VOLTA14: Returning to and Rejuvinating the Roots
BASEL: MONDAY, JUNE 18: VOLTA’s homecoming to its original area in Basel, near the Voltaplatz, was a return to the values of what made the fair a substantial alternative to Art Basel and a link beyond Liste: quality and discovery from a spectrum of artists at a spectrum of entry-points. For the seasoned collector and nascent art-lover, there was much value to be found in the fair’s new home atElsässerstrasse 215, as echoed by patron VIPs, veteran galleries, and newer colleagues alike. "On Mondaymorning we all had butterflies in our stomachs, but by day's end it was clear that the move was overall a positive development," stated VOLTA's Artistic Director, Amanda Coulson. "It feels good to be back in a neighborhood that we helped brand and will continue to have a hand in developing into the future."
“In my opinion, this was one of the strongest VOLTA editions to date,” noted Zavier Ellis, owner-director of Charlie Smith London (London) and a six-time Basel exhibitor. “The new venue works perfectly. Sales have been superb, having placed several of my artists in major private collections globally, and many of them multiple times over.” Ellis highlighted sales from miniature Barry Thompson landscapes to a large-scale Florian Heinke painting, which went to a Geneva collection in addition to works by Emma Bennett and John Stark, as indicative of his curatorial project for VOLTA Basel, The Hierarachy of Scale. His neighbor across the aisle, VOLTA veteran Galerie Heike Strelow (Frankfurt am Main), sold Irene Grau’s major five-panel and five-print Pleinairist Monochromes set to Switzerland, as well as a mirrored geometric sculpture by duo Winter/Hörbelt to France, multiple paintings and works on paper by Venezuelan star Starksy Brines as well as other artists. “We sold from everyone, to really different and good collectors everyday,” commented Strelow. BySaturday, first-time VOLTA exhibitor Christian Marx Galerie (Düsseldorf) had moved six of Tim Okamura’s eight brand-new portrait paintings to new clients, a mix of emerging and established collectors, including the show-stopper Liebe Gewinnt (CHF 33,000) to a young Swiss collector new to the gallery and artist. “We’ve built up a very big network through this fair,” said Marx. “Selling is good, of course, but to gain this bigger network of clients and colleagues is so important.”
Significant sales to returning and new clients punctuated the week, with Montoro12 Contemporary Art (Rome/Brussels) placing Jason Seife’s triptych Above Me, a dazzlingly meticulous hand-painted “Persian carpet” and among the artist’s largest works, to a prominent Miami collection, while moving Jigsaw Falling into Place, Seife’s two-part acrylic on concrete panels, as well as a pair of glistening oil and resin on panel Rembrant-esque portraits by Luis Gomez de Teran to a New York collector who had bought from the gallery at VOLTA Basel 2017. Likewise, the gallery courted significant interest from all positions, including Gomez de Teran’s site-specific painting, ART MARKET, executed on site from install through Day Two, as his globally renowned alter-ego GOMEZ. In their VOLTA debut, Zahorian & Van Espen (Bratislava/Prague) noted that “the biggest collectors have come through, and their reaction to our presentation, from the Americans with Viktorie Langer and the Europeans all around, has been really amazing.” Gallerist Josef Zahorian recorded a substantial placement of Jaroslav Kysa’s motorized metal and jesmonite sculpture Tired Grid to a museum. In their second Basel outing, RoFa Projects (Washington DC), placed Santiago Villanueva’s eye-catching lacquered and painted wood sculpture ST 77 (25,000 Euro) to a European museum. Meanwhile, VOLTA fixture Martin Asbæk Gallery (Copenhagen) moved Maria Rubinke’s monumental Frog bronze, one of the artist’s first forays from porcelain into patina’d bronze, as well as a host of large and mid-size acrylic on mirrorfoil paintings by Peter Bonde to an international cast of clients. Speaking of size, over at Pablo’s Birthday (New York), dealer Arne Zimmermann moved Eckart Hahn’s largest canvas ever, Twins, a beguiling meeting between a top-heavy buffalo and a tiny-headed starling, to a private collector new to the gallery, after significant attention from multiple repeat clients. “She came around and fell in love with it,” recounted Zimmermann. “So we had a long conversation, and she came back to make it hers. It was all very sweet — she said she could reflect upon Hahn’s painting.” In addition to this, Zimmermann sold a large painting by Berlin-based artist Pius Fox, several paintings by American Tessa Perutz, three mixed-media reliefs by Henrik Eiben, and more. “We exceeded the 100,000 Euro mark, so it’s all good.”
