June 15, 2010

Art Basel 41 :: Art Unlimited

The City of Basel, on the banks of the Rhine River, is famous for its pharmaceutical industry, its plethora of cultural institutions, its unique type of gingerbread called "Läckerli", and, since 1969, as the home of the foremost fair for modern and contemporary art, Art Basel. This year Art Basel 41 opened to the public on June 15 and despite cool weather and overcast skies was the hottest spot to be for dealers, collectors, museum curators and anyone who loves 20th Century art.

Art Basel has changed a lot since it first began. Now, as well as the main show spread over two floors of the Messe, the fair has expanded to include Art Unlimited - a fair devoted to exhibiting works of huge proportions and held in an adjacent exhibition space. I love this show! To me it's like a playground for adults with site specific works of art that one can enter into or climb on or just be overwhelmed by. This year's edition of Art Unlimited was as much fun as always and I thought I would share some of the works with you here.

At the far end of the entrance was this wall of colored mirrors by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone and called "Clockwork for Oracles II". Intended as an "invitation to slow down and contemplate the nature of time", but I just thought it was was beautiful!

These monumental aluminum sculptures by Urs Fischer are called "Ix", "Miss Satin", "Zizi", "Marguerite de Ponty" and "David, the Proprietor", but don't ask me who's who!

This is a video installation by American artist Doug Aitken called "Frontier". It was shown in a special room with large rectangular cut-outs that distorted the images and gave the whole piece a rather surreal quality. A lot of people I spoke with thought this was the coolest entry at Art Unlimited and I thought it was a great video too.

Another American, Dan Flavin, created this light sculpture in 1969. "three sets of tangented arcs in daylight and cool white (to Jenny and Ira Licht)" is a room size installation of florescent lights that span and bisect a gallery making it a study in space and barriers. It was one of the oldest pieces on display!

Another work that used light as a medium is "Doubles and Couples" by Korean artist Haegue Yang. Here the lights are encased in steel frames with aluminum venetian blinds for walls. The theory related to the "presence of machines in private spaces creating a peaceful battlefield", but I just thought it was a good public sculpture.

This suspended temple in wood is the work of Takahiro Iwasaki. I cannot speculate as to its intention, but I was intrigued by the craftsmanship...

...as I was here with this massive crochet project by an artist whose name I cannot find (my apologies).

This one speaks for itself! Jack Pierson's homage to old time marquis lettering and an idea that still makes the world go around - "Romance"!

An audience participation piece - Belgian artist Agnès Varda has created a movie theater on the beach with "La cabane sur la plage" where visitors literally walk across the sand to watch a film projected inside a small cabana.

In the "massive" category is German artist Michael Beutler's ventilation tunnel construction "Pipeline Field". Here he recreates a nest of pipes that he had accidentally discovered while on his bicycle near Rotterdam that spoke to him of quiet and weight and space.

Another large and circular installation is Hungarian artist Yona Friedman's exploration of space and arcs in "Ville spatiale (Space-chain structure)". Fabricated of iron wires and fabrics, this enormous sculpture is a geometry project that is actually quite compelling.

Finally, here is my favorite piece at Art Unlimited 2010, Jan Tichy's "Installation No. 4 (Towers). Mr Tichy is a young Czech artist who has created a video/architecture installation that suggests the rotation of the earth and the sun and the moon in a very personal way. I found it quite beautiful and magical and was fascinated to watch the light intensify and fade and the movement of the shadows and forms.

I hope you've enjoyed my "Greatest Hits" of Art Unlimited here in Basel. Next stop, Bern!

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