The second edition of Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms features an international lineup of 279 leading galleries from 35 countries and territories. This edition provides an extensive overview of the diverse art scenes across the world as it groups together galleries are from Europe, North and South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Here’s what the galleries are showing.
Known for depicting prosaic items of daily life and the rich, delicate tones, Yan Bing’s paintings convey response to his early life experience in a countryside of northwestern China. In this exhibition, whether the recent works that stand alone or a group of paintings focusing on mushrooms are steeped in Yan’s deep understanding of individual spirit and human survival. Objects that are deliberately magnified against the gloomy background, as well as subtle lines and texture, give the work itself a strong sense of ritual and portrait.
Staged mise-en-scène and scenario re-enacting are often seen in Chen Wei’s photography. The constructed reality of Wei Chen’s clubs very much matches a destroyed reality. Chen Wei’s work has an iconic style of stage drama. Untitled (Fan), a 2010 photograph by Chen Wei, is at once a still life about summer and a failed advertisement work, showing a localised daily rehearsal, as well as an exercise of chaos and order.
As one of the important artists in contemporary Chinese installation art, Lu Lei’s works show sensitivity and precise control of material texture. His works often exude classical mysticism and allegorical inner qualities. Lu Lei is good at creating images of vivid imagination. Long Live the Roar! consists of two sculptures placed opposite to each other.The open “speakers” extend from the entangled cochleae like living creatures with thoughts. The two sculptures face each other, either as enemies of confrontation or as comrades of a group.
In August 2017, Damian Loeb traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to witness the total solar eclipse that was visible from North America. Using a hydrogen alpha telescope with an attached camera to observe and record the two minute and twenty-two second phenomenon, the artist was able to document a remarkable range of effects during the course of the eclipse.The series’ title, All Hope Is Lost, derives from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, where the phrase alludes to humanity’s contemplation of mortality and is used to describe the moment of greatest peril before the archetypal hero reemerges victorious. The climactic, dramatic moments rendered in Loeb’s paintings reflect the fine line between optimism and defeat, good and evil and light and dark. The paintings in this series, including Listen to the Silence, all take their titles from the lyrics of Joy Division songs.
By the late 1990s, Pop painter James Rosenquist had moved away from the everyday imagery of his earlier work to ponder scientific theories and existential themes. The Time Blades paintings of 2007 furthered this engagement with scientific questions about the passage of time, exploring the speed at which people understand concepts and generate ideas. The largest painting in The Time Blades series, Time Blades—Learning Curves addresses the process of learning and how students compete against the clock in school. The lightbulb at the center of the painting, pierced by two sharpened pencils, symbolises the process of writing down an idea that strikes in the middle of the night. Describing this painting, the artist explained: “If you look at the painting Time Blades—Learning Curves, and think ‘Gee, things are really distorted in this painting,’ well, what you’re actually seeing are just curves. On another level, time is tough in school, you’re under the gun, you’re being tested against the clock, there may or may not be a steep learning curve, but there is definitely a learning curve related to time.”
Despite the prevailing trends of modernism over the course of the twentieth century, the reclusive painter Balthus remained committed to his unique style of figurative painting over a career spanning more than six decades. This painting belongs to a group of three works on the theme of the goldfish bowl Balthus made in 1948. Though he depicts a changing group of children in the scenes, all three of the Le Poussin rouge paintings feature a careful, virtuoso rendering of the fishbowl, an eerily curious young girl sitting at the table, and a cat who stares knowingly out at the viewer. Balthus creates a sense of tension by having the cat and child stare directly at us, giving the impression that we are not meant to witness this moment—a sense of discomfort that is amplified by the dark shadows and dim lighting of the scene.
The sculptures all incorporate a globe-like form in the position of a head, which ties into the idea of breaking with traditional and established Western canons of knowledge. This concept is illustrated using the figure of children in the sculptures, who all bear Western tools which subvert our ideas around a European-inspired understanding of the world. These figures have seemingly departed Earth, entering other galaxies where they may resist the formalisation of knowledge that the West has set up. In turn, the sculptures re-imagine our dominant bodies of knowledge to create a new globalised perspective.
