2017.06.21 Wed, by
Art Basel Unlimited 2017

Unlimited is the a curated section of Art Basel (see Ran Dian’s report here), its mini-biennale, and actually better than quite a few biennales because there is no pretension about higher meanings. Let’s face it, Venice Biennale is really an art fair, too. There are other sections like “Statements”, which is for smaller-scale solo projects—often historical—and it is good for introducing galleries to Art Basel (not that you are likely to get into Statements two years running). And then there is Parcours, an art walk around a different bit of Basel each year, for when you have had enough of the convention center (or for when it hasn’t opened yet). But Unlimited is what gets the big crowds and big attention (though not everything is BIG). To make sure everyone is paying attention, it even opens on the Monday before the rest of the show.

Ear piece

John Baldessari’s “Ear Sofa; Nose Sconces with Flowers (in Stage Setting)” (2009/2017) was the best and weirdest thing at Unlimited, including when the model got some dust in her eye and had to stop working. It was surprising and baffling, historical and flippant. I included a visitor complete with mobile for shooting shots because that was all part of it. My other favorites were Donna Huanca’s painting-person installation, which wasn’t really new in its elements but just done really well. Tobias Rebberger’s new version of his Chinese-porcelain kitchen was good, too, and it was great to see a new video work by Bruce Nauman, “Walks In, Walks Out”, and Mike Kelley’s “Gospel Rocket” hit its target (if only it was live fire).

John Baldessari

John Baldessari, “Ear Sofa Nose Sconces with Flowers…”, 2009/2017 (Marian Goodman, Sprüth Magers)


Yes, Tobias Rehberger’s kitchen is made entirely of porcelain—doors, draws, everything. Only the lamp is made of glass. Ignore François Morrellet’s “π Weeping Neonly” (2001) in the background. Look at it separately, like you’re meant to (actually I like them together).

Tobias Rehberger

Tobias Rehberger, “Performance of two lonely objects that have a lot in common”, 2014/2017 (Urs Meile, neugerriemschneider)

Only one work from China this year…

…though a bit from Asia: Dayanita Singh, Park Chan-kyong, Subodh Gupta and Ei Arakawa.

Song Dong

Song Dong “Through the Wall” 2016 (Pace)

Politics, yeah, a bit

Susan Hiller got it right—all about nationalism and propaganda and music. But Cildo Meireles’s “Amerikkka” (1991/2013), where one literally walks on egg-shells under threat of being crushed by a ceiling of 40,000 hollow golden bullets? Well, is this about real impact or diverting entertainment?

Susan Hiller

Susan Hiller, “Die Gedanken sind frei”, 2012 (Lisson Gallery)

Maybe Mike Kelley’s “Gospel Rocket” isn’t political but it probably is and a lot of fun!

Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley, “Gospel Rocket”, 2015 (Blondeau & Cie)

And some Russia stuff.

Cory Arcangel

Cory Arcangel, “MIG 29 Soviet Fighter Plane and Clouds”, 2015 (Lisson, team gallery)

In jokes. ha ha.

Was Rob Pruitt wheeze really funny? Exactly how funny? Was Mickalene Thomas’s “do I Look Like a Lady? (Comedians and Singers)” (2016) also funny? Or just another collection of similar things, like in Stan Van Der Beek’s “Movie Mural, 1965-1968?

Rob Pruitt

Rob Pruitt, “Rob Pruitt’s Official Art World Celbrity Look-Alikes”, 2016-17 (Gavin Brown’s enterprise)

Obstacle courses

Paolo Icaro

Paolo Icaro, “Metallic Forest”, 1967 (Massimo Minini, P420)

Francesco Arena

Francesco Arena, “Orizzonte”, 2012–2017 (Raffaella Cortese, Sprovieri)

Jason Rhoades

Jason Rhoades, “Sutter’s Mill”, 2000 (Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner)


Park Chan-kyong

Park Chan-kyong, “Citizen’s Forest”, 2016 (Kukje Gallery)

Bruce Nauman

Bruce Nauman, “Walks In Walks Out”, 2015 (Sperone Westwater)

David Claerbout

David Claerbout, “The pure necessity”, 2016 (Sean Kelly, Esther Schipper)

Painting. And by other means.

Secundino Hernández

Secundino Hernández, “Four Seasons, Between Summer and Fall” 2016-17 (Bärbel Grässlin, Krinzinger, Victoria Miro)

Donna Huanca

Donna Huanca, “Bliss (Reality Check)”, 2017 (Peres Projects)

Big stuff / crowd pleasers

Otto Piene

Otto Piene, “Blue Star Linz”, 1980 (Sprüth Magers)

Oompa Loompas

Chris Burden’s airship was best when it wasn’t circling—because of the orange minders.

Chris Burden

Chris Burden, “Ode to Santos Dumont”, 2015 (Gagosian)


Carl Andre’s “20 Meter Steel Triangle” (1983) was lost in Unlimited but practical because you could walk over it. Much better was its site photo in the catalogue. Philippe Parreno’s “Fraught Times: For Eleven Months of the Year it’s an Artwork and in December it’s Christmas (July)” (2017) was timely.

Philippe Parreno

Philippe Parreno, “Fraught Times”, 2017 (Pilar Corrias)


…to remind you that artists at Venice obviously also appear at Basel. Phyllida Barlow deserves the attention though.

Phyllida Barlow

Phyllida Barlow, “untitled (100banners)”, 2015 (Hauser & Wirth)

An empty shop


00 FORT “Leck” 2012.2015 (Sies + Höke)