Art Basel Prepares For Dazzling 43rd Launch

Preview – Next week, from 14-17 June, 300 galleries will come together for the 43rd annual Art Basel, one of the biggest and most prestigious international art fairs. Report: Paul Carter Robinson

In 1970 Lorenzo Rudolf, Ernst Beyeler, Balz Hilt, and Trudi Bruckner as an alternative to Art Cologne organized the first Art Basel fair.  Featuring mostly German galleries representing German artists, Art Cologne was seen has highly exclusive and culturally limited.  Art Basel was created to broaden interaction and exposure to an international level, and at the beginning was a relaxed and relatively informal affair.  Now Art Basel has grown to be tremendously successful and initiated Art Basel Miami in 2002, which is now held each December.

Traditional gallery displays are still the centre of Art Basel, but throughout the history of the fair, other sectors have grown to increase the scope of works on display and participation of both those in the art world and the general public.  The 300 galleries represent over 2,500 artists from every corner of the globe.  Exhibiting Modern and contemporary art in a wide range of media the fair is sure to be varied and exciting.  Londoners who make the journey will encounter some familiar faces as 27 London galleries will be exhibiting including White Cube, Victoria Miro, Frith Street Gallery, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, The Paragon Press, and Annely Juda Fine Art.   

In addition to the Art Galleries sector, other features of Art Basel will include public art, emerging artists, publications, and a talks and events series.  Art Feature is a sector that will be exhibited alongside the galleries and display solo presentations and thematic exhibits of specific projects.  One example is Galerie Andrea Caratsch of Zurich that will display self-portraits by Giorgio de Chirico.  Similar to Frame at Frieze, Art Statements is a part of Art Basel devoted to single artist stands by emerging galleries allowing new, less-experienced blood to exhibit its creativity.  Not all artworks are conducive to gallery stand display, so Art Unlimited, curated by New York-based Gianni Jetzer, will feature video, performance, and other works in a more suitable setting.  As a part of Art Basel, Art Parcours includes site-specific works in the historical centre of Basel.  Jens Hoffmann, the Director of the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco, curates this display that brings the fair out of the tent and into the public eye.

The primary purpose of any art fair is the sale of works, but like other similar events, Art Basel goes beyond the marketplace to become a place for the exchange of ideas, education, and exposure to new people.  Art Basel Conversations and Art Salon provide a series of seminars, presentations, and moderated conversations among leading figures in the art world.  The topics are varied and include “Inventing the Museum”, “The Artist as Activist”, and “The Arab Spring and its Impact on Artists” among others.

2011 saw 65,000 people come through the doors of Art Basel (as a point of comparison Frieze had 60,000 visitors in 2011), and it will be interesting to see how it fares in 2012.  Bringing together galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, Art Basel promises to be an exciting week for art professionals and enthusiasts.

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