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2017.06.23 Fri, by Christopher Moore
Art Basel and LISTE 2017

Once again, Art Basel was a huge success. Outside, people were swimming in the Rhine under the June sun and sausages were as ridiculously expensive as ever. And there was lots of art sold, often at record prices, if you believe the breathless reports. IF. It is almost pointless writing about Art Basel. Sharing photos, yes, just not writing about it. Anyway, most art magazines, including this one, rely on advertising from participating galleries, so we are all hoist on the horns of Adorno’s dilemma—informed art world insiders who cannot be (completely) critical (read “No Prophets No Honor”). This is a problem.

The primary market supports artists to become successful. It takes luck, hard work, the right collectors and then even more luck. If everything clicks, including the right connections with the right curators and proxy support of interested collector-board members, eventually the artist starts having museum shows at influential museums, and becomes a success on the secondary market too (admittedly by then the said artist is probably aging or dead). The primary market is not as transparent as auctions, but unlike auctions it is a system that helps artists and art to develop, regardless of how good or not they are as artists or self-promoters. Still, Art Basel does this exceptionally well—better than anyone else.

Art Basel’s place in the art networking hierarchy is something the nascent Chinese art scene understood early on. It helped that a few Swiss nationals also happened to be deeply involved in the Chinese art scene, including but not limited to Uli Sigg, Lorenz Helbling and later Urs Meile (and it helped them that they were Swiss).

China

Guan Xiao at Antenna Space (Art Statements section)

Guan Xiao at Antenna Space (Art Statements section)

Over the years, the number of Chinese galleries participating in Art Basel has ebbed and waned—one step forward, two steps back. But slowly that participation is rising. ShanghART, Vitamin Creative Space, and Long March Space have participated for years. Pace, Galerie Urs Meile and Galleria Continua, are all international galleries that expanded to Beijing and also showed key Chinese artists including Zhang Huan, Wang Xingwei and Qiu Zhijie. These are China’s “regulars”. In fact, ShanghART and Galerie Urs Meile usually even have adjacent booths. In recent years, Berlin’s influential neugerriemschneider gallery can generally be relied upon to have substantial works by Ai Weiwei in their always striking booth, if not also in Art Unlimited. (read our 2017 Art Basel Unlimited report here).

Statements is the section for curated solo-shows for emerging artists. Boers-Li (Beijing) showed Yang Xinguang in Art Statement in 2010. Osage (Hong Kong) participated in 2011 with Lee Kit. Platform China (Beijing) brought Zhao Zhao in 2015. Participating this year in Statements were two Chinese galleries, Antenna Space with Guan Xiao and Magician Space with Wang Shang. Other intentional galleries showed Chinese artists. Pace presented Song Dong in the Unlimited showcase, Kerlin (Dublin) showed Zhou Li and Mai 36 (Zurich) showed Zang Kunkun. But once again no Tang Contemporary and while Pearl Lam can get a feature interview in the Financial Times (paywall), after all these years she is still not in Art Basel in Basel.

Zang Kunkun

Zang Kunkun “Consume” 2015 (Galerie Mai 36, Zurich) (detail)

Zang Kunkun

Zang Kunkun “Consume” 2015 (Galerie Mai 36, Zurich)

Geng Jianyi at ShanghART, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore

Geng Jianyi at ShanghART, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore

Robert Zhao Renhui at ShanghART

Robert Zhao Renhui at ShanghART

Miao Ying at MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai, LISTE

Miao Ying at MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai, LISTE

Zhou Li and Siobáhn Hapaska at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

Zhou Li and Siobáhn Hapaska at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

At LISTE, the Basel fair for emerging galleries (which has a semi-(in)formal relationship with Art Basel), Leo Xu Projects had a good solo show of Liu Shiyuan (standing out from the crowd in LISTE is hard – lots of quirky spaces and strange corners in a former brewery become art school). Also participating for the first time was MadeIn Gallery, with three young artists Shen Xin (b. 1990), Miao Ying (b. 1985) and Wang Newone (b. 1985). Mother’s tankstation (Dublin) held a striking solo-show of recent paintings and also sculptures by Cui Jie.

