Jun 23, 2017 11:20AM

BASEL, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21: The VOLTA team dubbed their 2017 edition in Basel “Lucky 13”, going against the grain of superstitious qualities around the number, which simply did not quantify when considering the staying power of an international art fair, particularly a satellite to the mighty Art Basel. Likewise, maintaining a high level of consistency and quality while introducing a growing clientele to an ever broader international contingent of new positions is not simply “luck”; it is sheer willpower, effort, and passion by the seven-member team and the 70 galleries who constitute VOLTA13.

We are always appreciative of the effort our galleries and the artists put into every edition, but this year was truly a standout,” Amanda Coulson, VOLTA Artistic Director, praised the 2017 Basel participants. “Perhaps the spectre of the mighty ’13’ compelled galleries to create especially good juju. We had wonderful projects and an audience who was responsive and engaged. Most of the dealers reported long, intense, and fulfilling conversations, leading to solid sales — and, for the first time in many years, it didn’t even rain!

Mauro Piredda (second from left) and Silvia Borella (seated, co-owners of PRIVATEVIEW, Torino) discusses their solo project of Ted Larsen with collectors; Courtesy VOLTA13

New discoveries equalled immediate success for galleries throughout Markthalle. In their Basel debut, PRIVATEVIEW (Torino) presented a stark and minimal installation of 10 mixed-media wall sculptures by mid-career American artist Ted Larsen, featuring reclaimed metal and other objects rendered in elegant geometric arrangements. By Thursday the gallery had sold out the booth, plus, according to co-owner Mauro Piredda, “Many people optioned for other pieces from the catalogue!” Added co-owner Silvia Borella, “We’ve had a great reaction and met many nice and serious collectors.” “Many Nordic people!” added Piredda, “kindly and young in mind!” Reflecting on the week, Borella said “Many collectors have been telling us that they leave the other satellite fairs behind. VOLTA is the next parallel fair after Art. It’s not overly experimental, but it is quite clean and concrete. And we agree!” Next door, VOLTA veteran Galerie Heike Strelow (Frankfurt am Main) enjoyed considerable attention throughout the week for her, shall we say, more colorful than usual booth. Beyond the three Florian Heike paintings, rendered in the Frankfurt artist’s signature black on untreated cotton, the gallery debuted and nearly sold out of Venezuelan wunderkind Starsky Brines, moving all of his works on paper and all but one painting to an avid international clientele. “He’s in a really hot spot here!” commented Strelow. “We’ve had an amazing quality of collectors this year. It was already always good, VOLTA, but this year it’s even better.” Reflecting in Winter/Hörbelt’s massive Pixelbild mirrored work dominating the floor, the gallery recorded a commission from an Australian private collection for the German duo. Across the Halle, The Hole (New York) were very pleased in visitors’ reactions to young American artist Drake Carr, selling six of the young artist’s 10 cut-canvas painted dancers to all new clients from Switzerland, Germany, and the United States. “This is Drake’s first time showing his art, really,” noted owner Kathy Grayson, not counting the gallery’s big debut with him in group show Post-Analogue Painting II this past spring, “and he’s been super well received.” “It’s been an amazing fair,” said Tomas Umrian, director of SODA gallery (Bratislava), taking a pause from his busy week receiving guests around three distinct positions, between contemporary talents Lucia Tallová and Jaro Varga and the late great Slovakian all-star Stano Filko. All told, the gallery recorded multiple sales of Filko’s crucial works from the ‘70s, including an additional 20 works situated at the gallery, plus Umrian noted intense interest from guests, including an Italian collector specializing exclusively in works from the 1970s, who came up on the booth 15 minutes past closing time earlier in the week and returned the next morning, ready to buy. “So let’s say it’s been fabulous!”

