The Basel Art Fair is the world’s premier international art show for modern and contemporary works. Approximately 300 leading galleries from around the globe featuring more than 2500 artists, ranging from modern masters to emerging talent, are on view in the show’s multiple sections. The quality and quantity of works for sale is awesome and overwhelming. Despite opening anxiety due to the current market conditions, business was much better than expected. The fair reported 61,000 art lovers in attendance by the closing day. Although there were fewer Americans than usual, Europeans were out in full force. In it’s 40th year, Art Basel is the main event, but the entire town is given over to art during this period. Satellite fairs included Scope, Volta, Liste, and Design Miami. The major museums including the Kunstmuseum, the Kunsthalle, Schaulager and the Beyeler add to the must-see list.
The Art Unlimited section of the Basel Art Fair was launched in 2000 to showcase large-scale installations, video projections, massive sculptures and live performances. Works are selected by the Art Committee and curated by by Geneva curator, Simon Lamuniere. In addition to the individual gallery booths, this section is always a lively highlight of the main Fair. The sculpture above by renown Indian artist, Bharti Kher, is a fallen tree made of fiberglass whose leaves are hundreds of gargoyle-like animal heads.
Following its success in Miami Beach, Design Miami/Basel has become a more highly anticipated part of the scene, featuring both historical and contemporary furniture. The historical works exemplify pioneering forms and techniques of impeccable quality and rarity. The contemporary works represent the height of limited-edition production while embracing the most progressive design directions. The presentation is closely vetted, moving from pieces of exceptional refinement to exhilarating new statements.
The Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near Basel, was designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 1997. The collection comprises approximately 200 works by 40 artists beginning with Late- and Post Impressionism, through Cubism, American Abstract Expressionism and selected European modernists. These works are supplemented by sculptures from Africa, Alaska and Oceania. The exquisite aesthetics of the architecture framing the artworks of exceptional quality combine for an unparalleled viewing experience. Every time I am in this museum, I am moved to tears. It is visually and intellectually arresting at the highest level.
In contrast to Art Basel, the satellite fairs generally offer younger and less well known artists at prices that are more accessible than those found at the main fair. The presentations may be quite uneven, but combing through them is informative and useful for discovering new galleries, new artists or familiar artists in unexpected places. Whether you’re a connoisseur or a novice, a week spent in Basel during the fair is one of the richest art experiences of the year.