This year’s Art Basel entrants have been a noteworthy bunch, and sales on Day One and Day Two have been fast and furious as a result. It seems everyone is talking about the large-scale works and grand gestures at Unlimited, and Design Miami/Basel has had its share of whimsical delights as well.
Below, artnet News has chosen our favorites from the approximately 300 galleries who made the trip to Switzerland’s third largest city this year. From Pawel Althamer’s scatological ode to Rodin to Andrea Bowers’s chilling text installation, the following booths are worth a visit.
Zurich-based gallery Eva Presenhuber displayed perhaps the most impressive of the colorful sculptures by Austrian artist Franz West seen around the fair. Presenhuber’s relationship with West began 20 years ago in Zurich, and in May the gallery had its first show of his work since his death in 2012.
His large lumpy, varnished, papier mache objects, for which the tables on which they rest become elements of the work, are not to be missed. Also in the gallery are works by Swiss artist Valentin Carron and an array of wonderful ceramics by Josh Smith.
2. Sadie Coles
Sadie Coles had several colorful small works by Ugo Rondinone. The three works, small colorful sculptures composed of delicately arranged rock, were already sold out on the first day.
“They’re maquettes for large-scale works he’s making in the Nevada Desert,” said a young staffer at Sadie Coles. “These are brand, brand new.” Also in the booth were works by Sarah Lucas, Jordan Wolfson, and Jim Lambie.
“I’m excited to be showing three women I’ve never shown before at Basel,” said Casey Kaplan when we entered the booth of his eponymous gallery. Those artists are Berlin-based Haris Epaminonda (represented by a piece of antique statuette), the paintings by N. Dash, who joined the gallery this past January, and a large black-and-white geometric abstraction by Sarah Crowner hanging on the exterior wall, which echoed work Crowner presented at Kaplan earlier this year (above).
Six gorgeously colored resin-cast works by Kevin Beasley that looked like medium-sized plastic crates, which had been peppered around the gallery, were sold as one work; it had already been placed in an important European collection. When asked about a recent New York Times article, which highlighted the difficulty of galleries to get into Basel, Kaplan, who has been coming to Basel for years, said that his mother took note. “After 20 years in the business,” said Kaplan, “it takes that article for my mother to say she’s proud of me.”
4. Galería OMR
Large plates of glass were balanced precariously with brown stones and colorful nylon straps at Mexico City’s OMR gallery. The glass works were part of the gallery’s stunning solo presentation of the new painting and sculpture of Jose Dávila. With work recently acquired by the Tate and the Centre Pompidou, Dávila is on the up-and-up.
“He’s one of our most interesting emerging artists right now,” said gallery founder Jaime Riestra about the “small but comprehensive” display of work exploring “tension, fragility, and force.” He continued, “Europe will get a more complete idea of what he’s doing.”
5. Goodman Gallery
A large spool of white woven rope at South Africa’s Goodman Gallery is actually a work made of glass beads by the artist Liza Lou, who is in the formidable collection of art collectors Norman and Irma Braman in Miami. The work, titled, Continuous Mile, took 50 local women one year to make in Durban, South Africa. The glimmering white rope was installed in the booth one layer at a time for six hours because the labor is all part of the practice.
Lou has become known for transforming everyday objects and whole rooms into sparkling beaded sculptures and environments, like the full-scale reproduction of a kitchen she completed in 1995, replete with beaded table, chairs, and potato chip bags.
In 2005, Lou founded a studio collective in South Africa where she works with Zulu craftswomen to bring her vision to life. Also in the gallery are works by Alfredo Jaar and William Kentridge.
At Galerie Gmurzynska, Mathias Rastorfer completed an on-camera interview with a Swiss television station before turning to chat with us about the “very substantial sale” that had just happened at the gallery but about which he could divulge no details. Gmurzynska—which was showing works by Yves Klein, Wifredo Lam, and Joan Miro—keeps up the old world style that feels most fitting at this fair.
The booth of the Cologne gallery, which has been dealing in Russian Avant-Garde and Classical Modern art for forty years, and has outposts in Zurich and St. Moritz, was abuzz with activity during the VIP preview. Rastorfer noted that the change in the fair to allow for First Choice collectors to get first dibs, before the regular VIP collectors, has had a noted effect on business.
“We’ve experienced steady sales over two to three days,” he said. He also noted that this tiered system allows those who want to instantly seal the deal on an artwork to get the very first crack, while those who “don’t want to be part of that rush,” and prefer to have a day or two to consider something before they make the deal, come in the next wave.