Chippy Coates (co-owner of Coates & Scarry, London) presents Penny Byrne’s ceramic Mother Russia vs Uncle Sam to a collector; Courtesy VOLTA13

The presence and importance of artists participating in this year’s Venice Biennale, or in years prior, was not lost VOLTA’s keen-minded visitors. Situated near the front, Tyler Rollins Fine Art (New York) enjoyed considered institutional attention to Sopheap Pich’s solo presentation, which related directly to the artist’s new body of work in Viva Arte Viva, the Main Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. “This was a good location for people who had seen the work in Venice,” commented gallerist Hisa Abe, noting great collectors like Uli Sigg had come by to spend time with Pich’s works. Over at Galerie Dukan (Paris/Leipzig), dealer Sam Dukan was ebullient after selling all six of Karine Rougier’s intense and surreal paintings on wood panel between a French collector and a prominent Swiss private collection, concurrent with the young artist’s co-representation of Malta at their national pavilion this year. “it’s been superb for Karine!” noted Dukan, who also recorded sales of four of Alexander Tinei’s recent large-scale paintings, as well as focused interest from three parties in the duo of Folkert De Jong bronze life-size sculptures. Anca Poterasu (of her namesake Bucharest gallery) sold Olivia Mihălțianu's cyanotype on canvas celluloid dress Blueprint, based on a dress made of film which the artist created when she was 14 years of age, to a new collector. Following the young Romanian artist’s acclaim in Venice two years ago, as part of Reflection Center for Suspended Memories: An Attempt, the gallery also recorded interest in her Lightbox series Trousse Beauté. Likewise, Poterasu sold from painter Iulian Bisericaru to new clients, including the large composition Diebenkorn’s Light, of an Alvar Aalto-designed home, to an important collection in Austria. Poterasu noted the painting was extremely well received through its early sale, including — coincidentally — by the owner of the house. Basel first-timers Art Front Gallery (Tokyo) enjoyed a strong first impression, as director Hideyuki Shoji recorded sales of Tadashi Kawamata’s intense mixed-media “plans for sites” to new collectors. Kawamata’s international career, which included the third Skulptur Projekte Münster and the 1998 Sydney Biennial, was launched in Venice at the Biennale in 1982. Along with the elder artist, the gallery moved neo-Nihonga compositions by Masatake Kouzaki and interest in Kouzaki Ono’s eyecatching 100-layer ink on aluminum ombre compositions. Beyond the eleven figurative paintings by British artist Lisa Wright, which went to a Belgian collector six times over and another two to a Taiwanese private collection, Coates & Scarry (London) were proud of Australian preeminent ceramicist Penny Byrne, who was featured prominently in Glasstress Gothika in collaboration with the Hermitage Museum at the 56th Venice Biennale and enjoyed critical acclaim in Basel this edition. The gallery moved three of Byrne’s reclaimed ceramic works, which featured deft and socially relevant interventions by the artist (refugee blankets here, heavy artillery there), to new clients, including the Charlie Hebdo inspired Mightier to a Paris collector. “We were really happy about that,” noted coowner Chippy Coates. “It’s the right place for the work to go!”

A VOLTA VIP photographs Faig Ahmed’s new handmade tapestry Secret Garden, presented by Montoro 12 Contemporary, Rome; Courtesy VOLTA13

First-time VOLTA Basel exhibitors enjoyed critical attention from a global audience. Following their debut at VOLTA NY this past March, Richard Koh Fine Art’s (Kuala Lumpur) clean and symmetric stand was a constant source of energy and vitality at Markthalle. A trio of Yeoh Choo Kuan’s metertall “fleshing abstraction” compositions went to a German client’s private collection in Switzerland early in the week, and dealer Koh noted the client “couldn’t decide which to buy, so after coming back three times to spend time with the paintings, he opted to buy all three.” The gallery recorded a further two Yeoh paintings sold, plus both of Anne Samat’s Tribal Chief mixed media “armored” compositions, which anchored the presentation and were comprised of pattern-drafted weaving plus traditional and mass-produced materials. “This collector from Belgium liked Anne’s works as a pair,” added Koh. Galerie Ramakers (The Hague) sold several of Willy de Sauter’s sublime monochromatic paintings to a major Dutch private collection, said director Catalijn Ramakers, whose focus is on minimalism from the 1960s to the present day. “This collector bought from Art as well but then they came here to buy, which was really great.” She also noted the sale of Michael Johansson’s major sculptural assemblage 180° - ØKS, comprised of brooms, pallets, concrete blocks, and other materials, to a private Belgian collector for 20,000 EUR. Montoro 12 Contemporary Art (Rome) moved two of Faig Amed’s handmade and show-stopping rugs to a private museum in Seoul, including the new work Secret Garden, plus Ahmed’s other new waterfall-like tapestry Guatama to a major New York collection. Continuing the thematic stand of “equilibrium”, the gallery sold several of Emmanuelle De Ruvo’s iron and mixed-media sculptures, including two to a familiar client from Brussels and another to a new contact in Spain. “It’s a good pace here,” noted Odetti Tsui of Galerie Ora-Ora (Hong Kong), as to visitor reactions to Peng Wei’s immersive solo installation at the fair, featuring contemporary ink compositions based on composers’ personal letters. “At other fairs like in Hong Kong, people are impatient. Peng Wei’s works take time. They’re not something I can explain quickly. Collectors here are grateful for that time.” From Berlin, Magic Beans were very pleased in their Basel debut, moving several of Giuseppe Gonella’s fantastical and colorful paintings to new buyers from the United States, Denmark, and Switzerland; coupled with complimentary booth artist Seungwoo Park’s stainless steel mesh sculpture, the gallery recorded sales over 60,000 EUR. “It’s been a good mix this week,” noted dealer Christian Efremidis. “An international mix!”

