Fair  June 19, 2023  Paul Laster

From Avedon to Bradford: Exploring the Best of Art Basel 2023

Courtesy Art Basel

Art Basel in Basel. 

The world’s most prestigious art fair, the 2023 edition of Art Basel kicked off with the opening of Unlimited, a section of the fair that presented monumental projects in a space that was big enough to display 76 large-scale installations by a mix of celebrated and emerging artists working in a variety of media. On view from June 12 to 18, the flagship edition of Art Basel featured 284 of the world’s leading galleries from 36 countries and territories at the Messe Basel, in the center of a thriving city on the Rhine River in Switzerland.

Courtesy Art Basel

Installation view of Yayoi Kusama, Life, 2015 at Edward Tyler Nahem. 

Divided into sections, the top tier of the fair was the Galleries sector, where repeat and new exhibitors brought their best artworks to attract the attention of major international collectors. Besides Galleries and Unlimited, the other areas were Kabinett, a sector for thematic presentations within galleries’ main booths; Parcours, a showcase for site-specific public art installations around the central part of the city; Editions, where exhibitors offered state-of-the-art prints and multiples; Film, a section for art documentaries and innovative works in the medium; and Conversations, a series of panels and talks led by the art world’s top thinkers and influencers.  

Galleries included important pieces by such well-known artists as Sigmar Polke, Yayoi Kusama, and Nicolas Party, as well as up-and-coming talents like Anna Weyant and Amy Lincoln. Michael Werner Gallery had a magnificent 2007 Polke painting, The Illusionist, that simulated a lenticular screen postcard with superimposed images of magicians and performers on a grand scale. Nearby, Edward Tyler Nahem presented a colorful five-part Kusama sculpture, from 2015, that resembled snaking plants spouting from the Earth, appropriately titled Life.

Courtesy the artist & Hauser & Wirth

Nicolas Party, Mountains, 2023. © Nicolas Party. Photo: Adam Reich. 

Party, who just opened a show at the Frick in New York, had a new, large-scale pastel on linen of a surreal, blue-tinted mountain range that reflected the Swiss artist’s love of the fair’s spectacular surrounding environment at Hauser & Wirth. Sperone Westwater offered Amy Lincoln's 2023 painting Sun with Rainbow Sky, in which the American painter employed a seascape that referenced atmospheric elements to engage aesthetic concepts of light and color. And, taking a break from the eye-catching figurative canvases that initially brought her notoriety, Anna Weyant served up an enchanting still life painting that seemed to meld the Old Masters with the Modernist master Paul Cézanne and the contemporary artist Michael Craig-Martin at Gagosian.

Courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery

Jacqueline De Jong, Les pazzes de la piazza, 1965. 

Ghoulish, psychologically charged figurative paintings from the 1960s by 84-year-old Dutch artist Jacqueline De Jong were a standout in a solo show at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in the Feature section, while Afghan Canadian artist Hangama Amiri—just off an acclaimed solo show at the Aldrich Museum—took a painterly approach to color and materials in her textile pictures of everyday home life at Cooper Cole in Statements. And, as part of Kabinett, GB Agency focused on works by the renowned Emirati artist Hassan Sharif from “The Flying House,” an experimental space he brought to life with a group of like-minded artists in Dubai.

Elsewhere, the Film section started its programming with Laura Poitras’s documentary on Nan Goldin’s protest against the Sackler pharmaceutical dynasty in All the Beauty and the Bloodshed; Knust Kunz Gallery Editions presented monochromatic woodcuts of abstracted birds by Austin Eddy, who has a current solo show of related paintings, sculptures and works on paper at Livie Gallery in Zurich; and Hank Willis Thomas delivered a show-stopping sculpture, presented by Ben Brown Fine Arts in the Parcours sector, with his giant stainless steel arm shooting the peace sign to people and traffic passing by a plaza in front of the Kunstmuseum Basel.

Courtesy Gagosian

Anna Weyant, Still Life with Fruit and Vase, 2023. © Anna Weyant. Photo: Rob McKeever. 

Last, but certainly not least, Unlimited dazzled audiences with grand installations, such as Gagosian’s presentation of ten large-scale photographs by Richard Avedon’s striking In the American West series of portraits of everyday people made between 1979 and 1984 and Katherine Bradford’s 2022 parade of bathers—perfect for a city where people actually swim with the current of the Rhine River—depicted in her biggest painting to date, The Athletes, presented at the fair by Campoli Presti, Canada and Kaufmann Repetto.

About the Author

Paul Laster

Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, advisor, artist, and lecturer. New York Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, Laster is also a Contributing Editor at Raw Vision and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and a contributing writer for Art & Object, OculaGalerie, ArtsySculptureTime Out New YorkConceptual Fine Arts, and Two Coats of Paint. Formerly the Founding Editor of Artkrush, he began The Daily Beast’s art section and was Art Editor at Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine. Laster has also been the Curatorial Advisor for Intersect Art & Design and an Adjunct Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.

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