Art Basel is Here, But Transports Us Far Away

Jun 17, 2013 4:37PM
By Michael Macaulay

The topography of the art fair booth can be a major thorn in the side of any exhibitor who cares about how they present artworks. Unlike our auction exhibitions where lines of sight are carefully planned and considered using models and special computer programs, the temporary booth, all comprised of plywood and plaster, can be breached from any side so slithers of space are happened upon unexpectedly. For me one of the most impressive orchestrations of a viewing environment equal to its contents was at the Mnuchin Gallery, where Frank Stella's spectacular, metallic silver Hollis Frampton of 1963 was beautifully framed by John Chamberlain's jagged Toobucktim of 1987 and Cy Twombly's charged canvas Untitled (Rome) of 1961. A brilliant juxtaposition of these three exceptional works exposed intriguing parallels between the artists – specifically Twombly and Chamberlain – and for a while the transitory hustle of the fair seemed a very long way away.

In the 'Unlimited' Basel exhibition space, selected artists are given the chance to wrestle with the challenges of creating monumental pieces. Among the most exciting and innovative was the young Columbian artist Oscar Murillo's At times everything hits you in the face - and I'm like this shit just needs to work. Incorporating vast collaged canvases, films on flat screens, cardboard boxes, wooden construction and takeaway lollipops, this is a wide-ranging and multi-tiered commentary on issues of class, production and economies. It was fresh and exciting and I'm keen to see what happens to his work we are offering in our London contemporary auction next week.

The sheer scope of creativity on view at Basel seems to be infectious. Hopefully the portrait composed through He An's cylindrical Hubble sculpture will be worthy of many years on the mantelpiece.