When The Art Newspaper meets Sylvie Fleury at Art Basel she is sitting beneath one of her large neon works and is clutching a handbag with her initials on. Suffice to say, the Swiss artist is not hard to identify. This year, Art Basel's global lead partner UBS has dedicated its VIP lounge at the fair to Fleury, and has acquired a number of her Dada and Pop art-inspired works that comment on gender politics and, rather fittingly, society's fascination with luxury goods. "Our relationship with Fleury dates back as long as our relationship with Art Basel," says Mary Rozell, head of the UBS art collection. "Her work is important because it is unapologetic in its use of the female perspective and female experience."
At 60, Fleury has been coming to Art Basel for decades now, she says, and the artist navigates the fair with mixture of confident ease and genuine curiosity. During a tour with Fleury of her favourite works at the fair, she stops to speak to a number of dealers with whom she works—her work is featured in no less than four separate booths at Art Basel. Possibly the most striking—certainly the most visible—piece is a tall magenta rocket sculpture at Karma International. "I like that you could see it from anywhere," says Fleury. "Very useful to get your bearings around the fair!". The tour is more or less improvised, she admits, with the artist preferring to choose works which catch her eye and leave her decisions as a surprise. But unsurprisingly, she realises, they end up being work mostly by older women whose radical politics she admires.
Sylvie Fleury's top five works from Art Basel 2022
Meret Oppenheim, Karma International
"Meret is one of my biggest influences. She's a Swiss artist who was working in a Surrealist style when there weren't so many female artists in that field. Her work has such a mytsical and beautiful quality, even in a simple drawing like this. But maybe what I like most about her is that her work goes in many directions, it's hard to pin it down."
Charlotte Posenenske, Mehdi-Chouakri
"Women of Charlotte's generation aren't acknowledged enough for how hard it was for them to do what they did. I did a performance with her works in 2012, so I feel very close to her practice. She used to make work that resembled the structural elements of buildings, such as the conduits of air conditioning systems, but you can put them anywhere and they look amazing—and always a part of their place. I think it's a beautiful idea to look at Minimalist art from a female sensibility, which is something that is very present in my own work."
Lutz Baher, Galerie Buccholz
I've seen Lutz's work when they was alive, and I've even tried to buy a work of theirs before. They worked through such a variety of mediums, including readymades, but always tied their work to popular culture so there is a strong artistic signature here. I admire their politics greatly, they does not shy away from difficult topics such as the exploitation of the female body.
Dorothy Iannone, Air de Paris
"I become familiar with Dorothy's work fairly late, after she had a large show at the Zurich Kunsthalle. Her work is a lot about sexuality in the 1960s counterculture era in the US, it was really radical at the time. I don't think I portray sexuality in the same way, but I'm an artist who began practising in the 1990s, so how could I? The landscapes we operated in were totally different. But even then, when I began, I had difficulties being a woman and making the work I did, so I feel a connection to artists like Dorothy who came before me."
Merlin Carpenter, Reena Spaulings
"Okay, I've eventually found one man. Now you can't say I'm too biased!
Merlin Carpenter is an artist from my generation, and our work has on occasion been placed in dialogue with one another, especially as we are both interested in readymades. He is not known to me for paintings so this work is something very left-field—but that's what makes it more interesting. The work is from a 2017 exhibition he did at Galerie Neu in Berlin, Business Women, and the man could represent any technocrat in a suit—Tony Blair, Emmanuel Macron, you name it. I also like how the gallery have hung the work, so it extends off the wall. It reminds me of my rocket—too big for Basel!"