Basel beckons: from Bacon to Warhol, the cream of twentieth-century art on view

Europe’s grandest modern art fair will be bigger than ever this year, with collectors and museum curators from all over the world


The Basel fair again promises to be an unmissable event for art lovers. The most important modern and contemporary art dealers will hold court on the banks of the Rhine to present a comprehensive overview of twentieth-century art, from the classic Modern to the most recent. Basel holds its own as the world’s preeminent art fair because of its scrupulous selection process, which attempts to find the best international dealers in each field, and because it is housed in a city which passionately supports the arts.

Who vets the fair?

Two hundred and sixty exhibitors from twenty-one countries have been selected from the 600 galleries who applied. The art selection committee is new and is composed of six members: Felix Buchmann (Galerie Buchmann, Basel/Cologne), Victor Gisler (Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich), Karsten Greve (Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne/Paris/Milan), Wolfgang Günther (Galerie Limmer, Cologne), Pierre Huber (Galerie Art & Public, Geneva), assisted by Esther Schipper (Galerie Esther Schipper & Krome, Cologne/Berlin). The “Statements” section is chosen by Kaspar Fleischmann (Galerie zur Stockeregg, Zurich) and Rudolf Kicken (Cologne) for the “Photography” section and, finally, by Franck Bordas (Atelier Franck Bordas, Paris) for the “Publishers” section. The best represented country remains Germany, with sixty-seven galleries. It is followed by Switzerland (41), France (37), the USA (31), Italy (22), Britain (21) and Spain (11). A few galleries are also coming from Austria (9), Belgium (6), the Netherlands (6), Korea (5), Australia (3), Japan and Canada (2). Nearly 20% of the exhibitors are new and, there will be a larger contingent from outside Europe than previously.

Stars of the show

Some exceptional work will be on display in Basel this year, including Francis Bacon’s “Triptych” (1986-87), which appeared in the Bacon retrospective in Paris and which will be on the Marlborough Gallery stand. Gmurzynska (Cologne/Zug) is showing “Entre deux” (1934), a painting in oil, sand and tempera by Kandinsky. The Galerie Beyeler, Basel, has a “Portrait of Diego” (1961) by Alberto Giacometti, “The Painter and his Model” (1964) by Picasso and “Le gai savoir” (1963) by Jean Dubuffet. Richard Gray (Chicago) is exhibiting “Figures in a Landscape no. 1” (1996), one of De Kooning’s last paintings. Massimo Minini (Brescia) will show various paintings by Peter Halley, in particular “Day-Timer” (1996). Monica de Cardenas (Milan) is showing work by Alex Katz and Gabriel Orozco. Pace Wildenstein (New York) will present “Maquette for homage to Jerusalem” (1976) by Calder. Gagosian has some historic Warhols, including “Ambulance disaster” (1963). There will be a cabinet of drawings by Victor Hugo on the stand of Gallery Jan Krugier (Geneva/New York); historic work by Cy Twombly on Karsten Greve’s stand (Cologne/Paris/Milan); de Soto on the stand of Denise René (Paris); Gerhard Richter on Anthony d’Offay’s stand and Fautrier on the stand of 1900-2000.

Younger artists

The “Statements” section was introduced last year and is reserved for younger artists holding personal exhibitions. These stands, also mentioned in the catalogue, cost less than the ones in other parts of the fair (SFr 8,000, which is SFr 2,000 less than last year and SFr 10,000 less than the traditional stands). Included here will be work by Vanessa Beecroft (Analix, Geneva), Daniele Buetti (ArSfutura, Zurich), Frédéric Coupet (Pailhas, Marseille), Dominique Figarella (Canus, La Colle sur Loup), Darron Lago (Juda, London), Thierry Mouillé (Papillon, France), John Tremblay (Art & Public, Geneva) and Peter Schmersal (Greve, Cologne/Paris/Milan).

Film and video

The Video-Forum is a section devoted entirely to video. It will be possible to view works on video here, to buy cassettes and to make contact with the galleries involved. This year the music channel MTV Europe will show a programme of video-clips and art publicity.

A section reserved exclusively for photography will be host to nineteen exhibitors. The Zurich gallery Zur Stockeregg will be showing a collection of nude photographs of the Twenties and Thirties by the Czech photographer Drtikol. The Galerie du Jour, owned by designer Agnès B., will show vintage photographic prints from the 1940s to the 1960s by Lucien Hervé, Le Corbusier’s photographer. Baudoin Lebon has photographs by Rebufa and Tahara and Galerie Paviot an exhibition entitled “Feminine now”. Houk Friedler from New York is showing Angela Grauerholz.

Graphic art

The last section of the fair is reserved for graphic art and is expecting high-quality publishers as participants, including Alan Cristea of London, Galerie Masoero, Turin, Alexander of New York and Bordas from Paris.

Gemini from Los Angeles, returning to Basel after an absence of twenty years, will be showing an engraved stone by Bruce Nauman and a collage by Jonathan Borofsky measuring four by two metres and entitled “Hammering Man”, a monumental piece that is now installed in the Aeschenplatz in Basel. Unpublished books by Robert Mangold and Jean-Charles Blais will also be on display.


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