Art Basel is planning its return to Switzerland: but is it all about…


(MENAFN – USA Art News)

Art Basel returns to its traditional June dates this month (June 16-19) and with it a semblance of normality. Gone are the on-site Covid masks and tests, while visitor numbers are expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels. The number of galleries is also up: 289 compared to 272 last year (and 290 in 2019).

Referring to the regionalization of art fairs we’ve seen through much of the pandemic, Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel, notes that by contrast, the Swiss event has “more galleries applying for years. places like the Middle East and Africa than ever before”. . He adds, “What we’re seeing in terms of people applying and considering coming to our shows is a continuation, if not an expansion, of the global art world.”

With such expansion comes a greater mix of artists. Unlimited, which presents 70 large-scale works this year, is, according to Spiegler, “unprecedented in its diversity, offering our widest range of artists, many of whom have perspectives long marginalized in the art world”.

By Means Other than the Known Senses (2022) by Kennedy Yanko will appear in Unlimited Courtesy of Vielmetter, Los Angeles

Among the ambitious projects presented in the section are the installation of 45 wooden panels by Barthélémy Toguo, Bilongue (2020); Kennedy Yanko’s enormous suspended sculpture, By Other Means Than the Known Senses (2022); a large-scale painting from Mary Lovelace O’Neal’s 1970s Lampblack series; and Anna Maria Maiolino’s video work, Twice: X & Y, first created in 1974 and never shown in public before.

Spiegler thinks one of the few benefits of the pandemic is that it “triggered and accelerated a discussion about diversity and race, not just in the United States, but more broadly in Western culture.”

Broaden the radar

But, for real change to happen, notes Spiegler, “selection committees and fairs need to widen their radars, they need to look a second time, and they need to be aware of these issues.” At the same time, “galleries must feel able to participate in these expensive and competitive fairs. And, with the support of collectors and institutions, I think that is happening now.”

There is a long list of first-time galleries, including Jahmek Contemporary Art from Luanda, Angola and OH Gallery from Dakar, Senegal; Athr Gallery, with exhibition spaces in Diriyah, Al-Ula and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Mariane Ibrahim, with spaces in Paris and Chicago; and Guatemala City’s Proyectos Ultravioleta, featuring a project by Mayan artist Edgar Calel.

As for the Basel brand, the expansion is closer to home. In October, on the dates normally occupied by the Fiac, Paris+ by Art Basel launches into the ephemeral Grand Palais Éphémère. Spiegler predicts that the selection for Paris will be “one of the toughest to date”, with around 60% fewer booths (around 160 in total) than other Art Basel fairs.

Paris was a natural fit, says Spiegler, as a city that attracts “some of the most important galleries in the world.” David Zwirner, Mariane Ibrahim and White Cube have recently moved in, while others like Kamel Mennour and Perrotin are expanding.

In addition, private collectors are setting up museums in the French capital on an unprecedented scale. There’s François Pinault’s Bourse de Commerce, the Cartier Foundation’s move to gigantic new premises next to the Louvre in 2024, and the Hôtel de la Marine on Place de la Concorde. Add to that a new generation of museum directors at the Louvre, the Pompidou, the Palais de Tokyo, the Petit Palais and the Musée d’Orsay and you have a “generational shift within the Parisian art scene”, as Spiegler puts it. .

Art Basel’s shift in gears can largely be attributed to James Murdoch, who became a board member and major shareholder of the fair’s parent company, MCH Group, in December 2020. Prior to that, MCH had pulled on its horns, choosing to stop development. of a portfolio of regional art fairs. As Spiegler puts it: “To his credit, James stepped in at a time when many other companies backed down. We are now part of a larger network. And that’s really valuable.

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