In her first VOLTA outing and her return to art fairs after several years of building up her own program at Island Japan (Tokyo) from prior blue chip galleries in Japan, director Haruka Ito was stunned by the public’s response to artist BIEN’s bold, incised wood panel paintings. The gallery sold out (nine works total) byWednesday, to an entirely new client base from Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, France, Denmark, and Czech Republic. “Perhaps I would have wanted to be showing at Liste 10 years ago,” noted Ito, from her prior presence at global art fairs. “Now I think it’s better to be here. The presentations are clearer at VOLTA.” Likewise, at Victor Lope Arte Contemporaneo (Barcelona), two of four positions — Dirk Salz (pigments and resin on Multiplex) and Patrik Grijalvo (3D photography) — sold out before the week’s end, while several of Concha Martinez Barreto’s oil on linen paintings went to the UBS Collection and two of Mario Dilitz’s figurative sculptures, in basswood and bronze respectively, went to new clients. In their Basel debut, Set Espai d’Art (Valencia) were pleased to place both artists Ana H. del Amo and Sean Mackaoui to new clients, both emerging collectors from Switzerland. “They were smart about it,” said Kasia Nagórska, “they reviewed the artists’ works and became familiar with their evolution.” Further success came to Galleria Paola Verrengia (Salerno), who, in their first outing with VOLTA, and among an elegant presentation by three material-based artists from the same generation (mid 1970s) but very different backgrounds, received resounding and serious attention from the curatorially conscious. “To be here at VOLTA is to be protected and well considered,” noted Verrengia, as her associates attended to guests. “This is extremely rare at the other art fairs I have done, and in Italy as well.” Among the gallery’s records was a placement of six perforated paper compositions by Spanish artist Amparo Sard to a major American collection, who knew the artist well but not the gallery, as well works by Maria Elisabetta Novello, whom visitors remembered from her presence at the 57th Venice Biennale.
Galleri Flach (Stockholm) came to Basel with a restrained quartet of warmly lit, hyperreal interiors compositions by Malmö-based Finnish artist Pauliina Pietilä. By mid-week, the gallery had placed two of the works within the renowned Sanders Collection, with further attention following for the remaining two new canvases from many international guests, including the Sanders’ themselves. “To be placed in an important international collection is great for Pauliina and us,” noted gallery co-owner James Flach. “As well, it is important that these collectors know to come to VOLTA, to discover such things.” Rutger Brandt Gallery (Amsterdam) found success as well, placing Yigal Ozeri’s photoreal triptych Untitled (Shely) with the Sanders, who likewise courted interest in the gallery’s rising star, Spanish painter Carlos Sagrera. In their second VOLTA Basel, Anca Poterasu Gallery (Bucharest) sold Dragoș Bădiță’s four-part House with Thuja suite to a new collector from South Korea, as well as two of the artist’s Flemish-style paintings to a German collector whose focus is on Romanian artists, and Bădiță was a new introduction to them. Following intense interest in Iulian Bisericaru’s fractured architectural landscape paintings, a suite the emerging Romanian artist developed while in New York recently, including from the Fondation Beyeler, the gallery ultimately sold most to a happy Zürich collection. The Flat – Massimo Carasi (Milan) did well with their thematic booth around geometric form and spatial orientation, both strengths of the gallery’s core roster. They sold Michael Johansson’s new assemblage Déjà Vu, composed entirely of black-toned ordinary items to a new Italian client, plus a mixed-media wall sculpture by emerging Spanish artist Inma Femenía and several polished graphite forms by Matthew Allen to new and returning local and international clients, with further interest coming from such entities as the Hermes Collection. Christian Efremedis, director of Magic Beans (Berlin), was pleased to sell Gina Malek’s large-scale painting Uñas de Color Rojo plus more intimately sized works while noting the gallery has “met people here at VOLTA we haven’t seenin five years.” From their salon presentation around the still-life and home, VOLTA veteransfrosh&portmann (New York) sold seven of Julia Kuhl’s witty drawings, including to a Spanish collection, as well as several of Robert Yoder’s new painted and embroidered hand towels, one headed to a Swedish architect. “I thought the towels would be a risk!” laughed co-owner Eva Frosch. “But visitors have been enticed.They also say to me that this is a better location for VOLTA. And I loved Markthalle but I agree this feels more like an art fair.”
“By midweek we’ve surpassed 50,000 Euro, so we’re good!” enthused Ernst Hilger, owner of six-time Basel exhibitor Hilger BROTKunsthalle (Vienna). Indeed, by midweek the gallery has moved practically all works by prominent American “street-fine artist” Shephard Fairey, while recording interest in others, including Cameron Platter and FAILE. Likewise, director Michael Kaufmann was pleased that Imbrandise, the most statement of Austrian artist Boicut’s mixed-media works on view, went to a new local client who’d viewed the work lateThursdayand returnedFridaymorning to make it her own. Gallery Kogure (Tokyo) returned to their fifth Basel fair with a project around hyperrealism (paintings by Naoya Inose, three of which went to a collector from Hong Kong) and contemporary-traditional technique (kutani-yaki porcelain from Rieko Kawabata and Yoca Muta, selling from both artists, to familiar and new clients). “The venue may have changed but the quality of people has not,” noted Hiroshi Kogure, gallery co-founder, “the vibe has not changed, either.” His booth neighbor (and real-life close colleague) YOD Gallery (Osaka) likewise received a warm reaction, selling over a dozen handworked paintings (incised, layered acrylic panels by Hebime and feathered acrylic on paper compositions by Hidehito Matsubara) to a new and returning European base. In their VOLTA debuts, Gallery Steinsland Berliner (Stockholm) moved Malin Gabriella Nordin’s ebullient flashe paintings in large and medium size to new contacts, while Primae Noctis (Lugano) sold a significant textile work by Joël Andrianomeariosa to a repeat client and collector of African contemporary art, including gallery heavyweight Abdoulaye Konaté. Also in their Basel debuts, Unix Gallery (New York) sold Josh Rowell’s Datamining dot-patterned painting to locals who had visited during the preview and returned later in the week to seal the deal; while Gallery Lee & Bae (Busan) sold all three of Mi-Hei Her’s transparent film on photo-boxes, two to The Netherlands and a third to Austria. Likewise, Yavuz Gallery (Singapore) moved young Filipino rising star Yeo Kaa’s eye-catching, neon-toned, monumental painting The Warmth of Cold Bathroom Tiles as familiar clients and new faces received their Southeast Asia/Pacific survey.
