The Art Basel Questionnaire: Gianni Jetzer, Curator of Unlimited, Opens Up on Wrangling 78 Monumental Artworks and the Best Coffee in Town

Within the hallowed (and huge) halls of Messe Basel, Herzog & de Meuron’s hangar-like space is brought to life through monumental, engaging artworks that eclipse the traditional art fair booth, and comprise the Unlimited sector. Curator Gianni Jetzer is the mastermind behind this year’s Unlimited presentation and has seamlessly woven together a rich, diverse selection of 78 works by top modern and contemporary artists, in one space. From the immersive Doug Wheeler environment that admits five visitors at a time, to a large-scale canvas from Harold Ancart that beckons reflection, to a stunning Julio Le Parc installation that plays with light and shadow, the sector is a fresh new example of successful curatorial interventions within the art fair setting.

Jetzer, a Swiss-born, New York-based critic and curator, is a seasoned Art Basel curator, this being his third consecutive year at the helm of Unlimited. With intimate knowledge of the fair and its home city, Jetzer shares his tips on the best place to grab coffee, the best venue for a nightcap, his annual Basel ritual, and which Unlimited work will inspire the most selfies.

Name: Gianni Jetzer

Age: 44

Occupation: Curator

Place of birth: Zurich, Switzerland

Home Base(s): New York City and East Marion, NY

Languages: French, German, English, Italian

Current Project(s), aside from Unlimited: Le Mouvement – Performing the City in Biel/Bienne; 15th anniversary show for Artadia New York; and La Otra Biennial in Bogota, Colombia

Morning routine: Indian Clubbell training

Currently on your desk: A monograph on the Italian designer Angelo Mangiarotti

Your most important tool as a curator: Google SketchUp

Artists who have most influenced your career: Peter Fischli & David Weiss

Travel ritual(s): Running with my GPS tracker on, leaving marks all over the place.

On Basel:

Where to get the best coffee: Café Graziella (Dornacherstrasse 283, 4053 Basel, Switzerland)

Favorite galleries and/or museums: Schaulager and Kunsthalle

Recommended restaurants: Thai Restaurant Nordbahnhof (Mulhauserstrasse 123, Basel 4056, Switzerland)

Favorite venue for a nightcap: Lady Bar (Feldbergstrasse 47, 4057 Basel, Switzerland)

Recommended day trips: The Café Aubette by Theo van Doesburg in Strassbourg (31 Place Kléber, 67000 Strasbourg, France)

Where to find a major dealer and artist under one roof: Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (Blumenrain 8, 4001 Basel, Switzerland)

On Art Basel:

Art Basel Rituals: Swimming in the Rhine

Perennial fair favorites: The vegetarian restaurant Hiltl at the far end of Unlimited (Stanzlergasse 4, 4051 Basel, Switzerland)

Recommended for a new visitor to Art Basel: Try to attend all Art Basel conversations.

Emerging artist(s) visitors should pay attention to at the fair: Gavin Kenyon, Sam Falls, Andra Ursuta, Andrew Dadson, Alice Channer, Philippe Decreuzat, and Xu Zhen.

On Unlimited:

Largest sculpture: Carl Andre’s Steel Peneplain

Most difficult installation: Haegue Yang’s Accommodating the Epic Dispersion—On Non-cathartic Volume of Dispersion

Most unusual medium/material: Replica sculptures of Greek Gods wed to reproductions of Buddha statues in Eternity by Xu Zhen 

Riskiest piece: The empty gun shells by Matias Faldbakken (There is a slipping hazard for the visitors.)

Oldest artist in Unlimited: Anthony Caro, b. 1924

Youngest artist in Unlimited: Sam Falls, b. 1984

Social Media predictions, e.g. which piece will be the background for the most selfies: Jim Shaw’s atomic mushroom [Capitol Viscera Appliances mural (2011)]

Explore Art Basel 2014 on Artsy.

Image credits:

Carl Andre, Steel Peneplain, 1982, Installation view, Documenta 7, Kassel, 1982.

Haegue Yang (b. 1971), Accommodating the Epic Dispersion – On Non-cathartic Volume of Dispersion, 2012Aluminum Venetian blinds, hanging structureDimensions variableInstallation view at Der Öffentlichkeit – von den Freunden Haus der Kunst, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2012Photo: Nozomi Tomoeda.

Jim Shaw, Crouching Man With Little Figures, 2014Pencil, Prisma Color and airbrush on paper. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.