsewhere, large works by Arthur Jafa and Rirkrit Tiravanija boldly announce themselves, as well as a small, intimate Elizabeth Peyton portrait of Parinaz Mogadassi, who runs the roving pop-up space Tramps. Another partitioned area of the booth has a free hang of works by artists such as Brian Belott and Jonathan Horowitz, and shelves propping up small framed Alex Katz paintings and Danny Lyon photographs.
Such works would make up a wonderful booth on their own, but what truly activates this space is a mysterious, soulful installation by Sturtevant, Dillinger Running Series Compilation (2000). A projector is installed on a rotating platform, sending images across the booth’s works and its walls. We see the artist dressed in fur-lined pants and a felt hat—she took pictures of herself as Joseph Beuys, during a performance in which he went to the movie theater in Chicago where on-the-lam gangster John Dillinger was finally caught, reenacting how his bullet-ridden body slumped down beneath the ticket kiosk. Life and death, image and appropriation, performance and stasis—it’s all there, whiling around the Gavin Brown booth, all day long.
Statements, Booth N15
With works by Jacolby Satterwhite
Installation view of work by Jacolby Satterwhite at Morán Morán’s booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
Rare is the booth that is so immersive it transports you out of the fair, far away from the confines of high-priced transactions in expo centers. Jacolby Satterwhite does that and more at the solo booth of Morán Morán in the Statements sector, with work that expands on how his giddy, computer-animated science-fiction visions are actually grounded in real life, reflecting his relationship with his mother and his history of growing up black and gay in South Carolina. The work spans wildly different media and approaches, but is linked by the artist’s mother, who passed away two years ago after battling mental illness.
First, there are her sketches of potential new appliances—one is an ice bucket on wheels—that she would mail to QVC in hopes that the company would mass-produce them, making her rich on royalties. (Some of these items have been physically produced by Satterwhite, who places them on shelves made to house a home-entertainment center.) A CGI video work provides a glimpse into the artist’s futuristic landscapes: a vision of a factory in outer space where there is no hierarchy; the Boschian scenes of gleeful bodies atop one another. And then there’s an accompanying VR work, where viewers can feel like they are actually flying on the sort of drone that might have been used to film Satterwhite’s virtual universe. Morán Morán co-owner Mills Morán told me that Satterwhite wanted to get people “out of the flat zone”—out of the fair, and into the artist’s head.
Galleries, Booth B15
With works by John Baldessari, Bernd and Hilla Becher, George Condo, Thomas Demand, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Cyprien Gaillard, Andreas Gursky, Jenny Holzer, Gary Hume, Craig Kauffman, Mike Kelley, Karen Kilimnik, Astrid Klein, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Reinhardt Mucha, Jean-Luc Mylayne, Cady Noland, Albert Oehlen, David Ostrowski, Richard Prince, Jon Rafman, Pamela Rosenkranz, Sterling Ruby, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Scheibitz, Andreas Schulze, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel, Kaari Upson, Kara Walker, and Andro Wekua
Installation view of Sprüth Magers’ booth at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.
It’s a sign of these troublesome times that works by politically charged American artists of a certain generation now seem not just prescient, but grab-you-by-the-collar immediate—precise examinations of the American psyche that look like they were made yesterday. The entrance of the Sprüth Magers booth presents, in tandem, outstanding examples from three such artists: Cady Noland, Mike Kelley, and Barbara Kruger. The Kelley work is The Poltergeist (1979), which, over seven gelatin prints, investigates the presence of an occult force within the artist, the spirit erupting from his nostrils. It’s directly across from two works by Noland: a metal cut-out of Patty Hearst, showing the publishing heiress toting a gun during her days being brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army; and an untitled mixed-media work, with the ephemera of our culture laid to waste in a metal basket. “I don’t know if they knew each other,” Sarah Watson, who directs the Los Angeles gallery, said of Noland and Kelley, “but they were making work about the same time period, and dealing with the same kind of American counterculture rituals of some kind, and the predominance of these rituals in American culture.”
And then there’s Kruger’s Untitled (I WIN YOU LOSE) (2017), with those words written in massive letters—perhaps bringing to mind someone who once promised that there would be so much winning, you would get tired of winning. But the enormity of the sentiment seems to embody not just one powerful person, but the pervasive hatred that he enabled. “People ask me if the work’s about Trump,” Watson said. “But it’s not—it’s about human beings.”
Bonus Booth: Hidden Bar
It’s not on any official maps of the fair, and it’s not on the Art Basel website, but rumors of a secret bar and coffee shop started circulating during the opening of the fair on Tuesday. Some sleuthing revealed that it was actually Hidden Bar, a project by the Basel-based artist Hannah Weinberger, who invited a bunch of friends to contribute whatever they wanted.
Where is it exactly? Well, we won’t give you the exact directions, but let’s say that it’s on the second floor, behind a bar, and up a staircase. If you can find it, you’ll see that it’s extremely chill. When we visited, someone was cranking Bob Marley on the stereo. “I just got invited by Marc Spiegler to do something here, and now it’s just a place for the artists to hang out,” Weinberger said after coming out from behind the counter. “The dealers, they don’t really know about it.”
Around 50 artists participated, and their work was everywhere, from the orange stand to the stools to the plants. That Evian bottle on top of the fridge? It’s actually by Pamela Rosenkranz. Mai-Thu Perret has work installed, and there’s apparently a Meret Oppenheim tucked somewhere, too. I asked one of the baristas—who has a day job as a curator and art historian—where Oppenheim’s work was, but he wouldn’t tell me: “The place is called Hidden Bar for a reason.”