From Art Basel With Love

From Art Basel With Love

Despite a volatile market, this year's fair in Switzerland proved that the Art world is as strong and resilient as ever

Despite a volatile market, this year's fair in Switzerland proved that the Art world is as strong and resilient as ever

Text: Tania Farouki

Stepping outside the Bahnhof, the lack of ostentatious movement and noise was perhaps bewildering, considering art aficionados from all over the world were gathering to attend Art Basel, the forefather of all art fairs—easily the instigator of market trends, if you will, since 1970.

The fair was preparing to fully open its doors to the public as it does every year during the month of June. Prior to the official opening, collectors, professionals and connoisseurs alike get a first glimpse at what the world's most respected and emerging galleries have to offer. It's also when most sales are done and sealed.

Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2015. Oil and enamel on canvas. Gagosian Gallery.

As it were, I was graciously invited by my childhood friend and up-and-coming art dealer Thea Montauti d'Harcourt to attend the preview, whose innate love of contemporary art (and meticulous knowledge of the current market) flows from her gleaming hazel eyes and acute observations.

While trying to get over the silent composure of the Swiss German city, it was clear the fair possessed a world of its own.

Entering the building, energies were imminently awake and crowds of some rather well-dressed individuals were eager to exchange thoughts, greet acquaintances, or simply post a display of taste onto their social media accounts. For most attendees, this one was perhaps the ultimate of social gatherings.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE ART AND THE SHOWSTOPPERS:

As we started to make our way around—and I casually recognized a bubbly Jean Pigozzi as well as best friends Dasha Zhukova and Derek Blasberg—we reached a couple of the all-star/blue chip/heavyweight art 'machines.'

Roy Lichtenstein, Abstract Painting, 1983. Oil and magna on canvas. Gagosian Gallery.

First stop: Gagosian Gallery, home to the most notable and major works by the establishment the world can't seem to get enough of and who, one must note, does not label displayed pieces. Among them: Koons, infusing Baroque with pop in Gazing Ball (Rembrandt Self-Portrait Wearing a Hat); Ruscha, giving mountain symmetry a new meaning in Level As A Level; Lichtenstein, subjecting his pop art vocation with a meaningful brush stroke in Abstract Painting; and finally a sublime Stingel oil and enamel on canvas work echoing the palace of Versailles' Hall of Mirrors with Untitledall unique pieces.

Naturally, Stingel, it turns out, was quite present throughout the fair, with other works displayed at Richard Gray and Massimo De Carlo galleries.

Julian Schnabel, Untitled, 2015. Pace Gallery.

Next up, it was a purple haze at Pace Gallery, where the booth displayed a series of violet hues by Schnabel (the artist recently made the move from Gagosian), all done on polyester surfaces and inspired by photographs of his studio floor.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 2016. Dye sublimation metal prints. Metro Pictures.

Around the corner, a fashion favorite was undoubtedly the star showcase at Metro Pictures: Cindy Sherman, the photographer and author of conceptual self-portraits known for taking on the roles of model, makeup artist and wardrobe stylist all rolled into one, and for her notable collaborations with fashion houses such as Balenciaga, had her most recent work delve into the roaring twenties. This time however, the artist looked uniquely to thrift stores and personal archives for the exaggerated wardrobe worn by women posing seductively and rendering publicity shots of the decade.

TO KNOW IS TO COLLECT, TO COLLECT IS TO KNOW:

As we began to get a real sense of the fair, and the overwhelming amount of available artwork as a whole, Thea started pointing out her favorite artists of the moment, believing their value will only go up from here; some already well established, others reaching an important phase in their career.

Fausto Melotti, Con Gli Specchi (with mirrors), 1979. Brass, clay, mirror. Hauser & Wirth.

Fausto Melotti for instance, a pioneering sculptor and painter who, along with Lucio Fontana, ruled the Milanese scene within abstract and minimalist movements. Showcased most notably at Hauser & Wirth, Gallerio Dello Scudo and Waddington Custot, Thea considers him the real instigator of the movement and highly underrated.

Chung Sang-Hwa, a force in Korean Dansaekhwa--also known as abstract or monochrome painting—has manifested a constant evolution over the years, marking a firm and recognizable trademark using texture and patterns. Sang-Hwa currently has a joint solo exhibition on view at Dominique Lévy (focusing on a more historical angle with whom he has been for years) presented with Greene Naftali (showcasing a survey of recent works), in collaboration with Seoul's Gallery Hyundai.

Reena Spaulings acts as a double identity, first as artist, the other as art dealer. By far the most refreshing way to present artwork, Reena Spaulings (named after the novel headed by the arts collective Bernadette Corporation) emerged from the art gallery founded by John Kelsey and artist Emily Sundblad in 2004. Since then, the body of work, ranging from marble surfboards to monochrome canvases, is produced by a community of talents, and showcased mainly at the eponymous gallery as well as Campoli Presti in London.

Cheyney Thompson, an American abstract artist who makes optical illusion a normalcy, as seen in his Stochastic Process series. Also shown at Campoli Presti as well as Andrew Kreps Gallery,Thompson is well versed when it comes to sculpture too, having previously showed extensive installations surrounding the themes of production and reception.

FOR ART'S SAKE:

Truth be told, one could go on and on listing artists who are deemed collectable or whose value is sure to skyrocket in the next five years. Attending many art fairs and exhibitions alike, one can't help but ponder on how subjectivity can rule such a market, and how notions of beauty can make Kapoor trump a Renoir.

There is constant talk about the art market being volatile, the threat of Brexit, the overall global economy. And yet, as the fair drew to a close, reports soon swept in to disclose that general sales were outstanding. We may be in a period of uncertainty, but isn't life built on the very power of uncertainty? After absorbing visual ecstasy after visual ecstasy all day, one thing remained certain: beauty and art, however you see it, will save the day.

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