Francesco Giaveri (near right, of ADN Galería, Barcelona) discusses works by Carlos Aires and Kendell Geers with a collector; Courtesy VOLTA13

Longtime VOLTA galleries were enlivened by the week. After a thoughtful start to their typically sociopolitical stand, ADN Galería (Barcelona) received firm results, selling all ten of Avelino Sala’s 21st Century Icarus series of inkjet prints on duck pens of Google-sourced captures of World Trade Center victims to the 21c Museum (Louisville, KY); as well as a Eugenio Merino sculpture to an Albanian collector; Carlos Aires’ new Christ from behind bronze Punished; and a brand-new Kendell Geers fetish sculpture to Lugano. The Flat – Massimo Carasi (Milan) sold three of Paolo Cavinato’s Wings sculptures, plus several pieces from the artist’s signature “fishing line” Continuous City series, including a statement composition in black (9,000 EUR) to a Turkish collector who had seen the work in Artsy’s fair preview. Carasi added a commission to Cavinato’s upcoming plans, and as well sold one of Michelangelo Penso’s Colonne sonore hanging ceramic sculptures to Tel Aviv and Sauro Cardinali’s statement multilayered, two-meter-long lacquered beech wood floor sculpture Nestore (30,000 EUR) to a Belgian collector. Over at Pablo’s Birthday (New York), dealer Arne Zimmermann balanced a constant flow of visitors singlehandedly, all week long, selling in total all four of the Thorsten Brinkmann large-scale photographic works he brought to Basel, plus four minimal compositions by Michael Rouillard, one of Angelika Schori’s painted geometric reliefs, all three of Eckart Hahn’s surrealist paintings, and six of Pius Fox’s minimalist paintings, ranging from A4 scale to meter-tall. “It’s been a really good fair for me,” noted Zimmermann. In their fifth consecutive Basel edition, Tezukayama Gallery (Osaka) mounted an ambitious approach by pairing several decades’ worth of mid-career artist Moriyuki Kuwabara’s compass-drawn ink compositions on paper and canvas against two younger artists, Tets Ohnari and Satoru Tamura. Of the elder Kuwabara, the gallery was extremely successful, as dealer Ryoichi Matsuo counted a dozen sales of the artist’s paintings to an international base of new clients, as well as Ohnari’s carved book sculpture dear no. 4. Zavier Ellis, owner of Charlie Smith London, was introspective in his fifth consecutive Basel fair. Going over sales for the week for his multi-artist booth Interiority, the gallerist counted three sales for Florian Heinke and Wendy Mayer each, plus five for Hugh Mendes, seven for John Stark, one for Gavin Nolan, six for Kiera Bennett and a sold-out showing (seven all told) for — no relation — Emma Bennett, following the artist’s success at VOLTA NY “I am pleased with an amazing performance for Kiera in her debut here, and I am delighted by the sales and equally so about the quality of collectors. It’s been a really great fair, without a doubt one of the best we’ve done.”

