Art Basel 2018

The global art market converges in Switzerland this week for Art Basel, the largest annual gathering of dealers and collectors—and a massive crowd of visiting public. Last year, nearly 100,000 guests swarmed the Messeplatz, the event hall where the show is held, over a period of six days.

With more than 4,000 artists on view this year, the fair is divided into eight sectors: “Galleries,” a hive of art-filled booths rented to the world’s leading dealers of modern and contemporary art; “Feature,” where the emphasis is on expertly curated exhibits; “Statements,” which showcases solo projects by young, emerging artists; “Edition,” for publishers of numbered works, prints, and multiples; “Unlimited,” for oversized works fit to fill the vast, hangar-like space of the Messeplatz’s central hall; “Magazines,” dedicated to art-focused publications; “Parcours,” for which site-specific works—sculptures, interventions, and performances—have been commissioned for surprising locales around the city of Basel; and “Film,” a week-long program of films by and about artists.

Here are five of the most sensational and thought-provoking works on view this year:

1. Promession® (camoii preteen), 2018, by Aude Pariset.

Berlin-based gallery Sandy Brown presents Aude Pariset’s sculptural installation of children’s mattresses encased in vented vitrines. The vents, it turns out, are so that scores of wriggling mealworms inside can breathe. Over the course of the fair, these plastic-consuming larvae will eat away at the synthetic bedding, slowly abstracting the material’s original form.

 

2. Negative Positives: The Guardian Archive, 2007 – 2017, by Lubaina Himid

The 64-year-old Zanzibar-born artist Lubaina Himid was a relative unknown until last December, when she claimed Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize. Now, Basel is abuzz over her Negative Positives series, an ongoing project in which she paints pages from The Guardian in ways that draw attention to representations of people of color. In the Feature sector, Himid’s gallery, Hollybush Gardens, has given over its entire exhibition space to her work, which also includes paintings on canvas and on the inside of wooden drawers.

 

3. Exomind (Deep Water), 2017, by Pierre Huyghe

Crouching among the vegetation in the Allgemeine Lesegesellschaft garden is a female form made of concrete, its head oversized and alien. This is a sculpture produced for Parcours by the installation artist Pierre Huyghe. Approaching visitors will discover that the figure’s oblong head is a honeycomb, inhabited by live and very active bees. One could say insects are having a moment. But Huyghe, who is based in France, has been working with complex biological systems for years: his 2015 rooftop exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art included an aquatic habitat for tiny lampreys and tadpole shrimp

 

4. Entertainment Center, 2018, by Jacolby Satterwhite

Los Angeles gallery Morán Morán has dedicated its booth to bold digital works by Jacolby Satterwhite, a young multimedia artist based in New York. Satterwhite deploys virtual reality, 3D-printed sculpture, and video animation, all against a background of custom-printed wallpaper, in a hypnotic tribute to his late mother (whose voice is mixed with house music in the album-length soundtrack).

 

5. Conceiving Ada, 1997, by Lynn Hershman Leeson

Tilda Swinton makes an appearance in Basel as the title character in a little-known film from 1997 by artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. Conceiving Ada mixes history with fantasy in a story about the 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace, creator of the first computer program, who is pursued across time and space by Emmy, a techie living in the present day. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the 77-year-old artist and Maxa Zoller, curator of Basel’s Film sector, on Thursday, 6/14, at 7pm.