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VOLTA Basel 2019: 15 electrifying years
Jeroen Dijkstra (center, director of Livingstone Gallery, The Hague/Berlin) presents works from the gallery’s curated project, The Collective Memory Archive, to guests. Artists on view include Aaron van Arp, Ruri Matsumoto, Raquel Maulwurf, and Manfred Schneider.


BASEL.- Fifteen years is a landmark occasion for a contemporary art fair in this day and age. The art market and yearly calendar is mutable, with a sometimes turbulent ebb and flow of activity, resulting in the moving of dates, locations, and even occurrences. Thus, VOLTA’s 15th anniversary and its second edition back at Elsässerstrasse 215, within the neighborhood of its inaugural edition from 2005, is an accomplishment. Further still, its assembly of 78 galleries, and the steady attention and sales they received throughout the week, is further proof of VOLTA’s presence as a key platform for new international positions, from all ages and points of view, within Art Basel Week.

“When we started in 2005, with 23 galleries at the Voltahalle, we never dreamed our little project would last this long. Every year since then, at each edition, we have had both the naysayers and the ‘yay’-sayers and we have heard the full spectrum of comments—from it being the worst fair ever to the best fair ever—but at the end of the day what counts is: Did quality visitors come? Did good sales get made? and every single year, even with changes in venue, we have been able to answer in the affirmative,” states Artistic Director and co-founder, Amanda Coulson. “With this history and the fair’s longevity, with the continued proof of concept by a full house of enthusiastic dealers, serious collectors and the constant progression of artists that started at VOLTA eventually being highlighted at main fairs globally, we can be proud of 'the little art fair that could’.”

Exhibitors new to VOLTA achieved a solid foothold during the fair week, with diverse offerings of emergent and established artists delivering bold sales. “VOLTA has a U.S. presence and I know U.S. collectors like my artists,” remarked Anouk Le Bourdiec (owner of Galerie ALB, Paris). “I have met English and European collectors as well this week, and I am really happy to have placed works with top collectors from everywhere, locally, abroad, and with Americans as well.” She tallied sales of THE KID and Nicolas Pegon to the United States, and Julia Faber to the United Kingdom and Switzerland, with 10 works placed through Thursday. Commenting on the hyperreal and sociopolitical context of her selected works, across various mediums, Le Bouriec added, “I chose my artists so that their technique is clear.” Artual Gallery (Beirut) placed new work by Rob Tucker, the young New Zealander from the gallery’s international roster, to a German couple, new clients for the gallery. “They sat down in front of it,” recounted dealer Sarya Martin, gesturing to the custom lounge furniture by Kyburz Made that faced the painting, “for about an hour – as if they were at home with it, and then they bought it.” She sold a new painting by Brazilian-American talent Jonni Cheatwood to an American client and secured New York-based Korean rising star Stickymonger with a key contact from home. From their group project of Venezuelan artists working at home and in diaspora, Cerquone Projects (Caracas) – placed Fausto Amundarain’s mixed media grid Anonimato (cubes) with a new client from Germany, plus a painting by Enay Ferrer to another new contact. Galeria Contrast’s (Barcelona) two-artist presentation of Rafel Bestard and Íñigo Navarro, both young masters of New Spanish Figurative Movement, received serious attention all week, with the gallery placing several of Bestard’s paintings to a new international clientele and moving Navarro’s large scale composition Byzantium’s defence to a collecting friend of a collector contact. “We’ve had a very happy experience,” remarked dealer Victor Casteñeda. “The VOLTA team has been super professional and organized.” The Chemistry Gallery (Prague) placed two large-scale acid-toned paintings by Lubomir Typlt with a new client from New York. Meanwhile, Galleri KANT (Copenhagen) rehung their booth, a statement solo project by Fabian Treiber, comprised of soft-shaped still-lifes and scenes rendered expertly in acrylic and aerosol, four times over the course of the fair. “It was a wise choice to come with a solo show,” commented gallerist Kerry Harm Nielsen. “This really helped us to present and talk about Fabian’s practice.” Nielsen sold over 15 paintings of various dimensions and works on paper to an international clientele, including repeat clients and new contacts. “There is a clear organization to this fair,” he added, “and I’ve done a lot of art fairs. VOLTA is effective, friendly, and I feel you take care of us.”