Dana Dal Bo (left, presenting a solo installation with dc3 Art Projects, Edmonton) immerses with VOLTA guests in her site-specific and interactive project self-less; Courtesy VOLTA13

Thematic presentations, whether solo or multi-artist, underscored the fair’s curatorial focus. Longtime VOLTA gallery V1 (Copenhagen) were impressed by visitor reception to Geoff McFetridge’s solo, immersive, interdisciplinary installation Stoner Forest II (Poem for the Literates), all a new body of work. Josephine Fity from the gallery noted sales of four large-scale paintings, a plant-shaped steel floor sculpture, a steel leaf sculpture, and a “photographic painting” — whereupon McFetridge photographs a blank canvas, prints the composition, then hand paints on the printed canvas — to collectors from America and throughout Europe. “The ‘photographic paintings’ are an entirely new direction for Geoff,” said Fity, “as this relation of object to painting to image is very important to him.” Returning for her second Basel outing with an ambitious group presentation around Yuval Noah Harari’s masterwork Sapiens, Kristin Hjellegjerde (of her namesake London gallery) was enlivened by visitor reactions and sales, moving half the brand-new works on view to new and familiar clients alike, including Sverre Malling’s new pencil on paper work Yucca Man and Ephrem Solomon’s statement 10-meter scroll painting Life + Reflections 2. From their solo presentation of young Italian artist Tindar’s mixed-media works referencing the refugee crisis and human interconnectivity, Galerie T&L (Paris) added an ace to their week, moving the 3.5-meter-wide booth centerpiece Untitled – Triptych [Root, Bible, Quran, Torah], composed of an enormous pencil rendering of tree roots spread across old book pages of religious texts, to a new client from Asia. “An intense week!” said co-owner Léopold Legros. “Indeed,” chimed in co-owner Tancrède Hertzog, “we have made many good contacts from all over the world.” Four-time Basel veteran Patrick Mikhail (of his namesake Montréal and Ottawa spaces) was likewise aglow, selling Thomas Kneubühler’s large-scale photographic print Twilight (9,000 CND) and several smaller prints, plus an embossed edition by Natasha Mazurka, to new collectors. He was particularly happy with reception to Amy Schissel, his first VOLTA artist, whose wall installation at this fair (valued at 66,000 CND) was on reserve to a Miami consultant who had been interested in Schissel’s conveyance of digital media since her introduction in 2014. “She said, ‘it’s time — after staring at these beautiful works, to do something about it’,” remarked Mikhail, who added that the sales and the engagement with guests has been strong. “I’ve accumulated more business cards in these six days than I would have at the gallery in one year — and these are serious clients.” Of their sociopolitical four-artist booth, RoFa Projects (Potomac) received much critical interest, including a possible commission for Mauricio Esquivel’s hand-cut coins wall intervention Displacement Line and immediate sales of Santiago Veléz’s brand-new Dignity series, referencing Doctors Without Borders and the familiar gold blanket, to Swiss collectors. Musing on artist Dana Dal Bo’s site-specific and interactive installation self-less, which was partially staged in the Markthalle restrooms, dc3 Art Projects’ (Edmonton) director Michelle Schultz was introspective. “It’s been a very successful first Basel fair for us. We made contacts with new people and reconnected with people we knew from New York. People have been responsive and recognized Dana’s works after seeing them in the W.C..” She added that there had been good curatorial attention and approach toward Dal Bo’s project, adding, “For us, being in Basel was important, to build these relationships.”

Between meetings with clients at Art Basel, at dinners, and at his annual Rhine-side apéro, Alfred Kornfeld, owner of four-time VOLTA Basel stalwart Galerie Kornfeld (Berlin), was energized. “I need a base — I need to build something up here,” he indicated, gesturing as much to Markthalle as to the city of Basel itself. “I don’t want ‘just’ a project booth at the big fair, and then the next year I don’t have that base again. I like being here, because VOLTA’s a good fair.” He noted several sales of Franziska Klotz’s large-scale paintings, based on photographs of social conflict and strife, as well as two of Hubertus Hamm’s Molded Mirrors, for a week-end net sales of 145K EUR. Over at HilgerBrotKunsthalle (Vienna), director Michael Kaufmann sold a pair of Assunta Abdel Azim Mohamed’s large-scale and hyper-detailed ink on paper figurative compositions to a Swiss collector new to the artist.

