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VOLTA14 Basel: A happy homecoming
Andreas Pucher (left) and Thomas Fuchs (right, co-directors of Galerie Thomas Fuchs, Stuttgart) engage with collectors around new paintings by Christian Awe.

BASEL.- There’s no place like home, as the adage goes. For VOLTA, Basel’s art fair for new international positions, this has meant moving to three unique locations over 13 years before a warm and welcoming homecoming back to its original neighborhood, Voltaplatz. Many longtime galleries — including some who have traversed several of these previous moves — signed on for VOLTA’s 14th edition, as well as choice newer faces. Coupled with this confidence was the collector base, a mix of international “familiar faces” and devoted locals, who joined in the excitement to make VOLTA’s debut at Elsässerstrasse 215 a serious and selling success.

“While we were extremely confident with the move, there were the inevitable jitters about how it would be received—it’s a bit like introducing your new boyfriend to the parents!” joked VOLTA’s Artistic Director, Amanda Coulson, “So we were extremely gratified that both exhibitors and visitors responded so enthusiastically to the new hall, which Managing Director Chris De Angelis transformed into a fitting home for VOLTA. Despite the shaky weather, curiosity got the better of everybody and opening day was as packed as ever!”

Galerie Thomas Fuchs (Stuttgart) welcomed a stunning reception for their duo presentation of German stalwart Jochen Hein and up-and-comer Christian Awe, both of whose latest bodies of work focus on, for precision’s sake, “wetness realism.” Gallerists Fuchs and Andreas Pucher recorded seven sales of Hein’s new seascapes (priced at 6,100 – 23,000 EUR) as well as five of Awe’s dazzlingly colorful splashes (4,300 – 10,500 EUR) over the course of the Preview Day. “It’s been unbelievably strong,” enthused Pucher. “I think this is the most sales we’ve made at any first day of any of the fair’s we have done.” “Collectors have been telling us they love this new location,” Fuchs chimed in. “They enjoy the flow of booths, and they say this space has a good architecture for the fair.” Galerie Heike Strelow (Frankfurt am Main), a stalwart VOLTA exhibitor who has weathered moves from Dreispitzhalle to Markthalle to the present venue, mused that, “This is perhaps my best start to date, and I’m very happy!” Within her curated presentation around realism and abstraction, Strelow sold 15 total works, mainly from Starsky Brines, a rising star from Venezuela, including several statement paintings and seven works on paper, as well as several vivid, almost Flemish-style compositions by British artist John Stark, to a mix of repeat and new international clients. Across the aisle at Charlie Smith London (London), another VOLTA veteran, owner Zavier Ellis took opening day in stride, surrounded by his thematic booth, The Hierarchy of Scale. Noting collectors’ concerted interest in John Stark, whom Ellis debuted at VOLTA NY 2013 and now co-represents with Strelow, Ellis sold Eternity is Rot, at 180 centimeters wide among Stark’s largest works to date. “At the end of the first day, I’m very pleased,” Ellis said, noting “reactions to our recent discovery, Barry Thompson, where we’ve placed multiple works of his, selling to prominent international collectors and museum directors.”

Coupled with such longtime VOLTA Basel exhibitors are international positions making their debut in Basel. Following a solid debut at VOLTA NY 2018, REM Project (San Juan) broke significant new ground here, selling Raul Estéras’ four-panel wood and mixed media composition Horizon to a new local client. “New York was our first step, and Basel is the next,” stated Roberto Escobar Molina aka REM, the gallery founder and director, noting his curated project of Estéras, Rafael Vargas Bernard, and duo Javier and Jaime Suarez and the artists’ respective practices within and beyond the current sociopolitical climate in Puerto Rico and the United States. “And now I’m no longer a Basel virgin!” Christian Marx Galerie (Düsseldorf) mounted a strong solo presentation of even stronger compositions of women of color by Brooklynite-by-way-of-Canada Tim Okamura, who first showed at VOLTA seven years ago. Okamura’s CV has grown since then, including a showing at the White House (during President Barack Obama’s administration) and at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., and his presence at VOLTA was just about perfect. Marx sold two mid-size portraits during the preview, to collectors in Brussels and Basel, and move a third brand-new and statement work, Digital, to a young collector couple by the day’s end. Le Salon Vert (Carouge) sold a half dozen of Sue Williams A’Court’s seductive graphite compositions on found book covers as well as panel and canvas, revealing views of mythical Arcadia, to all new clients. Gallerist Angela Wollny added, “I’ve heard from many people who visit VOLTA every year that they believe this to be the true counterpoint to Art Basel.” Agreement was echoed at Voloshyn Gallery (Kiev), as co-owners Julia Voloshyna and Max Voloshyn received “clients who went to Liste first, then came here and said they prefer VOLTA for the quality here.” Hanna Huitu of Galerie Anhava (Helsinki) recorded “unexpectedly good sales” for mid-career experimental photographer Jorma Puranen’s enigmatic Arctic landscapes and portraits, selling six works to returning and new clients from Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. “We weren’t sure about the Art Basel crowd, but we had a good start,” she said. In their overseas debut, Island Japan (Tokyo) sold five of BIEN’s incised wood compositions to all new international clients, and dealer Haruka Ito noted that visitors were enticed from various entry-points to the young artist’s works, which echoed Japanese calligraphy, the natural world, and pure abstraction. Meanwhile, Victor Lope Arte Contemporáneo (Barcelona) sold six pieces, including Concha Martínez Barreto’s major graphite composition Madre, featuring an audio element, as well as four 3D photographic works by Patrik Grijalvo, to all new clients. “Victor’s very happy,” noted gallery associate Marta Camprubí, as the owner returned to his stand from relaxing with a client. “I am happy!” Lope agreed. “I visited VOLTA several years ago, and I have wanted to be here.” Up at the front and also in their VOLTA debut, Josef Zahorian and Silvia Van Espen (of Zahorian & Van Espen, Bratislava/Prague) received considerable attention to their cerebral and ambitious three-artist stand, spanning massive “tie-dye” paintings by Viktorie Langer, to elusive and spare photography by Lucie Sceranková and quizzical, motorized sculpture by Jaroslav Kysa. “We’re not afraid to take risks,” Zahorian commented. “Our presentations can be difficult and not easily sellable. This is who we are. Happily, we have met major and serious collectors today. The calibre of guests coming through the fair is great.”

