Art Basel 2015: a Very Good Year

Art Basel 2015: a Very Good Year

Art Basel is the meridian to which all other fairs set their clocks. As the 46th edition came to a close on Sunday, we take you an a quick tour of the show.

The first impression this year was one of disorientation. Art Basel changed the floor plan around drastically, so I made a beeline to the central food court to get my bearings – not a good idea, my beeline led me to a swarming beehive. The show attracted an attendance of 98,000, including private collectors, representatives and groups from over 80 museums and institutions from across the world. The outdoor area was packed with people meeting and greeting, resting feet, and refuelling before hitting the floor again, so I turned on a dime and headed for Unlimited.


This huge airport-sized hangar of an art space provides a unique opportunity to present works that go beyond the art fair ‘normal’ pieces, either in scale, or in materials and media. This year the offering was exceptional. Highlights were a 30 meter-long inscribed polyester sheet by Dadamaino, an Italian painter of the Milanese avant-garde who scribbled in her own made-up code, presented by TornabuoniArt, Paris.  Another piece I found inspiring in its beautiful simplicity, as a meditation on man’s relationship to nature, was Plastic Tree by Pascale Marthine Tayou, just branches with plastic bags sprouting like incongruous blooms, presented by Continua, San Gimignano, who also submitted Ai WeiWei’s installation Stacked, two-floor-high multiple towers of bicycles. Then, standing out from the visual competition of bright works of art coming from every angle, there was Gilbert & George, always making me think and smile, in this case Scapegoated large triptych with incitements to ‘kick Xmas’ and ‘take on a toy boy’.


Both new and repeat exhibitors were positive about this year’s event, and I noticed more than a fair share of Anish Kapoor’s work, perhaps the merchandising effect of his monumental show at Versailles. Regular Thaddaeus Ropac, said ‘Art Basel was once again a fair that went beyond expectations. The attendance of major museum directors and curators was enormous, and they travelled with their trustees, which meant they were able to make quick decisions. Only Art Basel is able to attract this kind of seriousness.’

Tornabuoni Gallery, who presented the Dadaimano piece in Unlimited, had a booth solely dedicated to Intersuperficie by Paolo Scheggi, as seen at the Venice Biennale in 1966. Just one panel, white, is now for sale (at a figure above 2 million euros if you are interested), the other two are on loan from the artist’s family and a museum. ‘This was our first year in Art Basel, it was a very positive experience,’ said Ursula Casamonti,  co-principal of TornabuoniArt, ‘we feel that 2015 is better than previous years, not so much in Italy perhaps, but definitely for France, sales have been good, we are looking forward to FIAC in October, we are preparing a parallel special show in our Paris gallery with over 25 works by Lucio Fontana’.


For the duration of Art Basel, Do We Dream Under the Same Sky by conceptual artist Rirkrit Tiravanijaand and Finish chef Antto Melasniemi was installed outside the entrance courtyard. The hand-written sign said ‘How does it work: we cook, when ready, eat, wash your bowl. Thanks.’ With a herbal garden, kitchen, and free communal dining, the project drew attention to the novel collaboration between Art Basel and Kickstarter to raise funds for artist residencies and special programming. It’s all about the sharing economy.

Mark your calendars:

Art Basel Miami Beach 2015, December 3–6

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016, March 24–26

Art Basel 2016, June 16–19

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Sylvia Edwards Davis is a writer and correspondent based in France with a focus on business and culture. A member of the France Media editorial team, Sylvia scans the cultural landscape to bring you the most relevant highlights on current events, art exhibitions, museums and festivals.

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