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Elaborate curiosity cabinets on display at the inaugural Scope Basel fair revive the 18th century kunstkammer

Are these a new hybrid of Artists-cum-collectors

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If collectors are the new curators, then artists are the new collectors. Several of them have made elaborate curiosity cabinets for the inaugural Scope Basel Fair, reviving the traditions of 18th-century aristocrats who often constructed small displays, including objects of geological artefacts.

French artist Maïssa Toulet of Léo Bahia Arte Contemporânea (3A) amasses objects. Her Boite de Curiosité (2007) is a rectangular glass case preciously jammed with glittering rarities including coral, beetles, and skulls, recalling the scale and aesthetic of Marcel Duchamp’s Box In A Valise (1935-41). This thread continues at Galerie Brigitte Schenk (32) with Cologne-based Klaus Fritze’s piece Linne Meets Goethe, 2007, an enormous glass chest encasing rows of crystalline jars and clipped photographic portraits of public figures such as the late Princess Diana.

The kunstkammer concept also runs through London-based artist Clare Kenny’s curatorial project at Marc de Peuchredon (between 41A and 6A), The Drawing Cabinet, a box of large horizontal drawers that function as mini-galleries for works on paper by eight artists. The drawings are priced CHF400-CHF2,000 ($320- $1,600) each.

Also of note are the delicate and subtly arousing crayon drawings depicting minuscule arrangements of objects and body parts by the German artist Christian Weihrauch at Galerie Römerapotheke (12). A handful of pieces priced between $2,000 and $2,600 are still available after a major purchase by New York collectors Susan and Michael Hort on opening day. The refreshing, deliberately ham- fisted drawings of Hamburg-based Stefan Marx, at Feinkunst Krüger (45A), fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. Marx’s text-based drawing announces: “I’m Starting To Feel Okay”, perhaps expressing the mind- state of the more sanguine art tourists on the grand tour circuit this summer.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Artists-cum-collectors at Scope Basel'

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