June 20, 2018, JOURNAL

NOTES ON ART BASEL 2018

RAF TIMES, BLUE CHIP BLING, A HIDDEN HANGOUT AND OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Raf Simons and Michael Ringier looking at paintings by Eliza Douglas at Liste Art Fair / Art Basel, 2018 I © Play Hunter/Playlust.net

Raf Simons and Michael Ringier looking at new works by Eliza Douglas, Liste Art Fair

 

TEXT + IMAGES: © PLAY HUNTER

How much is too much of a muchness? At Art Basel, the answer is: it doesn’t matter. The mothership of all art fairs never leaves anybody hungry. Blue-chip bling meets bang at the main fair while aesthetically impressive, large-size anchor pieces provide great instagramable backgrounds at Art Unlimited. Fancy biennal vibes? There’s Art Parcours. Still hungry? There’s Design Miami and Liste and satellite fairs and Basel’s own fine art institutions, like Kunsthalle. In fact, there’s so much art to be seen and consumed, Art Basel should carry a health-warning.

 

Wurst scene at Liste Art Fair / Art Basel, 2018 I © Play Hunter/Playlust.net

Slightly fair fatigued showgoers at Liste Art Fair

 

Talking of healthy appetites: Art Basel Preview Days is essentially about the experience of watching art dealers going about their business. This year, the big bucks went to Joan Mitchell. Two works sold for $14 million, making the abstract-expressionist the woman of the moment.

 

Hidden Bar, Art Basel, 2018 I © Play Hunter/Playlust.net

Take a seat: Hidden Bar

 

The best place to escape the muchness of madness – with a Bloody Mary at 11am – was Hidden Bar. Invited by Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler, Swiss artist Hannah Weinberger set up a fully functioning art bar and hangout on the hall 2 mezzanine right behind the big clock. It featered objects and daily happy hour contributions by art buddies Mai-Thu Perret, Silvie Fleury and Fabian Marti, to name but a few. In short, Hidden Bar was everything Art Basel isn’t: small, low-key, affordable, edgy. Those who knew knew, and only the true connoisseurs could spot the art. Picture a Pamela Rosenkranz silicone-filled Evian water bottle sitting nonchalantly on the fridge behind the bar counter. Or an ashtray by Meret Oppenheim. If you hung around in one of the bubble wrap sofas long enough, you could even spot the odd celebrity, like Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga and head designer of Vetements.

 

The Aim of Design is to Create Space Design Miami / Art Basel, 2018 I © Play Hunter/Playlust.net

Nendo Watercolour Collection numbers 1-18 for Friedman Benta

 

Over at Design Miami, the standout presentation was Watercolour Collection numbers 1-18 by Japanese design studio Nendo for Friedman Benta. Founded in 2002 by Oki Sato, the Japanese design studio spent two years creating the paper-thin 18-piece steel chairs, consoles and tables, painted in blotched blue watercolours. The purist setting and light panes evoked a touch of  “2001 – A Space Oddyssey” futurist modernism. It was a time capsule apart from the usual pairing of high-end modernist French-Italian modernist chic and catchy contemporary creations. Raf Simons, as part of his day-job as creative director of Calvin Klein, added original American quilts to Gaetano Pesce chairs. All 50 one-offs sold out on Preview Day on Monday. So one could sit and relax on none for the rest of the week.

 

Loves Saves The Day, Frank Gehry Building, Vitra Design Museum / Art Basel, 2018 I © Play Hunter/Playlust.net

Frank Gehry building, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

 

All the good things come to those who wait – and tend to occur at the most unlikely of events: the killer quote of the week broke at the press conference for the opening of Thomas Schütte’s new blockhouse in the park of Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein. Asked about the difference between architecture designed by an artist and architecture designed by an architect, Schütte offered, in his heavy German accent: „If someone orders a schnitzel, I can bring a steak.“ This is so brilliant I almost fainted. Luckily I didn’t because there was more to come. On the art of doing art, Schütte admitted: „You have to be a little bit stupid to do these things. I read newspapers but not much more.”

That’s a good piece of advice and that’s it from me. See you next year. In the meantime check out my Instagram for more Art Basel takes and ongoing art coverage.

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© PLAY HUNTER 2019