Art Basel, mega-fair
with many highlights

This year’s iteration of Art Basel, the world’s preeminent art fair, was as clamorous as ever with 285 galleries from 34 countries offering modern and contemporary artworks to international collectors.

This year’s iteration of Art Basel, the world’s preeminent art fair, was as clamorous as ever with 285 galleries from 34 countries offering modern and contemporary artworks to international collectors. It’s no secret that most works are either pre-sold or reserved before the mega-fair opens, and the First Choice VIP vernissage thus saw collectors roving the fair’s two floors with scrutiny rather than targeting specific booths with frenetic determination. Say what you will of the market, the Art Basel fair offers a unique opportunity to view, side by side, museum quality works (Warhol, Bacon, Richter and Picasso were all over the first floor, as were Ana Mandeita and Marlene Dumas), art-star pomp (Hirst and Koons, which sold well) and a younger generation of strong-selling artists who are increasingly being added to museum collections. Such as Wade Guyton, for example, who is determined to control the market for his work: the American painter who manipulates his canvases with inkjet printers reacted to the hiked-up price one of his works had been recently auctioned for by reproducing five copies of that work and giving one to each of his five dealers at the fair. Whether this gesture managed to drive home the point is unclear, though: with a $350,000 price tag, all of them sold either on preview day or before.

Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Galleries | Gavin Brown’s enterprise | New York
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

Jordan Wolfson (Female Figure) 2014, 2014 Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

The fair’s second floor is a place where young, emerging artists can be discovered, in more concentrated sections like Feature and Statement that focus on solo presentations. Here, the sensibilities of like-minded peers working with ideas concerning technology and the body were omnipresent. Simon Denny, who will represent his native New-Zealand at next year’s Venice Biennale was represented by at least three dealers, while Katja Novitskova, who is also featured in a solo show in Basel’s hot new spot, SALTS, showed what turned out to be the fair’s most photographed work – a digital print on aluminum featuring a horse’s head, and a red graph curve balanced on a real trampoline. Pilar Corrias Gallery showed a film by 29-year-old John Skoog, who was awarded the Baloise Art Prize. Skoog’s work “Reduit (Redoubt)”, 2014 will be acquired by the Baloise Group and donated to a European museum collection.

Art Basel extends beyond the fairgrounds, however, with sections such as Parcours, curated by Florence Derieux, showing art in public around the city of Basel, and a film section, curated by Marc Glöde, that brings experimental art film to a 99-person cinema in the center of the city. For the third time this year, the Unlimited section, under the direction of Gianni Jetzer, makes the most out of the conundrum of a curated section within an art fair. Featuring mostly large-scale installations and video works by some 78 renowned artists, Unlimited is impressive in both scale and quality. A spacious room in the center of the expansive hangar was dedicated to the late German minimalist Hanne Darboven’s opus “Kinder dieser Welt” (1990-1996). The immersive work comprises of books in glass display tables, rows upon rows of toys arranged on the walls, and hundreds of musical scores. Darboven’s installation seeks to conjure up a cosmopolitan children's world as a symbol for an optimistic new beginning; it is precisely the generation born in the 90s that is now showing their work at the fair, but optimism isn’t necessarily their message.

The show on everyone’s lips however was without a doubt 14 Rooms, co-curated by MoMA PS1’s Klaus Biesenbach and Serpentine’s Hans Ulrich Obrist, and held in collaboration between Fondation Beyeler, Art Basel and Theater Basel. As the title suggests, 14 Rooms housed 14 individual performances activated on site, with works representing a cross generational approach to the medium of performance art, featuring Roman Ondak, Tino Sehgal, Yoko Ono, Damien Hirst, Otobong Nkanga, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Bruce Nauman, Allora & Calzadilla, Xu Zhen, Laura Lima, Joan Jonas, Marina Abramovic, Ed Atkins and Santiago Sierra, John Baldessari and Jordan Wolfson. It was one of those rare occasions when art critics and the masses agree: it was impossible not to be moved by the experience of the living art regardless of one’s command of contemporary and art historical discourses.

Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Galleries | David Zwirner | New York, London
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG
Katja Novitskova Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Statements |
Kraupa Tuskany Zeidler | Berlin | Katja Novitskova
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG
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Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Skarstedt Gallery | New York MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

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Ryan Gander | Make Everything like it’s your Last, 2013 Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Parcours Night | Lisson Gallery, gb agency | Make Everything like it’s your Last, 2013 | Ryan Gander
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

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Otobong Nkanga
Diaspore, 2014
Presented at 14 Rooms in Basel by Fondation Beyeler, Art Basel, Theater Basel in 2014
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

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Konrad Fischer Galerie, Sprueth Magers Berlin London Hanne Darboven
Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Unlimited | Hanne Darboven | Konrad Fischer Galerie, Sprueth Magers Berlin London
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

Johnen Galerie
Wiebke Siem
Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Unlimited | Wiebke Siem | Johnen Galerie
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG
Gladstone Gallery, Sprueth Magers Berlin London
Rosemarie Trockel
Art Basel in Basel 2014 | Unlimited | Rosemarie Trockel | Gladstone Gallery, Sprueth Magers Berlin London
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG