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
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.
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.
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)]
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, 2014. Pencil, Prisma Color and airbrush on paper. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.