This week sees the art world descend on Switzerland for the 48th edition of Art Basel, the giant of Modern and Contemporary art fairs. Bringing together more than 290 of the world’s leading galleries and showing works by more than 4,000 artists (with an estimated collective value of over $3 billion), the fair officially opens this Thursday (15th June).  Launched in the 1970s, when art fairs were rarities, the event now welcomes almost 100,000 visitors a year and has also expanded with editions in Miami Beach and Hong Kong, as well as an ever-increasing roster of partnerships and initiatives.

More than a simple selling event, Art Basel is an invaluable opportunity to make connections, meet influencers and learn about future trends and patterns. Highlights of ‘Conversations’, the talks programme, include ‘New Rules: Is the Artworld a Mature Industry?’, a panel discussion with Lindsay Pollock, Adam Sheffer, Bob Tennis, Olav Velthuis and Pierre Valentin.  Other speakers during the fair include Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine), Josh Baer, Yazan Khalili, Frances Morris (Tate Modern) and Beatrix Ruf (Stedelijk Museum). This edition continues to include an increasing amount of experimental film and theatre, with ‘The Film’ programme curated by Cairo-based film curator Maxa Zoller, including works by John Akomfrah, Eric Baudelaire, Ugo Rondinone and Filipa César amongst others.  Breaking down not only creative, but physical barriers, ‘Parcours’, created by Samuel Leuenberger, will also place sculptures and performances in neighbourhoods around the old town as the event expands and firmly makes its mark on the city.

Since its introduction in 2000, ‘Unlimited’ is a section of the fair that has given galleries the opportunity to showcase monumental sculptures, video projections, wall paintings and performance art un-restricted by their limited stand space.  Don’t miss ‘Cooking the World’ (2017) by Subodh Gupta (b.1964) which recreates a shelter made entirely from aluminium utensils, in which he carries out a cooking and eating performance, and Donald Moffett’s (b. 1955) ‘IMPEACH’ (2006), an immersive sound work composed of ten alternating audio speakers resounding the powerful speech of Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia as he defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings in 1998. 

Many seek to take advantage of the influx of art lovers to the city, with a host of other art exhibitions, fairs and events planned for the week.  Also worth a visit are Photo Basel, Liste and Volta13.

And if (or when) you need a break from the fair, head to the Kunstmuseum for an exhibition of Richard Serra’s films and videos.  Less well known than his huge steel sculptures, they provide an interesting insight into the mind of the influential American artist.  The Kunstmuseum Basel possesses the most comprehensive and significant collection of drawings by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) which form the basis of Hidden Cezanne, which is also currently on show.  With over 200 works the show emphasises the importance of drawing to all of Cezanne’s oeuvre.
Anthony McNerney, Gurr Johns’ Director of Contemporary Art, will be in Basel this week. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions: amcnerney@gurrjohns.com