“I’ve had a busy week and have been selling everyday,” said Arne Zimmermann, owner of Pablo’s Birthday (New York) and a longtime VOLTA exhibitor. In addition to sales of most everyone from his stable of mid-career artists, including Henrik Eiben, Frank Gerritz, and Thorsten Brinkmann, Zimmermann curated a focus of several young and new positions, placing multiple works of Alice Quaresma to familiar and new clients. “People love her: they interact with her work, they get the South American fragility to it before they even know she’s Brazilian. She pushes the boundary of photography, and yet there’s something art historic about it, including its roots in geometric abstraction from Brazil in the 1960’s.” Following sales of Ruri Matsumoto early on, Livingstone Gallery (The Hague/Berlin) placed a statement horizontal charcoal pastel by Raquel Maulwurf to a Belgian collector who will transport it to their home in Spain. “We ended on a high note!” proclaimed Jeroen Dijkstra, owner of the gallery. “It’s been a good week – I’ll leave here with money in my pocket,” remarked Justin Ten Haaf (owner, Ten Haaf Projects, Amsterdam), standing within Peer Vink’s immersive booth installation of paintings and wood and ceramic sculptures, some of which are motorized. “The sales are great but it’s also about supporting and showing my artists. I met an Italian couple the other day and sold to them, and I wouldn’t have met them in Amsterdam. Maybe last year, some people couldn’t find the new location, but I feel they’ve been in good attendance this week.”

A variety of clientele gravitated to three-dimensional offerings at the fair, from the intimate and complex to the ambitious and space-defining. Pentimenti Gallery (Philadelphia) placed multiple works of Ted Larsen, including the largest wall-mounted sculpture on view, Tense Calm, with a new local client. Commented dealer Christine Pfister, “These acquisitions go to very good collections, focused collections. This is really exciting for Ted and for me.” Zahorian & Van Espen (Bratislava/Prague) placed Jaroslav Kysa’s mixed media and automated Bust with a key new client from Lichtenstein, in addition to sales of Viktorie Langer’s new paintings. KYAS Art Salon (Amsterdam) placed Kouji Ohno’s lifesize two-figure sculptural installation Storage Element, painstaking carved from Japanese camphor wood, in a major Russian institution. In their second year showing, Mironova Gallery (Kiev) placed Nazar Bilyk’s spherical bronze sculpture Cut with a new German contact. Galerie La Forest Divonne (Paris/Brussels) placed several David Décamp sculptures, including Leaded yet still enlightened with Singapore and Short sighted with Germany, both new clients. for the gallery. “These are not easy pieces but the serious collectors understand and appreciate this,” noted Jean de Malherbe, director. His colleague Victorie Sidhoum likewise recorded interest in Décamp’s other works on view, ranging from sculpture to lightbox compositions. Léna & Roselli Gallery (Budapest) sold Ivan Lardschneider’s bronze sculpture My Angel, the artist’s most ambitious on view, on Tuesday morning, and gallery director Judit Jerk tracked interest in the artist’s linden wood floor sculpture, Aquaplay, as well as sales for artists Naoki Fuku and Mózes Incze. Set Espai d’Art (Valencia) placed Cristina Almodóvar’s large-scale composition Large Foliar Lichen, composed of recycled and painted plastic and reflective color blooming across a wood base, to a new Swiss client as well as a smaller work on offer. Up front, Galerie Mark Hachem (Paris/Beirut) sold Philippe Hiquily’s iconic steel floor sculpture L’Epicurienne to a Swiss couple living in California on Tuesday for over 70,000 EUR, plus the first editions of Michelangelo Bastiani’s video project and installation Giulia – les Damoiselles de Capri. Hachem noted two acquisitions of Isabell Beyel and Patrick Rubinstein, the Nouveau Pop anchors of the gallery’s prominent outside walls, on Saturday.

