Art Basel - wrap-up part 1

art basel 2009

I hadn’t noticed the relative lack of photography at this year’s Basel until I walked into Pulse, where it was in rich abundance. Well known photographers like Myoung Ho Lee (who’s Tree series I love) were everywhere, and even relative superstars like Thomas Ruff and Candida Hofer (Hofer was one of the photographers still well represented at Basel, while Ruff was completely absent) were to be found.

art basel 2009

The mood of art collectors closely tracks the stock market, which is a leading indicator of the overall economy, and so we’ve had this weird asynchronous double dip over the last two years. Last year’s Basel was terrible for sales, which at the time could have been seen as a surprise. This year, reeling from that bad experience and hit by current economic factors, galleries from around the country and world just were less willing to spend the money to come to Miami. And so with the exception of Art Basel, all the other fairs this year were smaller than last. (This had the consequence of bringing many new Miami galleries into play, as some of the less discriminating fairs offered last-minute cut-rate booths.) But meanwhile, with the stock market back up, collectors were biting again, and so apparently sales went pretty well.

art basel 2009

Masao Yamamoto’s small toned photo-objects were particularly well suited to the Ice Palace, Pulse’s home for the year. What apparently had happened is that the Ice Palace had been raising the fees on Nada every year, prompting their move to the Deauville Hotel and starting the shuffle that left many fairs in new digs. Pulse took full advantage of the venue, augmenting it with a few additional tents and an outdoor stage.

art basel 2009

Teresa Diehl’s spectacular room-sized installation, F-18’s in a in a bird-like turmoil.

art basel 2009

Maria Jose Arjona’s performance, with Siamese fighting fish.

art basel 2009

Yigal Ozeri’s oil on paper works look like photos until you get real close. By the time I saw a few more at Scope the charm (as well as the artist’s focus on scantily clad women) of these was wearing off though.

art basel 2009

An underwater diorama photo by Didier Massard.

art basel 2009

At Amelia Johnson Contemporary there was a group of Konstantin Bessmertny’s fantastic little oil paintings on oddly shaped oval pieces of wood. Their ghoulish scenes portrayed strife and antiquity, without looking like recreations of past objects or styles.

art basel 2009

At a side-tent adjacent to Pulse, a sequence of 35 black and white oil paintings, one of every person who’s been the president of Cuba since the 1860s, with a big conspicuous nail in empty the wall next to Raul Castro under which older Cuban couples were photographing each other holding Cuba libres mojitos.

art basel 2009

Right at the entrance, a mechanized Gamelan orchestra sets expectations for Scope to be at least as good as it’s been for the last two years. Alas, it was not meant to be, and the economic decline hit Scope hardest. It was not without a lot of good work, but the overall effect was of a let-down, and the pairing with Art Asia, which was wrongheaded last year, now just seems foolish. (Art Asia has the same problem as Photo Miami, which is that galleries try to get into the best fair they can, so what you’re mostly left with a themed fair with only galleries that couldn’t do any better.)

art basel 2009

That said, some highlights. Karin Sabine Krommes’ mounted insects and airplanes.

art basel 2009

Edward del Rosario’s playful oil paintings at Irvine Contemporary. I predict that argyle socks will be to next year’s fair what Michael Jackson was to this year.

art basel 2009

David B. Smith Gallery chose not to put up artist names with the work, but this part drawing part diorama, bulging through it’s enclosing glass, was a real treat.

art basel 2009

Making the fair worthwhile was the Red Truck Gallery from New Orleans, which seemed for all the world to be a bona-fide bunch of misfits. They’d brought along a table and a dog, and were having a great time, eating, drinking cheap vodka, and generally having a jolly old time. They were friendly and fun, and generally a breath of fresh air, and the work it was great. Unselfconsciously outsidery, but with real wit, technique, and style.

art basel 2009

Chris Roberts-Antieau’s Fictional characters from popular culture we would not have if it were not for little people. There were also great needlepoint portraits, cast concrete teddy bears, and a couple of absolutely perfect post-Katrina photos, and it all worked spectacularly well together.

art basel 2009

Another big cliche this years was the word “EVIL” in all caps. Carving it into a freeze-dried apple — how many other ways can YOU think of to write it?! (This is by Linda Hesh, who I guess does have a point.)

art basel 2009

Matt Weber’s tasteless 9/11 darkroom trick. Yikes! This was at a Miami gallery in Scope (the name of which I’ve lost!!) which probably pertains to the over-exposure of Miami galleries in the various fairs I mentioned. For whatever it’s worth, it was hanging next to a presumably real painting by Jack Kerouac. Not an auspicious pairing, as they say.

Posted: Monday December 7, 2009 by Alesh Houdek · · Comment feed for this post: RSS, atom

 

Comment

  1. Carlos D    Dec 7, 02:00 PM #  

    Hey you were right about Pulse btw. The convinience store was the best installation I saw this year.



  2. swampthing    Dec 8, 07:18 PM #  

    perhaps there is a glut of talent



  3. misael    Dec 13, 10:19 PM #  

    Maria Jose Arjona. So you saw her performance? I missed it… How was it?

    Also, while I do agree with you, Red Truck Gallery was a breath of fresh air at Scope, I only feel that way because it was so different. The work was witty and well done but also exactly what you said it wasn’t: self conscious and trying too hard to be “outsider art.”



  4. alesh    Dec 14, 07:11 AM #  

    I got to watch the RTG artists hanging out together, and had a pretty long conversation with the gallery owner (one of the best conversations i had during basel). My impression of the motives behind the art are based on that, not on the work itself.

    I felt like Arjona’s performance was constrained by the space allotments and the format of an art fair. It was as beautiful as anything she’s done before, but less confrontational and grand.



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