Art Basel 41 Highlights, Part One

Animated currency, she-beasts, Aitken's latest immersive video and pink crystals top our list of Art Basel favorites


One day, nearly 300 galleries and thousands of artworks later, check out below what caught our eye at Art Basel’s 41st event in Basel last month. Stay tuned for more in Part Two.

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“Hero No. 1” (2009), one of Zhang Huan‘s series of enormous, cowskin-covered
sculptures from the Pace Gallery, has an imposing scale only rivaled by the curious expression of the she-creature’s face. Though hulking in size, the warmth of the material, along with multiple levels of the piece, seems to invite viewers to climb the massive mythical beast.


“Hero” may also be the only work at the fair to have its own iPhone app
, which features behind-the-scenes images and video of this four-ton animal being installed, as well as a survey of the Chinese artist’s other work.

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Swiss artistic team Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger created
another haunting, ecologically-charged installation with “The Conference” (2010), presented by Basel’s Stampa Gallery. An overhead spotlight focuses on a conference room table, otherwise surrounded by darkness, illuminating organically textured, bright pink crystals that grow across the table and sprawl over laptops, telephones and coffee mugs. Juxtaposing biological, life-like forms with the hard right angles of anonymous technology, the scene looks like one yanked from a Technicolor sci-fi flick—maybe one about man’s desire to control the environment, and nature fighting back.


Paris’s Yvon Lambert gallery presented several compelling pieces, including Carlos
“Small Colors for Holding Large Spaces (Cromofobias)” (2010). The collection of small, playfully vibrant images creates movement and spirit simply and beautifully. [Each of the four images above is a separate piece]

Several galleries (303 Gallery New York, Victoria Miro Gallery London, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich and Regen Projects Los Angeles) showed Doug Aitken‘s newest immersive film installation, “Frontier” (2009). The film follows a silent Ed Ruscha from scene to scene, with intermittent glimpses of other characters involved in various activities, including a man reading a book and a cowboy cracking a whip.


The film screens in a white room with rectangular cut-outs covered by white sheets on the walls, bridging the interior and exterior to create two separate viewing experiences. [Video by Art-iT]

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A long time CH favorite, Dublin’s Kerlin Gallery featured several recent works from the extremely gifted painter Paul Winstanley, including “Veil 24” (2010) (above left), which depicts breathtaking layers, light and shadows too intricate to be captured in a photograph. One of Mark Francis‘ newest works, “Portico” (2010) (above right) is a study of the talented artist’s evolution, combining multiple techniques, musical inspiration and love of the line.


Brussels’s Galerie Rodolphe Janssen presented a group of Wim Delvoye‘s intricate sculptures. “Pneu” (2005) brings a second life to used car tires with intricately hand-carved vines and patterns. Delvoye sets up a compelling contrast between his manmade natural forms and the natural rubber of the tire, also transformed.


At London’s Lisson Gallery, the beautifully serene image of Shirazeh Houshiary‘s “Flood” (2010) drew us in from afar. But up close (far right) the detail is incredible. Upon examination, the large pencil and aquacryl work is rich with texture and depth. (Pictured above, middle.)


Another work with multiple layers, Bharti Kher‘s large three-panel installation, “Make No Mistake” (2008) from Paris’s Galerie Perrotin (above), has a richly textured surface from any distance. (See a close up shot below left, and a detail at right.)

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By stacking very small circles of paper, meant to represent bindis, Kher creates incredible groups and patterns on all scales.


Featured by Tokyo’s SCAI The Bathhouse, Kohei Nawa made his PixCell collection by covering used or complicated-shaped toys, busts, and other artifacts in glass beads. The manipulation of light and shapes in the collection distorts the familiar images, putting a different spin on how we interact with everyday objects. (The image at left is courtesy of the gallery.)


SCAI also featured Jeon Joonho‘s digital animation “WELCOME” (2009). The work depicts a 50 won note (North Korea’s currency) brought to life, with trees blowing in the breeze and a helicopter ferrying Hollywood sign-like letters to an airy mountainside.

While in the process of building a phrase that starts out “Welcoem…” (sic), the helicopter crashes, which starts a fire that soon consumes the forest in the middle of the note. Like most of his work, the narrative isn’t too subtle in its handling of politics.

Additional reporting by Margaret Kaminski and Aaron Kohn