Once a year, contemporary art aficionados flock to Switzerland for Art Basel, probably the world’s most important and prestigious art event. A whole lot of additional programmes, parallel fairs, museum shows and art prizes run concurrently to it during that week. The preview days of these things are arguably most fascinating, since so-called “VIPs” use an early bird advantage to meet people, buy art and spy on each other while eating €50 salads, consequently allowing others to draw conclusion on what’s hot and what’s not. Sleek was there to check it out, and here is our list of the most noteworthy aspects of 2017 Art Basel week.
Young painters have reached peak irony
Liste, the alternative fair to Art Basel, features younger (and hipper) galleries than its older and grander sister. That often also means the same for artists exhibited: they’re younger, wilder and a bit more fun than their post-war master counterparts. This fact has increasingly led many of them to dabble in a specific genre of figurative painting: colourful, technically executed in a rather bad way and slightly surrealist. Soaked with irony, this style started as an amusing trend a few years ago but has seemingly reached its peak this year: Liste bursts with rather small canvases representing disturbed people the colour of a hematoma. If so much of it is there, that means collectors are buying it; like yoga pants for lunch or the word “brah”, ironically bad painting might become one of those dubious things we’ll get accustomed to without even really noticing.
Orange! Give me Orange!
At the vanity fair that the Art Basel VIP preview is, hot orange was everywhere – both on the people (your author included) and in the art. One fabulous woman sported a suit in said colour, the pants and sleeves of which were puffy at the bottom; she looked like the chicest persimmon lobbyist the world had ever seen. But many works tied in that particular shade too; among others, a small diptych by On Kawara at the Hauser & Wirth booth would have fitted perfectly with many skirts, shoes, lips and handbags on site.
Swiss hipsters don’t all live in Berlin
The opening of the Swiss Art & Design Awards Monday night looked like it was co-styled by Demna Gvasalia and Raf Simons. Adventurously cut blouses, uber-slouchy T-shirts tucked in wide-legged pants, high-tech tote bags, faded 1990s prints: all of it was there, worn by handsome young people, most of whom were somehow hot shit in the Swiss cultural scene, bilingual and super friendly. In terms of style, openness and desirability, the event might have trumped the opening of Art Basel unlimited, at which large testosterone-loaded pieces, mostly by men and carefully looked upon by wavy-haired gallery employees in navy suits, are staged a bit too dramatically to satisfy a crowd always hungry for bigger, better, faster, stronger.
Injured bodies sell well
At both Liste and Art Basel, a suspicious amount of works focused on the human body, somehow in a state of suffering, death or at least constriction. Two in particular felt cringe worthy, but in a good way: a green creature by Renaud Jerez, lying on a pedestal, formed the centre of Galerie Crèvecoeur’s booth; somehow it seemed both mummified and ready to mess you up, “Alien:Covenant”-style. At Beijing’s Long March Gallery, a golden-haired figure also lay there, nastily smeared with red spray paint, half of its body a skeleton and a spear piercing its head. Perhaps this is a good reflection of how gallery staff feel after explaining such a piece to curious visitors for seven days in a row.
The best-dressed people of the art world circuit are always the same
For fashion experts, the Basel art week might constitute a prime terrain of research. While most men keep to the snooze-inducing dark suit, women this year are clearly under Alessandro Michele’s influence: retro prints and flea market-chic are very popular. However, nobody is – or will ever be, for that matter – more exquisitely styled than Berlin’s own Eva and Adele, the bold (literally and figuratively) performer couple. It’s nearly impossible to shake off the fascination you feel every time you encounter them although they attend almost every single art-related event possible (it’s part of their performative practice). On Monday night, both looked phenomenal in peach, combining a tutu, a coral necklace and no hair with royal poise. Their inherent kindness and approachability only make them even more of a reliable highlight during these captivating few days in Switzerland.