Art Basel is over us again. The cold rain in the beginning of the week did not deter the world’s most exquisite galleries, collectors, curators and art lovers from congregating in the world’s most important art (af)fair. Here comes a list of my favourites from Art Basel Unlimited – and the two winners of the Baloise Art Prize.
TIME AFTER TIME – Pharmacie (2019) by Francisco Tropa
By shining a light on a symbol for geology, a clepsydra (an early water clock), an hourglass and a mechanical clock movement, Francisco Tropa’s Pharmacie (2019) offers a mesmerising live depiction of running time.
The geological time is ever present as a nostalgically sepia-toned background, and the light moves between the other three ways of measuring time, which creates a stunning projection.
Add lights and mirrors – some of the first effects used in suggestive movie making – and you have a somewhat gothic art installation filling a room in which you, paradoxically, forget about time.
LIGHT ME UP – Split Second (2018) by Anthony McCall
I had no idea that light could appear with such an intense feeling of materiality and physical volume.
Anthony McCall, whom I would happily compare with James Turell and Olafur Eliasson, started experimenting with the hypothetical concept of solid lights already back in the seventies.
And for the edition of Art Unlimited 2019 the curating committee chose Split Second (2018), his most recent piece on this theme.
With two projectors and slowly rotating elliptical shapes, the light creates boundaries and shapes that aren’t there, to me creating a reminder that walls and borders are only invented illusions; figments of our imagination.
#METOO – Open Secret (2018) by Andrea Bowers
200 rollup banners, around the breadth of a wallpaper roll, with some of the most publicized cases of sexual misconduct.
The white text on top is the defence, or the excuse of the defendant.
The black text consists of the accusations, the legal actions or any other resulting actions.
Oftentimes these accusations have been proven in a court of law, or have been settled with hush money.
To me, the mere physicality of the massive work Open Secret (2018) by Andrea Bowers just brings another level of understanding of the daily atrocities that way too many women have to suffer.
The five-metre height of the installation is often not enough, with the last lines rolling onto the floor, which I see as a symbol of that no matter how much space you give this problem, there is never enough.
Open Secret is juxtapositioned with a work of mannequins clad with automatic blow-up dresses –clothing protective from grabbing and other (presidential) misdemeanours, which reminds us where the real problem is.
Sorry guys, the problem is not men feeling lost in their masculinity post #metoo, a moment that has triggered an evolution in how we behave towards each other.
GAME ON – Nirvana (2019) by artist XU ZHEN®
Baccarat and roulette tables are set on a casino carpet. But the tabletops are blank, until being coloured in by a collective of artisans before your very eyes, using the same technique used for sand mandalas.
Nirvana (2019) by artist XU ZHEN® who funnels sand in various colours onto the table tops by tapping a grooved brass instruments at various frequency and intensity – a painstakingly slow and completely unforgiving process which requires a steady hand and wide-eyed concentration.
This act of “painting” also becomes vaguely musical, as the tapping evokes sounds of muted cymbals and gurkas, resulting in a multisensorial, intricate, forever changing work, which marries ancient ceremonial, extremely slow activities with our contemporary desire for quick money.
And come to think of it, investing in contemporary fine art has always been a gamble, hasn’t it?
2x Balois Winners – to be seen in the Statement section
Territory by Giulia Cenci
With the improbable mix of car parts, cast animals, resin, silicon and polyurethane, Territory by 21-year-old Italian Giulia Cenci has created a layered installation that the public can enter and become part of.
To me reminiscent of an archaeological, post-apocalyptic dugout, but Cenci refuses to “close the interpretation of her work with words,” but referring to a viral, fluid entity.
She is very happy about the Prize, which for means the possibility to work more. “I am super addicted to work,” she said.
It is hard to stop by Xinyi Cheng
Naked, violet, near-transparent bodies painted with oil on canvas.
Xinyi Cheng, who lives in Paris, has created a voyeuristic insight into a post-coital(?) world full of power and meaty pleasure.
The subjects are vulnerable, caught off guard, some even appear stunned.
Based on photos she has taken, these at times homoerotic images become sensitive depiction of the real person behind the game.
Xinyi Cheng, Incroyable (Monroe), 2019.
– Anders Modig
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.