HALO Shines Under Art Basel

Art Basel and Design Miami/Basel is over us again … and I love it. The 2018 edition shifts its architecture, gives a Brazilian architect the credit she deserves and questions the fundamentals of our existence while serving inverted fondue.

In 2018, the immediate wow effect of Art Basel Unlimited’s entry is somewhat muted – because the entry itself it is not that immediate anymore.

As of 2018 you have to take two escalators to reach it – but this structural change, due to several of Baselworld’s mega stands remaining erected the whole year, is actually a positive thing.

Now the entry to Design Miami/Basel and the entry to Art Basel Unlimited are next to each other.

Design Miami/Basel, often overlooked by the visitors is a place where you can discover several of the world’s most prestigious galleries for collectable modern and contemporary design – and I would be very surprised if this new entrance would not dramatically increase its visitor numbers.

The Messeplatz level of Design Miami/Basel is home to the curated exhibition Design at Large, where Zhoujie Zhang shows a futuristic take on what a chair could be.

A 60-point sensor chair is hooked up to a computer, which in real time on a screen in front of you creates the design of the ultimate chair; shaped by your own unique human interactions.

At Large-space is also dedicated to furniture by late Lina Bo-Bardi. In the last decade Italian-born, Brazilian Bo Bardi has risen from dusty annals of architecture to become the architecture and design superstar she always deserved to be.

Unfortunately this is happening decades after her death in 1992, but it is great to see that her work finally gets mainstream recognition above and beyond the inner circles of architecture.


©Endless Form/ Zhang Zhoujie Digital Lab/ Courtesy of Gallery ALL

Despite the fair having just started I have been back at HALO twice, located in the basement of Hall 4 (next to Swissôtel’s entry). I have probably spent more than four hours in there, and not only because of the lavish vernissage which included an inverted fondue, where orange salmon cubes coated in yellow mango cream was dipped into smoking cold liquid nitrogen.

No, I keep returning because the fourth Audemars Piguet’s Art Comission is a really interesting collaboration by the British art duo Superconductor, CERN, and the white-bearded theoretical physicist rock star John Ellis.

In a lowly lit hall, an eight-metre-diameter circular sound and light installation projects series of golf ball-sized light dots throughout the room.

Meanwhile, hammers hit low-pitched piano strings that vertically line the installation.

Both light and sound – remember that all matter is made of particle and wave – is a reanimation of 60 real collision measurements; universe-deciphering data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) tunnel, which circles 27 kilometres of subterranean Geneva.

When the LHC is operating, more than a billion of these subatomic particle collisions occur every second at near speed of light – utterly beyond human perception.

Therefore Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt of Superconductor have reanimated the raw data by seriously enlarging the light and sound waves from each measured particle collision, resulting in the dotted light patterns and the somewhat doomsday ringing piano strings.

It is also extended in time: at LHC the pattern of each collision lasts 25 nanoseconds, at HALO up to 40 seconds. Said theoretical physicist John Ellis during Wednesday’s panel discussion:

“What we are trying to do at CERN is to understand the most fundamental structures of matter and the universe, where we come from and where we are going. I like to mention the famous painting of Paul Gauguin, the people on the South Sea island asking ‘What are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?’ That is exactly the questions that we physicists are trying to answer …  by trying to understand what matter the universe is made of. I had a copy of Gauguin’s picture in my office, just to remind me why I came to work every day, and that is still why I come to work every day.”

HALO contains the three levels that is my very personal opinion for what makes great art experiences:

  1. Immediate sensory stimulation or friction, that draws you into the artwork, regardless of your prior knowledge of it.
  2. The more you know about the artist, the history, the context, the more the work grows.
  3.  If the artwork also dares to shamelessly ask the biggest questions – all the better.

And puh-lease! Don’t expect answers. Asking questions is what keeps humanity moving forward, not answers.

 ©Photo courtesy of  Superconductor and Audemars Piguet

So, by all means – when you visit Art Basel 2018 go to Unlimited. It is still … well, unlimited.

Do go to the gallery sections to see the Warhols and the Bacons and the Dubuffets and the contemporary artists. And really make sure you don’t miss HALO. And why not this time around also pay a visit to Miami Design?


Anders Modig, based in Basel since 2013, has been a journalist for 15 years. He writes about watches and design for titles like Vanity Fair on Time, Hodinkee, Café and South China Morning Post.

He has been editor in chief of seven magazines and books, including the current annual design magazine True Design by Rado, and his company also organises events for clients like TAG Heuer, Zenith and Patek Philippe.


Beitragsbild: ©Lina Bo Bardi Giancarlo Palanti Studio d’Arte Palma 1948–1951Presented by Nilufar Gallery Photo Courtesy of James Harris



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