This series of paintings and drawings form part of Kudzanai Chiurai’s recent Paintings from the Radical Archive, a pastiche and homage to posters generated for the purpose of inciting publics into political action in what is now remembered as the turbulent 1970’s of Zimbabwe. By excavating these press-to-public posters and rendering them as paintings, Chiurai calls to attention the meditative processes required of both the painter and poster designer. The timelessness of the slogans and anthems appearing in the original posters is reiterated within Chiurai’s collage as a painful echo of their continued relevance in present day protest actions.
In Misheck Masamvu’s painting Missing Parts in a Dream, the artist uses painting and mark making as a way in which to track his thoughts and emotions. Using abstraction, Masamvu creates an imagined landscape which acts as a physical manifestation of his state of mind and his subconscious. For Masamvu, the painting allows him to “occupy a space without defining what it is”. As the title suggests, the painting is by no means a comprehensive and organised mapping, rather it exists as a struggle to remember the ephemeral realm of dreams and memories.
Nevin Aladağ’s most recent Resonator series considers the complexities of belonging. Drawing on the legacy of assemblage—artworks pieced together from found objects—the sculptures suggest conditions of fracture, dispersal, and displacement. Inspired by the first Resonator’s multipart structure, the sculptures combine found and fabricated instruments from different traditions. A triangular steel agogo serves as the base for Resonator Percussion; it is topped by a cube of geometric, leather-covered drums and a skirt of bells. By gathering instruments from around the globe and assembling each type with other members of its dispersed musical family, these smaller Resonator works highlight a common history of sound-making objects across time and space.
Karl Haendel’s photorealistic graphite drawings reproduce images culled from the world of mass media and everyday objects. The slow and physical process evinced in each drawing correlates to his conviction in critical reading and active interpretation. In his work, Haendel approaches US political themes, alongside historical approaches and interprets them in a contemporary way.
Jan-Ole Schiemann’s work oscillates between abstract and figurative elements, comic drawings and constructed surfaces, grey values and paint mist surfaces. As with classic cartoon production, he uses primarily black ink applied to unprimed canvas. Superimposing multiple transparent layers creates an unusual sense of depth.
Each additional plotted layer breaks up the original context piece by piece and creates new relationships between the visible background and image foreground. The viewer is encouraged to actively move around the image, in order to comprehend this themselves. Jan-Ole Schiemann challenges the tradition of paint on canvas through collage-like techniques, constructing works of a psychological and playful nature.
Walid Raad’s walls are on their way to Lebanon. They are an anonymous gift to the soon-to-be-built Beirut Museum of Art. The following instructions accompany the gift: Please stand these walls in the museum months before the building’s opening. They may ensure your attracting the artworks befitting us. Otherwise, you may end up with walls that appear empty even when filled.
The abstract, black and white surface of Akram Zaatari’s light boxes is in fact close-ups of negatives, that have been damaged by external factors. The original motifs fade under a multitude of unexpected patterns, formed by bubbles and ridges. These are close-ups of negatives that have changed over time and developed all sorts of air bubbles as a result of their environmental conditions. The same details have been photographed in different light setups to capture the 3D quality of the object.
Timo Nasseri’s latest project takes as a starting point the patterns of the Razzle Dazzle, a camouflage used during World War I on boats, which was supposed to prevent the enemy from estimating their exact heading and position. The patterns consisted of geometrical shapes painted in contrasting colours, and their authorship was then claimed by three different people: the artist Norman Wilkinson, the zoologist John Graham Kerr, and Pablo Picasso. This peculiar story leads Nasseri to deconstruct the camouflage patterns to their smallest unit, uncovering their primary shapes. The lines and colours that appear carry the echo of primitive cultures from Latin America, Africa and Asia; revealing a graphical alphabet used around the globe since the dawn of times, until it reached European warships at the turn of the 20th century. In his work, Timo Nasseri reflects on the universality of these patterns. Experimenting with matter, the ships themselves land on three-meter-high canvases and become totems or giant insects mirroring a return to origins.
