Art Basel 2015 Picabia Alert

Picabia Alert #9: A Little Bounty at Basel

Francis Picabia, Untitled (Portrait de femme), ca. 1942. ANDREW RUSSETH/ARTNEWS

Francis Picabia, Untitled (Portrait de femme), ca. 1942, at Michael Werner Gallery.


“Picabia Alert” takes note of shows that include work by the wily French artist Francis Picabia (1879–1953), aiming to sate Picabia appetites until a retrospective of the artist arrives at the Kunsthaus Zurich and New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2016.

Picabias are out in force here at Art Basel this week, with at least four galleries offering up works by the maestro.

Francis Picabia, Halia, ca. 1929, at Helly Nahmad Gallery.ANDREW RUSSETH/ARTNEWS

Francis Picabia, Halia, ca. 1929, at Helly Nahmad Gallery.


Helly Nahmad has a sizable piece (64 by 51 inches), dated around 1929, from his “Transparency” series, which he made from roughly 1928 to 1931, when he was about 50. It’s a little bit roughed up, but it has a lot happening in its many layers—at least two women and two men (including a bald-headed gent who fills most of the frame, very subtly) and some hard-to-decipher greenery. It’s titled Halia and sports a funky green frame.

Galerie Michael Haas, which has a Picabia show up right now at its home base in Berlin, has the distinctly creepy French Cancan (1941–43), which looks almost like it could have been painted a few decades earlier in the heyday of German Expressionism. (It’s visible below.) Is she pleased to be lifting her dress? Not quite. Resigned to it? No. But her mind is certainly elsewhere. A very odd painting.

Francis Picabia, French Cancan, , 1941–43.COURTESY MICHAEL HAAS

Francis Picabia, French Cancan, 1941–43.


Meanwhile, Michael Werner Gallery has a small, very poised portrait of a woman (reproduced above) from just about the same time as the dancer—it’s tagged circa 1942—and a transparency drawing—with pastel, watercolor, ink, and pencil (it’s quite luxurious)—from around 1930–31, titled Portrait de femme.

Last but not least, Paris’s Galerie 1900–2000 has, among its offerings, the late abstraction that it showed earlier this year at the SP-Arte fair in São Paulo. An alien shape, or life form, hovers in its center.

No doubt there may be more Picabias at the fair, ones I missed or ones just now emerging from backrooms. If you see some more, please let me know.

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