For the past week, Basel was clearly the place to be for the art world. For the 45th time, Art Basel, the world’s leading fair for modern and contemporary art took place in Basel, Switzerland. From 19th to 22nd of June, 285 leading galleries from 34 countries across the globe displayed artworks from over 4,000 artists. While established galleries such Gagosian Gallery, Hauser und Wirth and Marlborough Fine Art could be found on the ground floor, the first floor hosted several smaller and local galleries such as Galerie Mark Müller Galerie and the Galerie Bob Van Orsouw.
Art Basel offered something for every taste, including paintings, sculptures, installations, videos, prints and photography. This year’s project “14 Rooms” drew special attention to performance art. The curators Klaus Biesenbach (MoMA) and Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine Gallery) invited 14 international artists, including Marina Abramović, Ed Atkins, Otobong Nkanga, Damien Hirst and Yoko Ono, to each enliven a room. Behind mirror-fronted doors, visitors could experience the world premiere of Ed Aktins’ No-one Is More “Work” Than Me, 2014, exploring the effects of the digital age. The head of a computer-generated avatar was floating on a large screen and speaking to the audience. Next to the screen sat a performer, as the surrogate body of the avatar with his face covered by a blue hood. Another room featured a work by Marina Abramović, the current star of the art performance scene. She recreated the work Luminosity, which she herself performed in 1997. A nude woman was sitting on a bicycle seat, which was mounted on the wall, and stretching out her arms vertically for 30 minutes at a time. During the whole time, she was illuminated by bright light. According to Marina Abramović “it’s really a work about loneliness, about pain and about spiritual elevation. About luminosity and about the transcendental quality of the human being in general.“
And finally, to the most important question: the prices. It is difficult go get reliable figures, as these were not published by the galleries. However, one of the most expensive artworks sold at this year’s Art Basel was an iconic Fright Wig Self-Portrait, 1986, of Andy Warhol. It reportedly changed hands at Skarstedt Gallery for c. $35 million – within the first 15 minutes of the fair. Another attention grabbing deal was Jeff Koons’ Dolphin, 2007-13, an eccentric blue sculpture of an inflatable dolphin made of stainless steel. It reportedly sold at David Zwirner Gallery for ca. $5m.
Once again, Art Basel was as much about the artworks as about mingling with fellow art market participants. The next Art Basel event will be Art Basel Miami Beach taking place 4th to 7th December.