The 2022 edition of Art Basel opened to VIPs on Tuesday morning at the heart of Messeplatz, the convention center in its hometown Swiss city. With 289 galleries (just one shy of the 290 it gathered for its last pre-pandemic edition in 2019), the in-person fair has returned at full force to its traditional dates in mid-June.
Within the first hour, the aisles were teeming with so many art enthusiasts—collectors, advisers, curators, writers, and more—that navigating the fair promised to be difficult. What a hassle, indeed!
The excitement of attending the event, which showcased the work of some 4,000 artists, was so tangible that one had to elbow their way through the crowd. Wave goodbye to masks—social distancing seems like a distant memory.
“As the pandemic subsides, new crises arise,” Art Basel’s global director Marc Spiegler said at the press conference ahead of the fair, before expressing his support to Ukraine and concern about climate change, adding “We have done everything we could to reduce our ecological impact.” The aisle carpets will be recycled after the show and aluminum bottles have been distributed to exhibitors.
Below a look the best booths at this year’s marquee Swiss iteration of Art Basel, which runs through Sunday, June 19.
The main Galleries section of the fair includes first-time participants, starting with Mariane Ibrahim, which has locations in Chicago and Paris. For its inaugural presentation at Art Basel, the namesake dealer has chosen new expressive works, including Raphaël Barontini’s Islander Empress, a collage-like and glittery portrait of an Afro-Brazilian woman mixing iconographic references (a landscape and a costume respectively inspired by Flemish 16th- and 17th-century painters Joachim Patinir and Frans Pourbus the Younger); Amoako Boafo’s monumental Puppy Blankie featuring a charismatic Black bather lounging on a beach; and Family Business, a scene depicting an outdoor reunion where artist Jerrell Gibbs has placed Black people (some of whom are his relatives) into Impressionist-like en plein air scenes in which Black people were historically not depicted. Those three works also share water as a common element. The presentation is titled “Blue Notes,” referring to the “natural smoothness of jazz,” according to the gallery. What better way to get into the swing of the fair?
Hauser & Wirth
Arachnophobes beware! Also in the Galleries section is a 11-foot spider by French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois, guarding the Hauser & Wirth booth. The 30 year-old Swiss gallery, which represents the artist’s estate worldwide and has just announced the opening of its new location in Paris, sold this steel sculpture for $40 million. It was made in Bourgeois’s studio and has remained in the same private collection since the ’90s. The sculpture is shown alongside modern and contemporary masterpieces, such as a large and reclining oil nude by George Condo, Philip Guston’s late self-portrait Smoking II (1973), Gerhard Richter’s 1993 photo-like painting IG, as in artist Isa Genzken, his second wife, who is also part of the gallery’s roster.
For Art Basel this year, Paris’s Templon has brought a throwback to the ’60s and ’70s with a display that revolves around four major figures of American Pop art: 86 year-old Jim Dine, the late Jules Olitski, and Ed and Nancy Kienholz, the duo known for their harsh criticism of unbridled consumerism, everyday racism, sexism, and structural violence. Olitski’s red-and-green abstract composition Patusky Jazz serves as a replacement for a George Segal plaster odalisque, which would have taken up too much space. This quartet of artists is confronted with as globalized, political artists, selected for their extended knowledge of art history. “In light of our 55 years of experience, we thought we were in the best position to create a cross-generation conversation,” said Templon’s general director Anne-Claudie Coric.
Facing Kehinde Wiley’s bronze Dying Gaul (Roman First Century)—of an African American man with a hoodie lying on his side as he contemplates his death—was It’s All Your Fault – XXII by Robin Kid (a.k.a The Kid). Elsewhere was Omar Ba’s somewhat abstracted painting Something Happened, which Coric describes as “a portrait of the African continent, a reflection on the post-colonial world.” The Dakar and New York-based Senegalese artist will be the first to feature at Templon’s newest space, scheduled to open next September in New York.
Ready for the roll call? Daniel Arsham, Sophie Calle, Gabriel de la Mora, Bernard Frize, Laurent Grasso, JR, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Paola Pivi, Xavier Veilhan, Pieter Vermeersch. For this year’s edition of Art Basel, Perrotin is going all out. In addition to new works by its historic artists, including NFT paintings by Takashi Murakami, the French gallery’s three-story booth devotes monographic corners to Belgian sculptor Johan Creten, Korean charcoal maestro Lee Bae, and Hans Hartung, two drawings from a rare series made between 1935 and 1939, during the period when the German painter had to flee Nazi Germany amid his rise fame.
The most striking presentation here, though, is perhaps Communionem Elementaris, a series of 14 bronze, aluminum, and glass sea creatures sculpted and curated by Jean-Marie Appriou, the gallery’s latest recruit. Almost half sold on the first day for prices between $26,000 and $135,600. Inspired by Swiss Symbolist Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901), who painted half-seal, half-human figures, Appriou’s works convey the symbiosis between earth, air, and water. Starting June 25, the 36-year-old French artist will unveil another new body of sculptures in the gardens of the Villa Medici in Rome.
Laveronica arte contemporanea
The coast is now clear to explore the Statement sector, which focuses on emerging artists from around the world. On the second floor of Hall 2 the Italian gallery Laveronica arte contemporanea presents The Brightness of Greedy Europe, a life-sized theater in hand-painted wood by Peruvian artist Daniela Ortiz. For the work, Ortiz has assembled 14 figurines, a toy-model truck, three curtains, and four background oil paintings. This entertaining installation (all the more so when it’s activated) tells the story of a miner fighting the European bureaucracy who besieges his people and asks him to forget his identity. It turns into a real puppet show everyday at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. (except for Friday when it’ll go on at 12 p.m. and 6:20 p.m.). Listen for the music and you will find it!
This year’s Unlimited section features 70 large-scale works, including Theaster Gates’s Hardware Store Painting (2020–22), which measures 16 feet by 28 feet. Presented by Gray, this installation memorializes a family-owned True Value hardware store formerly located on Chicago’s South Side and then turned into an artistic material. Gates, whose practice is deeply invested in the preservation of neglected social and cultural histories of his hometown, acquired the store and all of its merchandise in 2014; he has continued to activate the Halsted True Value Hardware archive since 2016. Aware of the value of such places for local communities, the interdisciplinary artist invites viewers to look beyond the objects: “The hardware store is the atlas. Like so many encyclopedic forms, it reminds us of a singular vocabulary, a homeland, a material sanctuary that unfortunately has its end when the form of exchange is no longer convenient.”
Sofie Van de VeldeNext to Gates’s wall installation, Gallery Sofie Van de Velde had the idea of installing a giant crouching and smiling figure surrounded by soldiers with guns pointed at him. This theatrical group of grotesque-looking sculptures was made by Dutch artist Folkert de Jong, with industrial styrofoam, polyurethane, foam, wood, and steel (mostly non-recyclable materials), as a reflection of the human condition. The more closely you look at the those armed figures, the harder it becomes to tell the good and the bad guys apart—a commentary on what can often happens in real life. This tragicomic battle scene also alludes to the history of colonial conquest, particularly that of the Netherlands, Jong’s native country. The title The Shooting… 1st of July 2006 subtly references Francisco de Goya’s The Third of May (1814), another anti-war tableau.