Allgemein, Art, Culture, Lifestyle

Don’t miss these at Art Basel

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.


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