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Art Basel

Venice Biennale is still ringing the Art Basel sales till

Artists showing in Venice are brought en masse to the fair as galleries leverage exhibition exposure

Double entry: Jannis Kounellis has Untitled at Art Basel, and a Venice retrospective Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve

See it in Venice, buy it in Basel, is an art world mantra that seems truer than ever at the 49th edition of the fair.

Cape Town gallery Stevenson is showing paintings by Mawande Ka Zenzile, as well as works by Kemang Wa Lehulere and a wallpaper print from Zanele Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama series of self-portraits ($30,000 each). Muholi (who will have a solo show at Tate Modern in 2020) and Wa Lehulere are in the main Venice show May You Live in Interesting Times.

Joost Bosland, Stevenson’s director, says Venice “offers a hanger to hang our coat on”, but adds: “Venice or no Venice, it’s a no-brainer” to bring Wa Lehulere and Muholi to Basel.

Perhaps more of a “direct knock-on effect” of the Biennale is the inclusion of Ka Zenzile, Bosland says. “We wouldn’t usually focus on emerging artists at Art Basel, but people have just had a chance to see him in Venice.”

Like many dealers at the Biennale, Bosland says he has sold works by all the artists he has brought, but had to “press pause” on Muholi’s photographs in the face of overwhelming demand.

Other galleries bringing Venice artists to Basel include Sprovieri, which is showing sculptures incorporating car parts and animal skulls (priced around €120,000 each) by Jimmie Durham, the winner of the 2019 Venice Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. Sprovieri will also have an installation from 2015 by Jannis Kounellis (€280,000), who has a post­humous retrospective at the Fondazione Prada in Venice (until 24 November).

In the fair’s Unlimited section, Galerie Karsten Greve is presenting a monumental Kounellis installation with 13 hospital beds and steel “bodies” (€1.8m).

Meanwhile, Galleria Continua’s booth has works by Alejandro Campins, showing in the Cuban pavilion, as well as Shilpa Gupta, Zhanna Kadyrova and the artist duo Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, who are all in the main Venice exhibition.

Almost half of the 20 artists exhibiting in the offsite Parcours section are also in Venice, including Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Camille Henrot, Ad Minoliti, Hassan Sharif and Daniel Turner.

Installed at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Cathy Wilkes is showing a piece first created for her solo show at Yale Union, Portland, last summer, which is also a fragment of her exhibition in the British pavilion.

Toby Webster, the founding director of Modern Art Institute, says Parcours curator Samuel Leuenberger specifically asked for a work by Wilkes. It is for sale, although Webster declined to give a price. “It’s not all about making money,” he says. “It’s more about presenting the work in a different context.”

The Parcours exhibition is just one way in which Art Basel bleeds into Biennale territory, while an abundance of dinners and parties hosted by galleries— not to mention dealers stationed at the national pavilions—prompted one visitor to describe the 58th Venice Biennale as a “particularly market-friendly” edition. “Walking around the international show in the Giardini, there were moments when my body didn’t quite register I’d left Frieze New York,” he added. “The way it was installed, it looked like an art fair.” 

In an art world where everything has a price, perhaps a new mantra is in order: buy it in Venice—and buy it in Basel too.

• Art Basel, Messe Basel, Basel, 13-16 June