Goings on about Basel: June 11-17, 2018

Every year in June, the art world descends on the city of Basel for a week-long schedule of art fairs, exhibitions and art-related events. Most famously, Art Basel opens on June 14th at Messe Basel. However, there are also several other unmissable art fairs in Basel that week. Here are the goings-on in Basel during the week of June 11 to 17. 

Art Basel

The most prominent player exhibiting next week is doubtlessly Art Basel, who also run annual art fairs in Miami and Hong Kong. This year, the fair will welcome 290 galleries from around the globe, who will present modern and contemporary art by approximately 4,000 artists. These galleries include established galleries such as Gladstone and White Cube; however, Art Basel also gives younger galleries the opportunity to participate, inviting 16 galleries to join for the first time. The fair is artist-centred, which is displayed especially in its other sections. ‘Feature’ focuses on established artists, whose projects are curated by the fair’s gallerists; this year, these include Alex Katz with Monica de Cardenas and Gerhard Richter with Galerie Löhrl. ‘Statements’, on the other hand, presents solo projects by emerging artists, who are then eligible to receive the Baloise Art Prize: the awarded artwork is acquired by the Baloise Group, who then donates it to important European art institutions. The fair thus uniquely focuses on both historic and established artists, and their younger colleagues. Art Basel also presents a wide range of talks during the fair, and the fair’s ‘Unlimited’ section offers a platform for works of art that defy the traditional art fair presentation. Curated by a New York-based curator, Gianni Jetzer, ‘Unlimited’ provides galleries with the opportunity to exhibit large-scale installations, monumental sculptures, and performances. This year, the highlights include Ai Weiwei’s ‘Tiger, Tiger, Tiger’, a work that consists of more than 3,000 broken porcelain vessel-bases accrued by the artist over two decades (with neugerriemschneider, Berlin) and Alfredo Jaar’s ‘A Hundred Times Nguyen’, a multimedia installation that reaffirms that the “immigration crisis” seen worldwide today is neither new nor fixed (with Galerie Lelong & Co., New York & Paris). Art Basel is always multifaceted, which makes it, in the words of Roxana Azimi of Le Monde, an ‘unrivalled barometer of the art market.’ 

Ai Weiwei, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, 2015. © Image courtesy of the artist, Lisson Gallery and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

Ai Weiwei, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, 2015. © Image courtesy of the artist, Lisson Gallery and neugerriemschneider, Berlin


LISTE was founded in 1996 by Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchman, two gallerists from Zurich. The fair is held in a former brewery building that has been converted to Werkraum Warteck pp, a workspace for collaboration between different projects and businesses. Each year, around 40 permanent tenants move out of their space for the fair week, often working for the fair itself - a perfect representation of LISTE’s nature as a collaborative, ever-changing project. The fair largely focuses on introducing young galleries that feature primarily emerging, previously unknown artists. Approximately 80 galleries take part in the fair annually, representing over 30 countries - and of these 80, around 15 are introduced for the first time. Taking part in LISTE has been a significant stepping stone in the path of many younger galleries. The fair has long exhibited its commitment to young artists and emerging media. The Performance Project has been a part of the fair since 2005, inviting curators to develop performance art with promising young artists. Beyond this, the Helvetia Art Prize is awarded as part of the fair to a graduate of a Swiss university majoring in “visual and media art”. This award includes a solo exhibition at LISTE - an illustration of the company’s long-term commitment to emerging Swiss art.


Another well-known feature of the Basel art week is the VOLTA. This year marks the 14th time the fair, aptly titled Volta14, will welcome galleries from around the world. VOLTA was established at Volta-Platz in Basel in 2005 with the goal to secure a platform for international galleries beyond Art Basel, the market heavyweight, and Liste, which largely focuses on emerging art. Both in content and location, VOLTA has consistently claimed new territory, and this year is no exception, as the fair inaugurates the former COOP distribution centre as the newest locale for cultural exploration in Basel; all this just around the corner both from the main fair and from the place VOLTA itself was founded 14 years ago. VOLTA’s choice to use the COOP warehouse, now owned by the City of Basel, marks the beginning of a neighbourhood-wide rejuvenation plan, which will include a school and a variety of creative startups to be established in the area in the coming year.

This year, the fair will welcome over 70 international galleries, over half of which feature solo exhibitions and dual-artist booths, reflecting VOLTA’s artist-focused approach, and boasting an exciting array of new and returning artists. Amanda Coulson, VOLTA Artistic Director, comments: ‘We aim to do what we do best: providing a platform for professional gallery work while remaining a place for research and discovery’.


Finally, another highlight of the week is the SCOPE Art Show, which welcomes 70 international galleries from a diverse range of countries. SCOPE, like Liste, also focuses on emerging artists and young galleries, and several notable players have entered the international circuit through this fair, including Peres Projects, Berlin; Galeria Enrique Guerrero, Mexico City; Daniel Reich Gallery, New York; and Spinello Projects, Miami. However, the fair also offers an impressive range of events. SCOPE’s critically acclaimed VIP programme continues this year, welcoming such partners as Sotheby’s and the URBAN NATION museum. The latter is especially noteworthy: the fair shows its long-standing commitment to street art by once again partnering with this Berlin-based Museum of Urban Contemporary Art that strives to connect communities and artists around the world. Through this partnership, the fair will see immersive art projects, as well as a programme of performances, panel discussions, and screenings. This year, SCOPE returns to the centrally-located SCOPE Haus, which gives the visitors the most convenient view of the contemporary art on show. Located just a few blocks away from the busy Messeplatz, home to Art Basel, SCOPE offers a fresh counterbalance to the main fair.  


Words by Polina Gordovich

Art Browsers