Studio: Jeff Koons illuminates for the first time, a large-scale balloon sculpture recently completed by Koons of the goddess Venus, a figure that has recurred in the artist’s work since the 1970s. Featuring process videos, the artist’s preparatory drawings, and Koons’s own voice as a guide, this presentation offers an unprecedented look at his practice and work.
Wolfgang Tillmans has contended with the boundaries of the photographic medium since the early 1990s. In his ongoing Paper Drop series, photo paper acts as both material and subject matter: the sheet is folded onto itself in a delicate teardrop shape, and photographed with a very shallow depth of field.
Both sensory and utopian, Yayoi Kusama’s work possesses a highly personal character, one that has connected profoundly with large audiences around the globe. Alluding at once to microscopic and macroscopic universes, her works merge concepts of flatness and depth, presence and absence, and beauty and the sublime.
Hauser & Wirth
Painted in 1977, Philip Guston’s Visitor was created among a proliferation of paintings and drawings that constitute his late works, leading up to his death in 1980. As with much of the artist’s oeuvre, the paintings during this last phase are characterised by a sense of absurdity and darkness, tenderness and anxiety, a ‘tweaking humour’ as described by critic Norbert Lynton. ‘Its genre’, he posits, ‘is travesty; hence its bubbling sense of apostasy and humour’. Visitor, with its bust of an alien figure boldly cast in profile against a vast blue field of gestural brushstrokes, affirms Lynton’s description of estrangement and distortion to the extent that it might even appear as an outlier in Guston’s body of work. Here, however, we find the artist exploring existential themes that preoccupied him throughout his career—the surrealistic, grotesque, intimate and ‘the real’—expressed with a riveting sense of unmoored freedom.
The Press of Democracy (2020) features a loose urban grid in bright blue, with organic golds, browns, and blacks radiating from the center, evoking the release of mounting pressure caused by the suppression of kinetic energy. Using his signature techniques of layering paper, rope, and other materials onto canvas and processing the surface to reveal complex intersections between layers of meaning, Mark Bradford’s most recent work examines a world undone by crisis. Named after a chapter from Gotham, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace’s monumental history of New York City, The Press of Democracy considers the unspooling of generations of established power structures. Bradford makes a case for the animating power of abstract painting at a moment when everything seems up for grabs.
Mike Kelley is widely considered one of the most influential artists of our time. Originally from a suburb outside of Detroit, Kelley attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, before moving to Southern California in 1976 to study at California Institute of the Arts from which he received an MFA in 1978. The city of Los Angeles became his adopted home and the site of his prolific art practice. Begun in 1999, Mike Kelley’s Kandors series was inspired by the popular Superman comic books. According to legend, Superman was sent to Earth as a baby to escape the total destruction of his home planet, Krypton. Later, he discovers that the capital city of Kandor still exists, miniaturised by a nemesis and kept in a bell jar. Superman takes possession of his forever inaccessible hometown by storing it in his earthly lair, the Fortress of Solitude. As Kelley once explained, Kandor functions for Superman as ‘a constant reminder of his past and as a metaphor for his alienated relationship to the planet he now occupies’. With its tale of traumatic loss and profound displacement, the Superman saga provided the perfect vehicle for Kelley’s late fascination with popular culture references and psychological conditions. Encapsulating the fears and anxieties of a burgeoning Internet age, the Kandor series submits a sustained interrogation of the themes of alienation, memory and repression that preoccupied Kelley throughout his four-decade career.
