This year it seemed that everyone arrived in Zurich during the days before Art Basel, although calling the event “Zurich Art Weekend,” when shows start opening on Tuesday, is getting a bit ridiculous (especially for the liver). Big blockbuster shows were everywhere: Doug Aiken at Eva Presenhuber; a museum-level display of Neil Jenney at Tobias Mueller Modern Art; Malgorzata Mirga-Tas and Sylvie Fleury at Karma International; Shirana Shahbazi at Galerie Peter Kilchmann; and the premiere of a new and highly demented body of work by Cindy Sherman at Hauser & Wirth (they’re fresh!). I was in adrenaline mode myself, opening an exhibition of my own work at Maria Bernheim and one of Laurent Dupont that Paolo Baggi curated at my space, Plymouth Rock. Jenny Borland and Matt Sova, of New York gallery Jenny’s, were as busy as any of us Zürchers: flying in to organize an exhibition of meticulous graphic takedowns of male artists by Dan Mitchell at Provence and then another of Carter Seddon at Photography Exhibit. Exciting things came from upstart project spaces, including FOMO Art Space’s “stick n poke,” an exhibition as tattoo parlor. By the end of the weekend Chino Amobi’s simple graphic was the best-selling design, inked on four new bodies.
That DIY vibe has carried over to Basel in recent years, where upstart-fair-slash-hangout Basel Social Club inaugurated its second edition. Last year, when it was housed in a villa overlooking the city, the real draw was the swimming pool, which I assumed enabled cofounder Robbie Fitzpatrick’s shirt to disappear during the days as well as nights on the dance floor. There was no such luck finding similar snacks now that it’s held in a mayonnaise factory. Cavernous and packed with people and art and open late, after 10:00 p.m. it felt a bit like Berghain would if it didn’t have a doorman. June Art Fair, now in its 4th edition, once again took place in an HDM starchitect-designed bunker close to the fair. For galleries, they’re kind of the original “too big for Liste, not in the main fair consistently” venue, something BSC and others surely see as they plan their own cool coups branching away from the old-school Art Basel/Liste dichotomy. Asta Lynge’s simple anthropomorphized oven, a la Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, at the Danish artist-run space La Cucina, was a stand out.
The Messeplatz this year featured Latifa Echakhch, who installed a beautiful constructivist sculpture assembled from stage scaffolding that was activated throughout the entire week with musical performances. “They gave me this commission and I decided to organize the best festival of my life!” Echakhch told me, in between actively managing the hospitality needs of her own invited artists. It was refreshing to witness an artist openly enjoying her work as much as her audience.
Inside the main fair, celebrities were noticeably light during the Tuesday VIP opening, although I overheard one big gallery staffer bragging that the son of Madonna was at their booth during Frieze New York (another gallerist insisted it was actually her very young new boyfriend). Either way, not in Basel and not a celebrity. The consensus was that the fair was better this year than last, the courtyard was improved, and that Van de Weghe’s moody booth of blue chip masterpieces was a highlight.
At Unlimited, the section for large-scale works, the grumbling from nearly everyone was that many pieces could have fit within the main fair’s booths — in fact, the giant painting by Louisa Gagliardi at Dawid Radziszewski was much larger than some works in this section! The cleverest had to be Cory Arcangel’s Related to your interests (2020–21), a 256-hour bot-generated video whose humble install belied the fact that its duration was about three times the length of the entire fair. Talk about large scale!
Local gallery Weiss Falk’s Tuesday opening party was again the hot spot for those basking in their own coolness. Artists like Angharad Williams, Lena Henke, and Gina Fischli joined institutional directors Kathrin Bentele, Nikola Dietrich, and Ruba Katrib and gallerists like Jordan Barse and Scott Cameron Weaver in celebrating Lorenza Longhi’s knockout of a show. In addition to his show out back, Olivier Mosset constructed a giant sculptural ice wall in the inner courtyard next to buckets and buckets of Prosecco. The work was in a constant state of melting while still holding its form, much like the inhibitions of imbibing guests as the night crept on.
By Wednesday evening a crowd descended onto the My Way Bar for a karaoke party hosted by Laura Owens, Miriam Leonardi, and Gabriele Garavaglia. Artists like Simon Denny, Sophie Reinhold (Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”!), Raque Ford, and Mai-Thu Perret brought down the house alongside gallerists like Bridget Donahue and Fernando Mesta, before moving en masse to Kaschemme where they joined hordes of sweaty dancers and serial networkers for the infamous House of Mixed Emotions party. Every artist one might want to see (Chloe Wise, Anh Trân, Yngve Holen, Isabelle Cornaro, Sam Lipp, Alexandra Metcalf, Jacolby Satterwhite) and every curator and gallerist they’d want to see were in attendance. No joke, the painter Lisa Jo flew in from Berlin for twelve hours for the party alone. Now in its tenth year, the megasets by Juliana Huxtable, Pe Ferreira, Jan Vorisek, and Mathis Altmann went way past dawn. But, no need for FOMO; the best and worst thing about the Basel art week is that it returns in exactly the same form in one year’s time.