On the one hand, this does justice to the growing
importance of contemporary art as an area for young collectors or those
still young at heart; on the other hand, Basel increasingly has to compete
with other art fairs, particularly in the past year, when the new
Frieze Art Fair in London decided to focus on the latest trends in art
with great success.
Work by Bernhard Frize
NÄCHST ST. STEPHAN, Wien
This year, it
was impossible to overlook: in the area of contemporary art, painting
shone forth more than ever before, often opulent and brilliant in color,
as though it wanted to cloak the dreariness of the everyday.
Franz Ackermann's fascinating visual worlds (
neugerriemschneider) looked as though they wanted to transport the public
into other galaxies, while the paintings of
Katharina Grosse, which seem to abandon themselves to the chance flow of
paint, liberate the fantasy (
nächst St. Stephan and Mark
Müller Gallery). The paintings of
Bernard Frize also attracted attention at countless booths, selling well
with their thickly applied fields of adjacent color. In addition, a whole
group of paintings that carry on the tradition of concrete art in a new
way proved to be astonishingly dynamic, for instance the works of the
Karl Gerstner (Denise René Gallery
Karl Gerstner, Color fractal 3.12 self referential referential, 1984/1998
Courtesy Galerie Denise René, Paris
new art doesn't only invoke mathematical constructions or aesthetic
phenomena. In fact, it can't be reduced to a few simple features. More
than ever before, it is determined by a multitude of subjects and media;
works that revolve around existential themes found considerable space in
Basel, even including those addressing more morbid matters.
With her large sculptures of horses, whose amorphous bodies
seem twisted and contorted in a death-struggle, the artist
Berlinde de Bruyckere, who was already present at last year's Venice
Biennale, seeks moments that touch the viewer (
Hauser & Wirth and Continua
). De Bruyckere's unique and highly expressive formal language will
undoubtedly be attracting further attention in the future.
Berlinde De Bruyckere, K36 (The Black Horse), 2003
Courtesy Continua, San Gimignano
In any case, a
growing interest in sculpture could be perceived this year, as well. Works
of artists already established on the scene sold particularly well. Thus,
Karsten Greve Gallery was able to sell several works by
Louise Bourgeois. Xavier Hufkens
from Brussels also reported the successful sale of sculptures by the grande
dame, who'd already advanced to fifth place last year in the art compass
of the magazine Capital (23/2003).
John Chamberlain, which could be seen at several galleries, also found an
array of new owners.
A look at the positions of 17 "Art Statements"
chosen by the jury for the fair's special section on the first floor
proved highly interesting, with young artists from 12 countries showing
works created especially for the fair. It was impossible to overlook the
fact that narrative forms, conceptual approaches, and process art formed
the main focus. The choice of the Polish artist
Aleksandra Mir (*1967) and the British artist
Tino Sehgal (*1976) for the
Baloise Art Prize 2004 sent a strong signal. In her work, Aleksandra Mir
is concerned with analyzing social processes and rendering them visible.
She had an oversized umbrella fabricated with enough room for 16 people.
She then traveled to various cities in different countries with the
umbrella to investigate people's behavior regarding their sense of
community or disparity.
Tino Sehgal, who already won last year's
Art Prize of Böttcherstraße in Bremen and then made a name for
himself as a choreographer in Berlin, did entirely without a visual work,
even refusing to produce illustrations for the catalogue. His work
consists purely of interaction. He provides instructions, which are to be
carried out by one or several people. He too is interested in addressing
processes, investigating conventions, reactions, and the way in which
roles are understood. The images arise purely in the viewer's head or in
observing a given interaction. While this might not be a completely new
art theoretical approach, it is still a remarkable and contemplative
signal for a scene in which appearance seems to count more than anything
Once again, a visit to this year's Art Basel met with and
even surpassed every expectation: Art Basel is and remains a charismatic
stage for art of value.
Translation: Andrea Scrima