For galleries who showed last year, at VOLTA’s debut at Elsässerstrasse, their return to the hall proved as successful, or more so, than 2018. Christian Marx Galerie (Düsseldorf) placed two commanding portraits, Tim Okamura’s mixed-media painting Current Event (24,000 EUR) and Maxim Wakultschik’s lacquer on wood toothpicks composition Frida (Green Blouse) (16,000 EUR) to a new client from Germany. Marx also sold Wakultschik to Ukraine and another to Basel, for all six of his exhibited works sold. “That’s what VOLTA is: collectors from Basel, collectors from all around the world.” Island Japan (Tokyo) had practically sold out by week's end, with only one of Tohru Matsushita’s mixed media collaged canvases remaining. Gallerist Haruka Ito noted she received both local clients she met last year as well as new collectors from Basel and Zürich, placing eight works with them. “For ‘Tohry’,” she noted, using the artist’s nickname, “his process is like editing a film, making, taking, and adding to each one. This technique and his finished works leaves an impression on visitors, I think.” Lee & Bae (Busan) moved two of Jin-Wook Yeom’s large-format, blossoming colorfield paintings from the artist’s Memory of Mountain series to Moscow and several of Sang-Sun Bae’s dramatic gesso on velvet compositions to Switzerland, all to new contacts for the gallery. Gibbons & Nicholas (Dublin) sold four works by Siobhan McDonald, including her video installation Study for a volcano, depicting the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, to a European collector of new media art. Victor Lope Arte Contemporanea (Barcelona) rehung their booth midweek after a bevvy of interest. Gallerist Marta Camprubí tallied four hand-carved figurative sculptures by Mario Dilitz (in a range of woods or bronze) and three graphite compositions by Kepa Garraza sold to mostly new clients from Switzerland and Mallorca. Le Salon Vert (Carouge) placed 12 of Susanna Bauer’s delicate sculptures, composed of dried leaves, thread, and wood, to a widely international audience, including her captivating Cube Tree No.7 sculpture to a local collector. Vin Gallery (Ho Chi Minh City) placed seven of Richard Streitmatter-Tran’s new Profilia series, mixed media portraits painted directly onto the inside of metal woks and plates, into the collection of the 21c Museum (Louisville, USA). Dealer Shyevin S’ng remarked, “I have met quality and interesting people who are engaged with my artists. The VOLTA team is amazing as well, I feel well taken care of and I like that.”