La Cabeza (The Head) is a public work of art, a memento mori and a meditation room at once. It was while working on the Tarot Garden that de Saint Phalle developed the technique of covering the surfaces of the buildings/sculptures with custom made clay tiles ( made on site) and mirrors. She moved to La Jolla in 1992 and there she discovered glass beads and stones and abalone shells that she could use and it is also there that she discovered the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead. It is perhaps that tradition ( and of course the loaded subject of the skull as memento mori in western art history) that informs La Cabeza as a face of death that — at once festive and contemplative, hospitable: death as a transformation and not the end of everything. Once inside, visitors are sucked into the little room, reflects life back to them with its myriad of mirrors. Niki had represented death ever since she started making art – the shooting paintings. for the catalogue of her first exhibition at the Iolas gallery in Paris in 1962, she wrote prophetically, “You will adorn death with the enchantments of childhood. ” This sculpture, made at the end of her life, is her apotropaic manierist fetish, as she was facing her own death.
Huma Bhabha’s Receiver is a monumental bronze sculpture cast from carved cork, Styrofoam, and wood. It is her seventh major bronze work to date, following her celebrated site-specific installation for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden in 2018. This otherworldly, larger-than-life figure patinated in light blue and brown, with black and green detailing and scuffs and scratches throughout highlights Bhabha’s interests in figurative sculpture and direct carving; the bronze is cast from molds made from hand-chiseled pieces of cork and Styrofoam.
Between 1965 and 1967, Judy Chicago created a series of unique and editioned gameboard sculptures. Through these small-scale sculptures, Chicago explored the transformative properties of surface, finish, and colour. Existing in two unique versions, one is presented here and the other version is in collection of the Hammer Museum.
Nora Kapfer’s paintings move between figurative and abstract, preferring the impurity of the given categories. With silhouette-like forms such as rows of ornaments or optical codes in front of monochromatic pictorial grounds and on top of layers of bitumen, paper and paint, they are still lives under the sign of post-conceptual and digital conditions.
Handstitched ash tree leather leaves with imprint of enlarged coin. Min Yoon’s installations and paintings are tender examinations of the small shifts between different cultures of identification. The way they interweave mystical with capitalist rituals can be understood as a pragmatic evaluation of the present. Situations depicted and created in his work could likewise be a dream, a literary adaptation or even a contextual analysis of clichéd creative crises, they pay attention to the possibility of new imaginary notions becoming real before they can become hegemonic.
Galerie Thomas Schulte
In colour or black-and-white, world-famous photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s flowers play the role of seduction, an embrace, an orgasm. Appropriating the codes of a traditional artistic genre to better spin the metaphor, Mapplethorpe achieves the formal perfection of the staging, absolute mastery of the play of light and shadow, clinical precision of the framing—in short, everything for the still life to reach its most accomplished expression.
The four-meter-high, complex sculpture is composed of countless spirals, bows and arches of thin, white powder coated aluminum sheets that wind around each other. For these intricate, multi-faceted forms, the artist draws on an extensive repertoire of cyclonic wind patterns, which she assembles on the computer. A 3D-CAD-software enables Aycock to calculate the feasibility and statics of the arbitrary arcs and vortices of her sculptures and to realise them as blueprints for the production. Twister Grande (tall) is related to a series of large sculptures first shown in 2014 in a spectacular installation on Park Avenue in New York City entitled Park Avenue Paper Chase. The sculpture is currently on show at the Royal Djurgården in Stockholm.
Infinity brings together numbers and the demonstration of configured mathematical series through flickering, light-harnessing metal surfaces. As viewers count and try to work out the sequences, they might ruminate on the changing surfaces. These puffed-up forms are the result of experiments earlier in the 1990s at Kemco: a technique, as Deacon recalls, that “involved stiffening thin stainless steel sheets by pumping up two paired plates under water pressure—the plates were seam-welded around the edge and spot-welded across the surface, water being pumped between the two plates via two valves temporarily fitted into the edge.”
The above descriptions are sourced from the galleries’ press releases.
Art Basel is on view until the 26th of June.