“There has been an overwhelming attention to our project,” noted Josephine Fity, director of VOLTA veteran V1 Gallery (Copenhagen), upon their project Tables, Pots & Plants: A Song for Matisse. The stand, which featured heavily in local print as well as exhibiting artist Frederik Nystrup-Larsen’s organic pottery sculpture in the New York Times. “People are so positive and I appreciate that they express it,” she added, noting particularly strong sales for Monica Kim Garza (all but two works, from paintings to works on paper to earthenware, sold out), Emma Kohlmann, and Barry McGee. “It takes time for us to plan and implement such a project as this, and VOLTA allows us to do it — you believe in us.” From their mid-hall anchor point, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art (London) sold Dilwyn Smith’s monumental, colorful hosiery riff on minimalist “painting”, plus two of Reinoud Oudshoorn’s iron and glass sculptural reliefs, and four compositions on found maps by Sophie Bouvier Ausländer, as well as paintings from the gallery’s Romanian artists Dan Maciuca and Ioana Iacob. By the week’s end, Galerie Thomas Fuchs (Stuttgart) had calculated 200,000 Euro in sales for artists Jochen Hein and Christian Awe, selling multiple paintings from both artists to new and returning clients, including guests they met in their Basel debut in 2017 as well as clients who met them at VOLTA NY. “They tell us, this is not just a fair for young artists,” said Andreas Pucher, gallery co-director, “but rather it is of equal quality to what you can find on the upper floor at Art Basel.” Fuchs was pleased as well, noting Hein’s new Skies series had come straight from the artist’s Hamburg studio, created entirely for its VOLTA Basel premiere. Privateview (Turin) reinstalled their minimalist stand of Johan de Wit’s resin and marble powder-fortified painted paper sculptures several times throughout the week to meet with a reverberating demand. “The best collectors came back from last year and we met new collectors as well,” said Mauro Piredda, gallery co-director. “They know VOLTA is a must-see and their opinion hasn’t changed by the new location,” added Silvia Borella, gallery co-director. “And this is what makes us very proud. There has been a chain of information from people to come here first to VOLTA before the other fairs, every day.” By the week’s conclusion, the gallery had sold over 20 of De Wit’s compositions, to Brazil, New York, London, across the European Union, and to Switzerland. “Many people who buy from us here say they don’t find quality at Liste, but they are not satisfied with Art Basel, either,” Piredda added. “They tell us it is just spectacle there and too overwhelming.” Added Borella, “They tell us VOLTA has so many options: at the right price and the right quality, and it’s all something new.”
VOLTA welcomed a happy, international crowd of serious lovers of the arts to its debut atElsässerstrasse 215, including: Jean Pigozzi (Geneva); Leif Djirhus (Copenhagen); Steve Shane (New York); Uli Sigg (Zürich); Tony and Jean Harrison (London/Basel);Zoë and Joel Dictrow (New York), Laura Lee Brown and Alice Gray Stites (21c Museum, Louisville); Adam Budak (Chief Curator, National Gallery of Prague); Carl GustafEhrnrooth (Helsinki, Guggenheim Foundation’s Board of Directors); Martin Schibli (independent curator, Sweden); Dr. Theodora Vischer (Senior Curator, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel); Tumelo Mosaka (independent curator, South Africa); Franziska Nori (Director, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main); Lorenzo Benedetti (Curator, La Kunsthalle, centre d’art contemporain, Mulhouse); Astrid la Cour (Director, Frederiksbergmuseerne); Lorand Hegyi (former director of Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole); representatives from the Sander Collection (Berlin); representatives from the Aegidius Collection (Luxembourg/Denmark); Belu-Simion Fainaru (Director, Mediterranean Biennale); representatives from La Criée centre d’art contemporain (Rennes); representatives from Kunsthalle Sparkassestiftung andRene Spiegelberger Stiftung (Hamburg); plus many art fair leadership colleagues and other distinguished guests.
"Moving to a new location is always a challenge and inevitably there was hesitance both from potential exhibitors and visitors," Coulson summed up, "And while we saw a slight decrease in quantity, we saw no drop in quality whatsoever. The faces we wished to see were all present and their feedback was positive across the board, so we know that we have an incredibly strong foundation to continue building on, back in the VOLTA Areal, where we started."