Art Basel: First Impressions

by Art Fag City on June 10, 2009 · 18 comments Events


Joseph Kosuth, Three Adjectives Described, 1965, red, blue and green neon. 4 1/2 x 88 inches. Sean Kelly Gallery, Art Basel

I have yet to see an economy so poor it completely eradicates bad art, though you’d think from the way people talk about the faltering market, that might actually happen. That said, I share the sentiment of many I spoke with today; the quality of work at Basel markedly improves upon that of previous fairs. “In bad years you have to bring quality back to sell art,” gallerist Peter Noser told me, “In good years you’re selling stuff in storage because everything sells.”

According to the Art Newspaper, this logic seems to be working. “Collectors unleashed pent-up buying power,” glows the newspaper’s reporter Lindsay Pollock today, though  professionals are cautious about making grand statements about the return of money to the market.  “I’m not saying the bull market is  back,” art adviser Sandy Heller told the Art Newspaper, “but the art market needed a good fair, and this is it.”

My impressions thus far match Heller’s, but in a fair this size, it’s hard to be sure of anything.  I met several artists yesterday who had been looking at art for more than three hours; each looked as if a truck had hit them.  As for AFC, we saw as much as we possibly could before running out of time and energy, which still only constitutes about half of the main fair.

As per usual, we’re providing an image essay in the form of various fair awards based on our viewing thus far.

Best in Show Finalist


Kaye Donachie, To Conjure You Up and Make You Fade, 2009, Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, Marianne Boesky.

Can the tragic and the romantic co-exist?  If the above portrait by Kaye Donachie is any indication, the answer to this question is a resounding yes.  Donachie uses the lives of pioneering bohemians such as Hermann Hesse, Ludwig Kirchner, Colette and Hans Castorp as the subject and inspiration for her work.

Kaye Donachie currently has a solo show on view at Peres Projects Berlin.

Best Contemporary Landscape Finalist


Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Landscape with Mountain Sea, 2006, Objects, cloth, oil on canvas. Sean Kelly Gallery

The shirt gradient above makes this piece for me.  It’s unexpected, yet uniquely suited to the piece.

Beautiful Triangle Trend: Green, Mustard and Yellow!


Matthias Zinn,
Haufen, 2008, Mai 36 Galerie


Wolfgang Liab,
Untitled, 2007, Two beeswax on wooden shelf. Sean Kelly Gallery


Wolfgang Liab,
Untitled, 2006, pencil and oil and pastel on paper. Sean Kelly Gallery

Best Use of Cacti in Art


David Shrigley, The Philosopher, 2009, Galerie Francesca Pia

Why do philosopher’s brains grow plants?  David Shrigley doesn’t attempt to answer this question.

Object Most Resembling Corporate Art


Patrick Hill,
Ruins, 2008, Wood, glass, marble, dye, ink, bleach, concrete, steel, 99.5 x 42 x 42 inches

This Whitney Biennial alumnus had a similar work on display at the museum’s show in 2008. I didn’t care for it then either.

Best themed-art


Gavin Turk, The Goodman Gallery

Harry Potter paraphernalia makes an appearance at Art Basel!

Art work following the most ill-advised trend.


Gerosa Gabriella,
Studies of Ballet Dancers, Video, 10 minute loop.

I never thought I’d have to say this, but how many framed video portraits do I have to see?  Thanks to Pulse, The Venice Biennale Polish Pavilion (amongst others), and now Basel for showcasing this trend.

Object Most Resembling Contemporary Art That Isn’t


Manfred Cutter,
Holy Chair, 1962, Johann Konig, Berlin

Manfred Cutter’s neon pink chair had us fooled!


John Armleder,
De Carlo Gallery

Having made Fluxus, Neo-Geo, and installation art, John Armleder now moves on to Christmas ball grid paintings. This permutation of a radically evolving art making practice clearly falls into his less successful endeavors.

Most Excessive Use of Toast in an Art Work

Anthony Gormley,
Consumption, 1982, Bread, glass, at Galerie Nordenhake

This piece finds an unlikely art fair companion with Joe Bradley’s more successful Bread, exhibited at the 2008 Armory in New York. Bradley exchanged his trademark figures fashioned out of canvas for his four toast-toned monochrome canvases.  Both provide a fairly superficial examination of consumption, but at least Bradley managed to pull off a good joke about it.

  • greg.org

    wow, I would’ve thought Kelly sold those early Kosuths last year, market implosion or no.

  • greg.org

    wow, I would’ve thought Kelly sold those early Kosuths last year, market implosion or no.

  • greg.org

    wow, I would’ve thought Kelly sold those early Kosuths last year, market implosion or no.

  • http://c-monster.net/ C-Monster

    sigh. i heart food art. thought it woulda been cooler if it’s been made of pop tarts. frosted.

  • http://c-monster.net/ C-Monster

    sigh. i heart food art. thought it woulda been cooler if it’s been made of pop tarts. frosted.

  • http://c-monster.net/ C-Monster

    sigh. i heart food art. thought it woulda been cooler if it’s been made of pop tarts. frosted.

  • http://nicholasknight.net/wordpress Nick

    The Shrigley is funny, not least because his Art Unlimited booth is so prickly too.

    I had the impression that there should be a moratorium on various kinds of sticks leaning against the wall. A lot of that this year.

  • http://nicholasknight.net/wordpress Nick

    The Shrigley is funny, not least because his Art Unlimited booth is so prickly too.

    I had the impression that there should be a moratorium on various kinds of sticks leaning against the wall. A lot of that this year.

  • http://nicholasknight.net/wordpress Nick

    The Shrigley is funny, not least because his Art Unlimited booth is so prickly too.

    I had the impression that there should be a moratorium on various kinds of sticks leaning against the wall. A lot of that this year.

  • boogiewoogie

    the kosuths were probably only released in time for this years artfair…artists tend to hold back early inventory….great piece

  • boogiewoogie

    the kosuths were probably only released in time for this years artfair…artists tend to hold back early inventory….great piece

  • boogiewoogie

    the kosuths were probably only released in time for this years artfair…artists tend to hold back early inventory….great piece

  • John Francis

    What comes to mind for me is that this is the worst show I have seen in years. Crap construction sums what could have been the theme.
    Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Landscape with Mountain Sea………oh yeah…give me a break!….Well at least there was a Wim Delvoye there

  • John Francis

    What comes to mind for me is that this is the worst show I have seen in years. Crap construction sums what could have been the theme.
    Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Landscape with Mountain Sea………oh yeah…give me a break!….Well at least there was a Wim Delvoye there

  • John Francis

    What comes to mind for me is that this is the worst show I have seen in years. Crap construction sums what could have been the theme.
    Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Landscape with Mountain Sea………oh yeah…give me a break!….Well at least there was a Wim Delvoye there

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