Sizzling summer temperatures, a buzz of excitement and tons of creativity have come to Basel, Switzerland once again. Every year in June, gallery owners, artists, designers, curators, collectors as well as art and design enthusiasts flock to Basel, which becomes the center of attention in the art world for a week!
Basel – Culture unlimited, is how Basel Tourism advertises the city and indeed with its numerous museums, theatres and cultural events it is one of the most important cultural centres of Switzerland and therefore the perfect stage for such world-class events.
The main event is Art Basel, which has drawn a number of other international art and design shows to Basel, such as Scope, Liste, Volta and Design Miami.
Art Basel was launched in 1970 and has since become the most sought after platform for modern and contemporary art. The show is now held in three global locations – Basel, Miami and Hong Kong – whereas Basel remains the primary show, reaching a truly global audience. The event is held at the Basel fair grounds, which were re-designed by world famous Basel based architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2013.
This year was the 45th edition of the show, featuring 285 galleries from 34 countries, representing over 4000 artists and attracting a record attendance of 92’000 visitors (6000 more than in 2013).
In my opinion art can be divided into 7 categories: the masterpieces, the decorative, the creative, the thought provoking, the quirky, the pointless and the disturbing. At Art Basel you will find them all! However, I am happy to say that personally, I found there were less pointless and disturbing pieces on show this year, compared to previous years.
Scope was launched in New York a decade ago and has become one of the premier showcases for international emerging contemporary art. Shows are held in New York, Miami, Basel, London and the Hamptons and have welcomed over 1 million visitors globally in the past 10 years.
This year was the 8th edition in Basel, held in the industrial port area on the Rhine River, adding an urban touch to the exhibition. Due to its nature, the show is much more relaxed and down to earth, compared to its big uncle Art Basel. It is a place of exchange, inspiration and networking among patrons, artists and the culturally aware public. Many artists are present themselves and talk about their work and the thought process behind them.
Liste was originally launched in 1996 by a group of young gallery owners, who would have been unable to secure a space at Art Basel. Their goal was to promote young art in the world. In the meantime the show has gained international recognition and features around 78 galleries each year. Liste has not only helped small and young galleries, but has also served as a stepping-stone for many young artists to reach international success.
The characteristic venue at the workshops of Warteckhof Foundation is very suited for this type of fair – young, creative and quirky. The foundation dates back to 1994 and was established on the premises of an old beer brewery (Warteck beer), which was a working brewery from 1856 – 1990.
Volta, which was originally created to bridge a gap between Basel’s pre-existing art shows, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The exhibition features young as well as mature galleries who work with some of the most promising emerging talents in the art world. Their common philosophy is to build a lasting collaboration between the artist and the gallery throughout their careers.
Volta was held at the recently refurbished Markthalle (market hall), which, with its large cupola, is an architectural landmark of Basel. The Markthalle was originally built in 1929 to cater to the wholesale of vegetables and fruits and the cupola was considered the third largest of the world at the time. The building has served multiple purposes for many years, until recently, when it finally returned to its original purpose, that of a market hall.
Design Miami / Basel
Design Miami is a Global Forum of Design, which comes to Basel in June and takes place in Miami in December. The exhibition, which celebrates design culture, takes place at the same time as the world’s largest art fair, Art Basel.
This year was the 9th edition of the show and featured 47 of the world’s leading design galleries. The event not only draws in gallery owners, designers and curators from around the world, but also design enthusiasts like myself.
Even though the show promotes itself as a marketplace for high-end design, I must admit, that it is not the place I am shopping for my average clients… Not only because it is clearly targeting high-net-worth individuals, who are happy to spend EUR 30’000 for a chair, but also collectors of classic furniture and design objects from the 19th and 20th century, as well as contemporary pieces. Many of the objects on display are not for every day use, but rather a piece of art in the shape of common objects, such as a chair. Most pieces possess museum-like quality and consequently, carry the respective price tag.
Those who have read my profile or some of my previous blog posts, will know that I have a weakness for the ‘contemporary with a touch of nostalgia’. It is therefore to no surprise that the ‘Engineering Temporality Cabinet’ by Studio Markunpoika in the Netherlands, was my favourite piece. The owner of Gallery Fumi explained that the artist welded hundreds of small steel rings onto and around an old wooden cabinet of his grandmother and then burnt the cabinet, resulting in an industrial, contemporary piece with a nostalgic shape.
The shows are well worth a visit, as long as you book your accommodation ahead of time and bring comfortable shoes! Should you still get sore feet, you may want to head to the Rhine River to cool them off or why not just head in for a dip?
As always, if you enjoyed reading my blog post, please share with friends and family and I look forward to receiving your comments!
See you in my hometown Basel next year!