John Baldessari Presents: Art Basel 2010!

by Paddy Johnson on December 2, 2010 · 11 comments Art Fair

Art Basel at Night

“Something happened to the market earlier this year at the auctions and people are buying again” Gallerist Mary-Anne Martin told me yesterday morning though she could only speculate on the reasons why that might be citing art as a more desirable investment and nice to have.  The gallery sold work slated for the fair before it even opened — collectors were afraid the work would sell quickly once at the fair and purchased early to ensure securing the work. I heard variations on this story repeatedly yesterday, though Basel does not look anything like it did at the market’s height in 2007. The exuberance attached to art fairs in general has left. No more stories about how fairs will replace galleries. No more giant crowds of uber VIPs waiting to get into the fair. No more quotes from collectors telling me they got contact highs from the building alone. This is probably for the best, even if it reduces the number of outrageous quotes made for the blog.

As seems to be the trend with fairs these days, Basel also suffers from staleness. There are simply too many boring cubes to look at. I’ll be writing more about the fair at Art Agenda this week specially, Art Nova, but as per usual I’ve put together a few shots from the show. Let the slide show begin!


Basel opening

The VIP preview was pretty sparsely populated — people don’t start pouring in until the party at six. Here, no luxury goes untaxed. $20 for a glass of champagne, $100 for the bottle. No one gets drunk at the convention center.


Nicole Klagsburn

Matthew Marks Gallery

Miguel Abreu Gallery

Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art

Now imagine 250 more booths that look like this. It’s impossible to see everything.


John Baldessari, Sediment, Spear, Person, and Horse, 2010, varnished archival print on canvas, 54 x 70 inches at Marian Goodman

Guess who has a major touring retrospective? That’s right, John Baldessari! The show is currently at the Met after having come from The Tate London, and LACMA. Since prices often jump when an artist has a major show like this and Baldessari makes a lot of work by any standard — enough to fill four solo shows a year on average — he’s all over Basel this year. I like the artist and it’s still a little much for my taste.

John Baldessari from afar

John Baldessari at Gemini! John Baldessari, Nose/Silhouette, 2010, One color lithograph, 18 x 14 inches

John Baldesarri at Mai 36!


Hauser and Wirth, Installation view

It was a toss up between Hauser and Wirth and David Zwirner this year, but ultimately the Swiss gallery took the prize. That Paul McCarthy bronze is amongst my favorite of his works, and I liked that the booth wasn’t simply a reprise of work I’d seen at their New York location.


Blake Rayne and Liz Deschenes at Sutton Lane

This booth is gorgeous. Sutton Lane easily has the strongest emerging booth at Art Nova, beautifully pairing the reflective silver photograms by Liz Deschenes with Blake Rayne’s multi-process printed canvases. The work plays so well together I initially thought one artist was responsible for the show. I was wrong.


The obligatory Zaha Hadid designed booth

Someone gave me grief yesterday for describing this Zaha Hadid booth as overdone. “What’s your beef with Hadid? The booth looks beautiful and at least it’s not a cube” said one follower, who subsequently deleted the response. Galleries and artists who break away from the traditional format would do us all a service if it wasn’t exactly what you’d expect a “non-traditional booth” to look like. A jagged wall with many surfaces as the antidote to traditional spaces is about as unoriginal as the cube itself. Not surprisingly, the rest of the booth didn’t offer much either. Someone needs to tell Botero to stop making fat bronze horses [below].

Botero's fat horse


Terence Koh, Untitled (Group 3), 2006, 63 x 20 x 12 inches, plaster

It’s not too much surprise that Koh studied under Hadid. Both enjoy making grand statements. I’m not so into these heads with mouths designed for blow jobs, particularly when there aren’t five million of them. Granted, the multiple is a crutch Koh relies on too much (anything looks good if there’s a lot of it) but since there’s nothing remarkable about these works as is, I’d rather see them pumped up a little.


Marc Quinn, A Moment of Clarity, 2010, bronze, 71 x 25 1/2 x 21 1/4 inches, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac

You have to wonder what’s going on at an art fair when even the Marc Quinn sculptures seem restrained. Sure, a sad man holding a scull doesn’t leave much to the imagination — could he be contemplating death? — but this is subtle compared to a lot of his other work. Remember, this is the same artist who in 2008 produced a marble statue of a pregnant man.

Erwin Wurm, Kapuzenmann, 2010

What great secrets lie within this faceless hoodie? We may never know.

Britney Spears?

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this sculpture before, which I believe depicts Britney Spears. I tried finding the artist’s name in the gallery, but gave up after a while. I didn’t think I was going to say anything too positive about the piece so I didn’t go out of my way to find out more information.


Installation view, Praz-Delavallade

What’s an art fair without one wall papered booth visitors can’t escape? Thanks to Praz-Delavallade for providing this year’s fodder.


Mary Boone's table

Did this table loose it’s legs in transit?  I’m guessing the giant piece of glass Boone is texting over isn’t really supposed to be supported by the chairs surrounding it. Whatever the case, these kinds of accidents happen to even the best dealers.


Larry Gagosian texts!

Holy crap! The dealer lives! Having never seen Mr. Gagosian at an art fair, I was so shocked I forgot to ask him questions. I won’t let that happen twice.


JerrySaltz December 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Finally a photogrpaher that BACKS UP a few feet so you can actually SEE things and not just be forced to look at one damn thing.
Thank you.
More. From a few feet further back.
Jerry Saltz

Chris Rusak December 3, 2010 at 1:30 am

Where are all the shots of Abdi Farah?

christopher west December 3, 2010 at 4:52 am

I bought my Erwin Wurm back in the day for $100. What I wouldn’t do now to be able to afford his work again.

Mark Philip Venema December 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Thanks for sharing these. Agree with Jerry, great shots helping me feel what’s happening a bit and see a bit of work. Baldessari continues to surprise me with the variety and abundance of material. I saw one lone A4-sized diagramed photo of Baldessari’s at Art Toronto 2010 that I’d have acquired if I was a collector. I’d love to hear your thoughts on @SevenMiami … planning to get over there?

BM December 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

the Botero remark and my spill my coffee

Akorn December 6, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Hauser and Wirth is a Swiss gallery. Not a German gallery.

Lori Ortiz December 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Were there no women artists?

lori December 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Found one woman artist noted! (Besides Zaha Hadid)

TC December 7, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Interesting Sutton Lane comments…had a great presentation at Frieze this year as well.

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