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
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.
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.