Galleria Doris Ghetta (Oritsei) received great new contacts and sold multiple sculptures from a suite of new works by Aron Demetz, figures cast in bronze, charred wood, and plaster, to an international base. “He’s a very strong artist and yet very sensitive and kind in person,” noted Ghetta, “and this body of work is a concentration of some 10 years of his research and practice. At this point, I believe he’s found a strong place within the art world canon.” Galerie Roger Katwijk (Amsterdam) had sold out of Belgian artist Stefan Peters’ new gestural brushwork paintings, mainly to new clients local and from Hong Kong, and placed Pieter Obels’ Corten steel sculpture to a collector who purchased it as a gift for their daughter. Rutger Brandt Gallery (Amsterdam) placed a substantial photoreal painting from Yigal Ozeri’s recent series A New York Story to a new client as well as over 10 of Johan De Wit’s monochrome reliefs to an international retinue. Martin Asbæk Gallery (Copenhagen) likewise sold steadily all week long, following up the sale of Kristian Dahlgaard’s largest bronze floor sculpture on view with multiple mixed-media works by Jacob Stangerup and one of two new Kasper Eistrup paintings on offer. “Maybe half of the visitors to my booth recognize Mio’s work from her Aesop installation, and the other half are excited to go to the shop in Basel and see it for themselves,” noted Fumiyuki Shimokado, director of Cohju Contemporary Art (Kyoto), commenting on exhibiting artist Mio Yamato’s site-specific installation at Aesop’s Spalenberg Basel boutique and her live-painting action at the fair that she conducted throughout the week.”It’s been a great reaction so far.” Shimokado tallied sales of two of Yamato’s works, with interest from both American and European clients to her large-scale statement work, Repetition Black (line) 7, plus a strong placement of Hidekazu Tanaka’s painting with a new collector. “Traffic picked up as the week progressed,” noted Patrick Heide, owner of his namesake London gallery and a VOLTA veteran, “and we’ve sold 18 works, mostly to new collectors,” including multiple works of Isabel Albrecht and Sophie Bouvier Ausländer, plus Caroline Kryzecki. Confirming it with his colleague, Amy Hilton, Heide added, “plus we sold to a young London couple we didn’t know from before, so that was a cool thing.” Charlie Smith London (London) placed three cabinet cards by Tom Butler and a ceramic diorama by Tessa Farmer with the 21c Museum, and gallerist Zavier Ellis tallied sales from six of the eight artists exhibited in his curated project, Thresholds, including Dominic Shepherd to a prominent Zürich collection and Geraldine Swayne to Basel. Across the aisle, Galerie Heike Strelow (Frankfurt am Main) had move well over a dozen of Starsky Brines’ paintings and works on paper in the week, plus the gallery recorded sales of Jonny Green and Irene Grau. “I’m really happy,” commented Strelow, “and I’m going hope satisfied as ever.” Active from the beginning, Galerie Thomas Fuchs (Stuttgart) sold from all four their artists — Jochen Hein, Ruprecht von Kaufmann, Rudy Cremonini, and Rainer Fetting — for a total of 26 works placed before the week’s conclusion, and the gallery received museum and curatorial interest as well. “We’ve heard from collectors and curators alike, that they love this space,” noted Fuchs. “The light, the atmosphere, the flow: it is a space where you can concentrate on the artwork.”

VOLTA welcomed a diverse coterie of international art lovers to its 15th Basel edition, including: Ole Faarup (Copenhagen, in his repeat visit for the week); Carl Christian and Janna Aegidius (Copenhagen); Marco Stücklin (Basel); Hugo Brown (Glasgow/Amsterdam); Maxine Frankel (Detroit); Frances P. Ruane (Dublin); Ines Sabine Hüvel (Zürich); Gerald Piltzer (Zürich); Kamiar Maleki (Istanbul); Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson (Founders, 21c Museum, Louisville USA); Dr. Ulf Küstor (Curator, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel); Eric Shiner (Artistic Director, White Cube, New York and London); Don Bacigalupi (Special Advisor to the Founders and former Founding President, The Lucas Music of Narrative Art, Los Angeles); Dr. Markus Stegmann (Director, Museum Langmatt, Baden); Dr. Claudia Petersen (Vice-Director, Private Markets, Zürcher Kantonalbank); associates of Frederick Weismann Art Foundation (Los Angeles); leadership of AMC – Academisch Medisch Centrum (Amsterdam); representatives from Fabergé Museum (Saint Petersburg); members of In Artibus Foundation (Moscow); members of BIS Sportsclub (Basel); representatives of Fieldstead and Company (Irving, USA); plus many art fair leadership colleagues and other distinguished guests.

In closing, Coulson remarked, “In a difficult contemporary landscape where the consistent comment is that mid-range fairs are in danger, where the small ‘mom-and-pop’ galleries are being eaten up, VOLTA remains steadfast and true to its mission: a place for discovery, a place for ‘mother galleries,’ and this continues to attract the appropriate engaged and curious collector. This was reflected in the visitors and sales and bodes well for the future.”





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