For the uninitiated, Basel is the biggest art fair in the world (Miami got its name from this original). As well as the fair, and its huge curated exhibition ‘Unlimited’ and ‘Statements’, a number of other fairs pop up around the city transforming it into some art version of human stew. These were the visual highlights.
1. Susan Hiller ‘Wild Talents’ (1997) at Unlimited
This haunting multiscreen piece about ESP and the paranormal in throughout cinematic history is one of Hiller’s best works. The reworked two screen installation shown here – accompanied with an odd TV on a chair surrounded by spooky lights – was incredible, knitting together footage of supernatural children and teenagers from ‘Stalker’, ‘The Shining’ and ‘Carrie’ among many others.
2. Pierre Huyghe ‘Untitled Film’ (2013) at Unlimited
Huyghe will always create the unexpected – something proven yet again with this dark and distinctly odd film. It brings to life some of the strange things Huyghe made as an art installation last summer at Documenta – a dog with one pink leg, a nude sculpture with a beehive for a head, concrete blocks planted with psychoactive plants. A truly unique artist.
3. Kadar Brock at The Hole at Volta
Brock’s work just keeps getting better and his painting made from the detritus shaved away in the process of creating other paintings was spot on. A fascinating portrait of the creative process that also worked as a sheer colour and texture-filled experience. Keep an eye open for his solo show in New York in September.
4. Radu Comşa at Liste
Part of the pleasure of going to something as huge and crazy as Basel is finding new artists and Radu Comşa from Sabot gallery in Romania wins the prize. As well as giving away beautiful, free, signed geometric prints, Comşa’s wall of work included this pair of concrete paintings. One of those little gems that get’s you excited.
5. Leo Gabin “Oh Baby’ at Peres Projects at Liste
Leo Gabin are a collective of artists represented by Berlin’s Peres Projects, who brilliantly contextualised their large scale abstract scrawled paintings with two of the collective’s reworked YouTube video pieces. R’n’B fans in particular will enjoy ‘Oh Baby’ (2013), which you can watch here.
6. Josh Smith and Sterling Ruby ceramics
There was so much clay around this year that it was hard to choose (and Aaron Angell’s table of genius at Rob Tufnell at Liste deserves special mention too). The highlights had to be a group of Josh Smith oddities at ArtBasel and Sterling Ruby’s organ-like ashtray pieces at Pierre Marie Giraud at DesignMiami/Basel.
7. Mickalene Thomas’ Better Days
Echoing Mickalene’s painting, this art bar installation (presented by Absolut Art Bureau was decorated like some funked up 1970s Brooklyn living room lubricated with tons of free ‘Phuck You’ vodka punch and ‘Proud Mary’ martinis. It was a welcome addition to Art Basel – especially when Solange Knowles performed and Thomas herself served behind the bar.
8. Otto Dix at Galerie Berinson at ArtBasel
The ground floor of Art Basel is filled with the serious big players in the gallery world. This is where you spot modernist masters amongst the Richters et al. This Otto Dix aquarelle portrait ‘Die ganz alte Frau’ (1924) was so incredible, so funny, so real it would have been stupid not to mention it. As contemporary as anything you’ll see here.
9. Antoine Catala at 47 Canal / David Horvitz at Chert at Statements
These were the best two showcases at Art Basel’s Statements section. The pair were coincidentally installed opposite each other and made such a perfect duet – two artists whose work explores our relationship with technology in surprisingly emotive ways, from Catala’s innovative sculptures to Horvitz’ poetic iPhone sunsets.
10. Marc Camille Chaimowicz ‘Enough Tiranny’ at Unlimited
The prize for best installation could have gone to Oscar Murillo for an Unlimited room made of paintings, cardboard boxes, copper plates and videos, until you stepped into Camille Chaimowicz’s incredible 3D disco collage. This was one of those 3D found material drawings were you feel like you’re prodding around an artist’s head.