Where Art Basel’s Art Statements section selects artist projects from submitted gallery proposals, Art Unlimited, installed in the over half of Messe Hall 1, is a commissions venture. The options are unlimited, presumably. There are quite a few artists in the world, and the projects don’t have to be new. (The best ones this year have already been exhibited, and were produced in the 1990s.) Two were repeats from last year: Bruce Conner’s lyrical film piece, and Banks Violette, who last year exhibited sculptures comprised of huge warped mirror panels brilliantly displayed facing an enormous Avedon portrait of Andy Warhol’s factory (including a nude Joe Dallessando), this year showed one of his trademark abstract amphibian light and resin structures.
The Hall is huge; artists either embrace the architecture or close off the space with impermanent walls. It’s strange that the Art Committee didn’t choose more ‘institutional critique’-minded artists when it feels more pertinent, economically speaking. Maybe the permanent set of Daniel Buren’s stripes on the escalator are meant to suffice.
Most artists kept their spaces to themselves. Manfred Pernice wasn’t one of them. The artist showed an elevated, open interior that looked like the set of a game show filled with detritus. Michael Werner Gallery showed Sigmar Polke’s huge yellow silkscreen Cloud Paintings (1992) in an enclosed space topped by a light filter that created an absorbing skyscape, and evoked nothing so much as the work of Rothko. At Konrad Fischer Galerie, Hans Peter Feldmann showed his 100 Years (2001), which were memorably on display at P.S.1 in 2004-2005, featuring (what else?) 101 photos of people aged 0 to 100. You search for signs of aging and hints of death in the faces of the men and women; they all succumb, eventually — here, in the middle of a convention hall. Paul Graham showed Hypermetropia, 25 uniformly sized photographs of the landscape of Tokyo, shot in a single day from the roof of the artist’s apartment. There are none of the recognizable features of Tokyo — even Mount Fuji melts into the distance. Only in one instance is a sign with the Japanese alphabet in the foreground. Named for the medical condition of far-sightedness, the photographs document an unmanageable urban spread, but one to which Western eyes might relate.
[Hypermetropia (1995), 86 x 105 cm; courtesy of the artist and Anthony Reynolds Gallery.]