Imagine a roadmap of Basel’s historic quarters, sprinkled with stops to view site-specific and performative artworks, and look no further than Parcours, the sector of Art Basel that will soon turn a portion of the city into a public exhibition. Each year, Parcours (French for “course”) finds its home in a new neighborhood; this year, the locale is Rheingasse, and for the second year in a row, the curator behind it all is Florence Derieux, the Director of FRAC Champagne-Ardenne. Though she’ll be busy installing with her artists until Wednesday night, when the exhibition opens to Basel crowds, we caught Derieux in a moment of calm to learn more about the 15 projects she’ll soon unveil. From Chris Burden’s folly, complete with cast iron benches for reading, to Francesco Arena’s 278 km, featuring performers walking the distance of Basel to Turin (for seven hours each day), Parcours, which can be traversed within two hours, is a sector of Art Basel we suspect we’ll return to throughout the week.
Artsy: Can you explain the Parcours sector and its role within Art Basel?
Florence Derieux: Art Basel Parcours was imagined five years ago by the directors of Art Basel to create stronger links between the fair, the city, its inhabitants, and its visitors. It engages with Basel’s past and present, weaving artistic interventions into the fabric of the city itself. I believe that no other fair in the world has created such a daring and generous response to the public’s ever-growing interest in site-specific and performative works. In Basel, Parcours almost recreates the conditions of an exhibition within the context of the fair and at the scale of an area of the city. The artists are therefore actively involved. By offering a different context of creation, presentation, and reception, Parcours articulates itself naturally with the Unlimited and Films sections.
Artsy: Are there sectors comparable to Parcours in the Miami and Hong Kong editions of Art Basel?
FD: Parcours is unique to Basel, but Public in Miami Beach, which is curated by Nicholas Baume, and Encounters, in Hong Kong, which is curated by Yuko Hasegawa, offer similar sectors that are more adapted to their own context.
Artsy: Rheingasse, a street within the neighborhood Kleinbasel, has been chosen for this year’s edition of Parcours. The Parcours application describes Kleinbasel as “a place where history meets the future.” Can you tell us why that is, and why this particular area was chosen?
FD: Each year, a new area of the city is chosen by Art Basel. I feel very lucky to be working in Kleinbasel, which is one of the city’s liveliest and most culturally diverse, creatively active quarters. Many of the historical areas of Basel have been explored in the past five years: Münsterhügel in 2010, St. Alban Tal in 2011, St. Johann in 2012. In 2013, Parcours took place in [the Klingental neighbourhood in] Kleinbasel, around the Kaserne Basel, a thriving urban arts center and a lively social meeting point surrounded by many cultural institutions and businesses.
Artsy: The French word “Parcours,” by definition, translates to “course.” Would you say that the Parcours section can act as a roadmap for discovering the city of Basel? And ideally, should one see the works consecutively or discover them throughout the week?
FD: Parcours is indeed a perfect way to discover some historical parts of the city of Basel. Kleinbasel is located just a few steps from the river Rhine and only at a five-minute walk from Messeplatz. One can either decide to visit all the projects at once, which can be done within two hours, or discover them at different times. Some projects will irresistibly attract anyone more than once, that’s for sure!
Artsy: Can you walk us through a few highlights of Parcours? What can we expect on Parcours Night?
FD: On Parcours Night, a visual and musical essay by Mario Garcia Torres will be projected at the Kino Cinema at 8:30pm and at 10pm, Guido van der Werve will present his requiem in the beautiful St. Clara church.
There are then 13 more highlights to discover: Francesco Arena’s performance inspired by the presence of Nietzsche in Basel; Darren Bader’s performed installation; Gottfried Bechtold’s large installation; Pierre Bismuth’s night and day performances; Jean-Luc Blanc’s painting; Chris Burden’s folly; Ryan Gander’s series of posters; Mark Handforth’s monuments to the symbolic memory of superstition; Iman Issa’s proposal for a public sculpture; João Penalva’s installation; Seth Price’s eight-hour sound work; Eva Rothschild’s monumental sculpture; Zeng Fanzhi’s giant plum tree branch.
Artsy: Parcours includes works by renowned artists and emerging talents. Of the latter, who should we keep our eyes on?
FD: I would recommend to have a close look at the work of Francesco Arena and Iman Issa.
Chris Burden, Holmby Hills Light Folly, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery.
Zeng Fanzhi, Untitled, 2014, Image Courtesy of Zeng Fanzhi Studio and Gagosian Gallery.
Iman Issa, Proposal for a Crystal Building, 2003. Courtesy the artist and Rodeo.