In their second Basel edition, Privateview (Turin) sold from their solo presentation of Johan De Wit’s painted, resin and powdered marble-amplified paper sculptures, while dealer Silvia Borella noted “meeting many people from last year. We have a special audience with our program, but we have felt a great reception here in this new location already. And our clients like the new location, as all the galleries have a nice space here, unlike at the Markthalle.” YOD Gallery (Osaka) sold two of Hidehito Matsubara’s vibrant, feathered painted acrylic on wood compositions to new German and Finnish clients, plus a further sale of Stitch Dog’s hand-embroidered machine to a client who bought her work at VOLTA Basel two years prior. Over at their dramatic, violet-toned solo booth for artist Jonathan Chapline, The Hole’s (New York) founder Kathy Grayson commented that, “An immersive solo booth is our best move. People get the sense and scope of the artist,” as she gestured at the “retro-3D” paintings and sculptures by Chapline, “and a good overview of their work this way.” The gallery made an early sale of one of Chapline’s acrylic and flashe on panel compositions, all brand new for the fair. Adina Zorzini (owner of her namesake Bucharest gallery) sold young Szilard Gaspar’s dramatic sculpture Your Face in My Boxing Gloves, featuring a mirrored cast of the artist-boxer’s own gloves, to a new client from Switzerland. “He was happy to discover Szilard and see this new combination of art-making and boxing,” said Zorzini. “I think his son is involved in boxing, but he certainly loves collecting!” Longtime exhibitors frosch&portmann (New York) recorded sales of Julia Kuhl’s latest watercolors and Robert Yoder’s new mixed-media on hand towels series to a major Swiss company. Jerome O’Drisceoll, owner of VOLTA veteran gallery Green On Red (Dublin), commented that “the opening day buzz was real. I met a lot of repeat Basel people, and it’s very nice to find this loyalty, some of it from clients I’ve known for even 10 years now.” The energy of the Preview crowd, and the vibe that coursed through the venue following that, was echoed by another veteran VOLTA exhibitor, V1 Gallery (Copenhagen). Within their dramatic, red-walled, atelier-style project, Tables, Pots & Plants: A song for Matisse, dealer Jesper Elg enthused that “It’s been a really good and consistent day – by midday it had become very busy and the hours went by in a flash from there.” He noted particularly robust sales from Monica Kim Garza, Barry McGee, John Copeland, Ryan Schneider, Devin Troy Strother, Emma Kolhmann, and Geoff McFetridge, to a truly international audience. “People are very positive of the new fair layout,” he added. “Even though I loved Markthalle, I think this place can offer something new for VOLTA.”

A distinguished and discerning contingent of Guests of Honor visited VOLTA14 Basel during the Preview, including: Susan and Michael Hort (New York); Carole Server and Oliver Frankel (New York); Ole Faarup (Copenhagen); Marco Stücklin (Basel); Robert Lowinger (New York); Bibi Werner (Copenhagen); Christian Just Linde (Copenhagen); Vivian and Tim Smith (Australia); Nina Wedell (Copenhagen); Dieter Meier (Vienna); Karen and Robert Duncan (Lincoln, NE); Tony and Jean Harrison (New York); Bill and Ace Ehrlich (New York); Elke Gruhn (Curator, Nassauischer Kunstverein); members of BIS/Bank for International Settlements (Basel); representatives from Stiftung Brasilea (Basel); as well as many other lovers of the arts.

The Preview Crowd, including guests who visited VOLTA after Liste, stayed awhile within the fairs two lounges, designed by Kyburz Made and Thomas Rösler & Wolfram Mathijssen, two unique sanctuaries within which to enjoy the culinary delights conceived by Marcus Meyer and his Culinarium.

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June 14, 2018

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VOLTA14 Basel: A happy homecoming

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