Karla Osorio (center, owner of Gabinete de Arte k2o, Brasília) discusses Galeno’s colorful oil on wood compositions with collectors; Courtesy VOLTA13

“First view, first love, first choice,” noted Kaufmann. Adding that the young Egyptian-Austrian artist’s first sculptural intervention, 12 Gifte, was in serious discussions, Kaufmann also recorded a major wall-sized commission work for a Belgian collector, following Mohamed’s diploma exhibition at Heilingenkreuzerhof. Rutger Brandt Gallery (Amsterdam) sold both of Enrico Freitag’s paintings to a Chinese collector for their new museum collection, planned for Shanghai in 2019, as well as a sold-out performance for young Spanish painter Carlos Sagrera, following the artist’s major showing with the gallery at VOLTA NY 2017. Jerome O Drisceoll, owner of Green On Red Gallery (Dublin) received many guests interested in Alan Butler’s interdisciplinary body of work, referencing fictional plants sourced from video games. He sold four of Butler’s two-meter-tall pigment prints as well as two trompe-l’oeil “tape” paintings by Caroline McCarthy to a Viennese collector. In their Basel debut, Gabinete de Arte k2o (Brasília) mounted an ambitious and international booth by four midcareer minimalists, Brazilians Galeno and Almandrade contrasted with Belgian Gauthier d’Ydewalle and Surinamese-Dutch artist Roland Gebhardt, to superlative returns. “It has been nonstop!” remarked owner Karla Osorio, in a rare moment when she was not speaking with a client or following correspondence on her laptop. “Tell him!” she indicated to artist d’Ydewalle, who was standing by and present for much of the week. “Yes, this has been a strong experience,” he agreed. “I am very happy.” All told, the gallery sold five of d’Ydewalle’s compositions, with a further two on reserve, plus six geometric abstractions on wood by Galeno (following the artist’s solo debut in New York this past March), as well as four of Gebhardt’s compositions and several of Almandrade’s works to museum and institutional collections. “The action has been well divided, as we have been selling all artists, and all of them to major collections and to institutions,” added Osorio, noting further reserves for Almandrade from Swiss, Belgian, and French institutions. Around the corner, YOD Gallery (Osaka) had sold out of Hidehito Matsubara’s acrylic on hand-appliquéd paper on panel compositions, as well as six of outsider artist Hebime abraded and psychedelic paintings, plus several statement kinetic works by Masakazu Fujiwara, including the artist’s major work Capsule Bugs (Creep) to a new Zúrich client. Across the corridor at Galerie Thomas Fuchs (Stuttgart), dealers Fuchs and Andreas Pucher tallied an exceptionally keen attention to Jochen Hein’s enigmatic large-scale paintings, equally hyperreal and vibrantly abstract and all priced at an average of 16K EUR apiece. The paintings went to a variety of international clients, many of whom were entirely new to the gallery, and one in particular with a collection of contemporary masterpieces including Gerhard Richter. “What a fair,” said Fuchs, “by Saturday we had sold the thirteenth work of Jochen Hein during VOLTA13. This fair really was a lucky one for us!”

A distinguished coterie of VOLTA VIPs and institutions visited the fair’s thirteenth edition during Art Basel Week, including: Jean Pigozzi (Geneva); Barbara and Jules Farber (Marseilles); Rüdi Sutter (Basel); Marcos and María Amazia León de Jorge (Dominican Republic); Galila Barzical Hollander (Brussels); Susannah Hagen (London); Laura Lee Brown, Steve Wilson, and Alice Gray Stites (21c Museum, Louisville KY); Cornelia Dietschi Schmid (Basel); Bailey Sachs (Santa Fe); Heike Suetter (independent curator and former longtime curator for the European Central Bank); Marianne Corp (director, National Art Gallery of Copenhagen); Christoph Oswald (curator, Museum of Concrete Art, Zürich); J. Luis Tranche (FCDP, Malága); Knight Landesman (Publisher, Artforum international); representatives from the Sander Collection (Zürich/Berlin/Amsterdam); representatives from Museum Helmond (The Netherlands); Curators from Fondation Beyeler (Riehen/Basel); curators from the Tate (London); curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York); curators from the Centre Pompidou (Paris); trustees from the Guggenheim Museum (New York); trustees from Museum of Art and Design (New York); representatives from the Centre Ponce de Leon (Puerto Rico); representatives from the Ulmer Museum (Ulm, DE); Curators from the Netherlands Ceramics Museum; as well as many other art-lovers.

While there was a certain lazy summer mood — the intense heat slowed us all down — and the city of Basel felt emptier than recent years (whether that was because everyone was swimming in the Rhine or were elsewhere on the ‘Grand Tour’ of biennales and the like), we were thrilled that this did not impact the fair negatively,” Amanda Coulson noted. “We observed both consistent visitor numbers and consistent sales as well as an increased institutional presence, which showed us that, at 13 years of age, we have the respect of the audience — both locally and internationally — that our galleries and artists deserve.”