Art Basel and Beyond


While many in the art world are sitting out or cutting back on this summer’s round of international events because of slashed travel budgets, fair organizers and art dealers are still banking on Basel. Some collectors, however, citing the global downturn, have observed that it feels unseemly to go on an art-buying spree when charitable causes are in dire need, or when their friends’ fortunes have been wiped out. One tool of persuasion is the argument that the art world is an ecosystem and that, ultimately, it’s the average artists (not the Damien Hirsts) who suffer when spending stops.

For the well-heeled and the optimistic still making the journey to Switzerland, whether to buy or to window-shop, see or be seen, here are some highlights:

[June 10-14], in its 40th installment as the preeminent contemporary art fair, takes place at Messe Basel. Nearly 300 international galleries will feature more than 2,500 artists, ranging from modern masters to emerging talents.

The buzz of this year’s fair is “Il Tempo del Postino,” an “opera” of time-based art by some 20 artists and teams. Directed by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and artists Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala and Rirkrit Tiravanija, the performance includes works by Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney & Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Koo Jeong-A, Tino Sehgal and Thomas Demand, along with the artist-directors. The presentation, which premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2007, is here organized by Art Basel, Fondation Beyeler and Theater Basel, where it will be staged in three ticketed performances.

VOLTA [June 8-13] moves to the Markthalle, five tram stops from the Messe. Some 110 galleries have been selected by the curatorial board, this year comprising Adam Budak, curator of Kunsthaus Graz and co-curator of Manifesta 7; Christoph Doswald, Zurich-based critic and curator; Tom Morton, curator at the Hayward in London; Jasper Sharp, Vienna-based curator and writer; and Stephanie Smith, curator at Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. New York-based Lithuanian sculptor Zilvinas Kempinas has been selected to create a limited edition for the fair.

SCOPE [June 8-14] is also in a new location at Sportplatz Landhof, Riehenstrasse 78a, a stone’s throw from the main event. The fair will feature 90 international galleries showcasing emerging art, a number of solo or thematic group shows and a special section curated by Berlin Art Projects. New York artist Reed Barrow is creating a major installation using smoke, light and mirrors.

ART ASIA, Scope’s sister fair, opens in Basel following its debut in Miami last December. Some 100 exhibitors of contemporary Asian art will show work in tandem with the international mix at the Scope venue.

LISTE [June 9-14], with a focus on youth, has 64 galleries from 24 countries, none of the venues more than five years old and all showing artists under age 40. A performance program that changes daily will present works by nine artists. The fair is located at Burgweg 15, about a 10-minute walk from Art Basel.

Basel also has a wealth of noncommercial viewing opportunities:

, in conjunction with Art Basel, is presenting a free lecture-performance on June 13 by 2008 Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey. Also on view is “Little Theatre of Gestures,” a group show inspired by 19th-century Jamaican painter Isaac Mendes Belisario, which features works about small gestures of change. Artists include Kutlug Ataman, Isaac Mendes Belisario, Iñaki Bonillas, Gerard Byrne, Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda, Rodney Graham, Hilary Lloyd, Kirsten Pieroth and Susanne M. Winterling. The museum is located at St. Alban-Rheinweg 60.

KUNSTMUSEUM BASEL, St. Alban-Graben 16, is featuring “Vincent van Gogh, Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes,” including 70 paintings by van Gogh along with 40 by his contemporaries.

, is mounting an Alberto Giacometti survey with over 100 works from the family’s and international collections, along with art by Alberto’s father, Giovanni, his brother, Diego, and his uncle, Augusto. The foundation is at Baselstrasse 101.

The SCHAULAGER, Rarely open to the public and usually dedicated to contemporary art—is presenting “Holbein to Tillmans,” a show of 200 artworks created between 1500 and the present. Most of the objects hail from the collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel, which removed works from its galleries to make room for the van Gogh exhibition. The exhibition includes the titular artists as well as Cranach, Degas, Giacometti, Beuys, Warhol, Nauman and Wall. The Schaulager is at Ruchfeldstrasse 19.

KUNSTHALLE BASEL, Steinenberg 7, has a show of works by Danh Vo, the Denmark-based Vietnamese artist known for his semi-autobiographical conceptual installations, opening June 11.

, presents a show of abstract canvases by Pia Fries at the Bâloise Group headquarters at Aeschengraben 21. The insurance holding company also sponsors the Bâloise Art Prize, awarded at Art Basel.

, St. Jakob-Strasse 170, is featuring a film by Javier Téllez, paintings and sculptures by Michael Bauer, and mixed-medium installations by Hagar Schmidhalter.

[All shows debut in advance of the fairs unless an opening date is provided.]

From the top: Philippe Parreno’s Postman Time, part of “Il Tempo del  Postino” at Art Basel; Olafur Eliasson’s Echo House (2007) will be presented in “Il Tempo del Postino” at Art Basel.]