Meanwhile Richard Koh Fine Art from Kuala Lumpur, participated at VOLTA, back in the atmospheric old market hall near Basel’s main train station. There are other fairs but no one bothers with them really and participating can seriously damage chances of ever participating in Art Basel itself. Harsh but fair.

Many Chinese artists, curators, museum and art fair directrors, and of course collectors were present. While a few notable younger collectors could not make it to Basel this year, in the last month art worlders from China at one point or another were spotted on their respective Grand Tours of Venice, documenta (both Athens and Kassel), and Münster (look, save yourself the effort and just follow them on WeChat and Instagram). All of which is positive, at least as far as being visible and involved in the art market goes. My feeling though is that there is a long way to go still. Few Chinese have made it to the A-list of international collectors and too often the inclusion of non-Western artists in a Western gallery feels both flippant and calculating. Of course, if international galleries want to sell to China and to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong, West Bund, and ART021, this will have to change. Ah, but then again, in Mainland China we hit the problem of currency controls. Well, at least China’s taxes on importing art have dropped. But how to get the money out to Hong Kong?

Wang Newone at MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai, LISTE

Wang Newone at MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai, LISTE

Liu Shiyuan at Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai, at LISTE

Liu Shiyuan at Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai, at LISTE

Cui Jie at mother's tankstation, Dublin at LISTE

Cui Jie at mother’s tankstation, Dublin at LISTE

Wang Shang at Magician Space (Art Statements section)

Wang Shang at Magician Space (Art Statements section)

Also participating but not included here were Long March Space and

Not Painting

Tino Sehgal

Tino Sehgal “Ann Lee”, based on the manga character bought by Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe, performed on/in Pierre Huyghe’s “6PM” 2000, carpet (Esther Schipper, Berlin)

Jose Dávila and Troika at OMR, Mexico City

Jose Dávila and Troika at OMR, Mexico City

Urs Fischer,

Urs Fischer, “Bruno and Yoyo” (with friend) (2015) at the Gagosian (everywhere)

Haegue Yang (front) and Chung Sang-hwa at Kukje / Tina Kim Gallery

Haegue Yang (front) and Chung Sang-hwa at Kukje / Tina Kim Gallery

Xavier Veilhan

Xavier Veilhan “Rays No.1 and No.2 (Basel)” at Andréhn Schiptjenko, Stockholm

Anri Sala

Anri Sala “Transfigured Moth” at Galerie Chantal Crousel

Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy “Captain Dick Hat” at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

Alexander Calder (left) and Andy Warhol at Lévy Gorvy

Alexander Calder (left) and Andy Warhol at Lévy Gorvy

Mike Nelson at Franco Noero, Torino

Mike Nelson at Franco Noero, Torino

Dominik Lang at Hunt Kastner at LISTE

Dominik Lang at Hunt Kastner at LISTE

Painting

A.R.Penke

A.R.Penke “Heaven and Hell” at Michael Werner

Alex Katz at Gavin Brown's enterprise (New York)

Alex Katz at Gavin Brown’s enterprise (New York)

Jordan Wolfson at David Zwirner

Jordan Wolfson at David Zwirner

Magnus Plessen at White Cube

Magnus Plessen at White Cube

Katharina Grosse (left), Lee Ufan (right) and Joëlle Turerlinckx at Galerie Nächst St.Stephen Rosemarie Schwarzwälder

Katharina Grosse (left), Lee Ufan (right) and Joëlle Turerlinckx at Galerie Nächst St.Stephen Rosemarie Schwarzwälder

Cui Jie at mother's tankstation, Dublin at LISTE

Cui Jie at mother’s tankstation, Dublin at LISTE

The end.

Maurizio Cattelan at Marian Goodman, London, New York, Paris

Maurizio Cattelan at Marian Goodman, London, New York, Paris