2012.06.21 Thu, by
ArtBasel, Liste & China

China at Basel

Once again there were very few galleries from China participating in Basel. At ArtBasel itself there were the perennials, ShanghART, Long March Space, and Vitamin Creative Space, this year joined by Boers-Li again with a solo show of Zhang Peili in Art Features. Long March presented Wang Jianwei’s enthralling and horrifying “Symptom” at Art Unlimited.

But look closely at ArtBasel and it quickly becomes apparent that the non-Swiss galleries that dominate are not only overwhelmingly from London, New York, and Paris but also Berlin. Gallerists in Berlin, including Neugerriemschneider, Esther Schipper and Johann Koenig have assiduously developed their relations with ArtBasel over many years and the results are plain. Berlin, a city with many galleries and an outstanding art scene, has only four million people and relatively few collectors. As its mayor likes to shout, Berlin is poor but sexy. So how did Berlin galleries become so prominent at ArtBasel? Well, of course, there is the advantage of proximity and language, but those are not exclusive to Berlin. The real reason is hard work and, very importantly, a certain degree of cooperation between the galleries. China should take a leaf out of Berlin’s book. There are few really professional galleries in China but there are enough. And on the evidence of ArtBasel, they are certainly good enough. One could replace a fifth of the galleries at ArtBasel with barely a thought and there would be no difference to quality; indeed it may even improve.

(continues with Liste report after the jump)

Movie still from “Symptom,” 32′16″, 2007-2008 (Courtesy of Long March Space).

Works by Zhang Enli and Liang Shaoji at ShanghART’s booth.

Ming Wong “Making Chinatown”, Vitamin Creative Space, Art Basel 2012.

Of course there were plenty of international galleries with Chinese artists, such as Marian Goodman with Yang Fudong and Urs Meile with Ai Weiwei.

Yang Fudong at Marian Goodman’s booth.

Gallerist Urs Meile and client in front of Ai Weiwei’s “258 Fake,” 2011.


Liste is ArtBasel’s little cousin. It shows emerging galleries and there is always the chance a gallery might just be promoted to ArtBasel itself (the other satellite fairs, such as Scope and Volta, have no chance — participation there is more likely to harm a gallery than help it get to the main event).

Situated in an old factory, now an art school, Liste is more casual and fun than ArtBasel, with a barbeque in the courtyard and bar at the top of a an old tower.

Shana Moulton, “Restless Leg Saga,” high-definition digital video, 7:14, color, sound, 2012

The first art work at Liste this year was also one of the best and definitely the most nutty. Shana Moulton, “Restless Leg Saga,” high-definition digital video, 7:14, color, sound, 2012 (Courtesy of the artist & Gregor Staiger, Zurich).

From China, two galleries participated in Liste: Platform China (Beijing and Hong Kong) and 2P Contemporary (Hong Kong). 2P presented Will Kwan, Magdalen Wong, Wendy Wun Ting Tai and performance artist Morgan Wong (above) with a performance of his “Deciding Whether to Worship His Own Power or the Power of His Own,” a work about life expectancy — and expectation — and how we reduce both through its own production and consumption, as symbolized by the nervous palliative of tobacco.

Meanwhile Platform presented a solo show of painter Zhou Yilun. This is Platform’s third year running at Liste. We hope to see them at ArtBasel next year.

Also See:

ArtBasel Parasol

by Chris Moore