Art Basel runs like a Swiss clock, flawlessly operated and enjoying its 46th edition. At the helm is the French-American director Marc Spiegler; if ever there was someone obsessed with VIP collectors, big ticket sales, and details, it is him. Yet it’s the selection committee that he appoints who rules the roost—powerful gatekeepers of the artworld deciding who is in and who is out, not just for Basel but for the international scene. In the ever-globalizing art world, it’s at these international art fairs where up to 60 percent of galleries sales happen. Basel remains the king of art fairs where galleries bring their most-prized work. On the first three preview days the collectors pile up at the door waiting for the doors to open. Here below, you’ll find Document’s top ten must-sees for this edition of Art Basel.
1. Gunter Uecker at Unlimited presented by Dominique Levy
Uecker drove nails into his canvasses and sculptures, breaking open the picture plane, making art move. Sandmuhle is proto-minimalism, with cords of rope twirling around a central axis, and sand raked in a labyrinthian spiral.
2. Wu Tsang and Oscar Murillo at Unlimited presented by Isabella Bortolozzi
Wu Tsang’s “documentaries” address safe spaces. His film Damelo Todo//Odot Olemad is based on a story retold by Raquel Gutierrez about Tsang’s own Wildness nights at the LA bar Silver Platter, which tells the story of fifteen year old transgender Teodulo Mejia who moves from El Salvador to LA. The star of Bortolozzi’s booth is the massive installation by art market darling Oscar Murillo. An epic installation lines one entire wall of her booth with protest banners interspersed with mannequins and paintings. Her gallery captures the zeitgeist of the international art world.
3. Mike Kelley at Hauser and Wirth
This is one of the later works from Mike Kelley’s iconic stuffed animal series Half a Man. This holds a personal significance to Kelley as it hung over his bed. His dirty stuffed animals (most of which came from second hand stores) are outlined in Sleigh Bells — meant to evoke memories of the holidays that he described as “shared culture of abuse.” Lucky for all of us it will only be sold to an American museum, we are holding our breath of whose collection it will be placed in.
4. Sphere Lutetia by Jesus Raphel Soto at Unlimited presented by Galerie Perrotin
With the exiting of Yves Lambert in January 2015 there has been a clear passing of the torch in Paris to celebrity gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin. This massive and beautiful Jesus Raphel Soto work from 1996 in one of the most monumental pieces in Unlimited, suspended from the ceiling.
5. Elaine Sturtevant at Unlimted presented by Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Elaine Sturtevant’s recent retrospective at MoMA after her death has finally brought her work into the art history books and the American spotlight. She is the mother of one of the most ciritcal and important movements in contemporary art, appropriation images and thereby questioning the authenticity and idea of the original. She uses blue candy to recreate a work by Félix González-Torres who dies of AIDS in 1996.
6. Jose Dávila at OMR
Presented at OMR, this Mexican artist makes cutouts of architecturally interesting buildings with an emphasis on balance and juxtapositions.
7. Borna Sammak at Statements presented by JTT
Sammak is a ‘hunter and gatherer’ of digitalized images. This ultra-bright colored booth captures the visual pleasure of the internet.
8. William E. Jones and Mary Weatherford at David Kordansky
Mary Weatherford lovingly affixes glowing handmade neon tubes in abstract compositions. The William E. Jones is a hauntingly timely piece in which a story is told in multiple images: videos and slides of Satan visiting the Paris Peace Accords in 1972 to speak to Henry Kissinger about the apocalypse coming to America.
9. Ryan McGinley’s YEARBOOK presented by team (gallery, inc.)
A room wallpapered from ceiling to floor, with over 500 studio portraits and 200 models. It is not just a collection of portraits but a Warhol-like cataloging of New York’s artistic youth, all in the nude.
10. Alicia Framis in Parcours presented by Juana de Aizpuru
Installed inside the upper floor of the Niklaus Chapel from the 15th century; a wooden shipping crate turned into a library; part of the acclaimed Parcours series that is all around the town of Basel and lined with banned books.