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Art Basel Announces Eight Works by Internationally Renowned Artists for its Public Art Projects
Conrad Shawcross, Miro, Klüser, Perrotin.

BASEL.- This summer the Messeplatz, sited directly in front of the buildings hosting the 40th edition of Art Basel, will once again become a stage for art projects in the public space. Eight works by internationally renowned artists Valentin Carron, General Idea, Mark Handforth, Jeppe Hein, Gabriel Kuri, Mathieu Mercier, John McCracken and Ken Price will be installed.

The Public Art Projects platform offers insight into leading contemporary artists’ interpretation of art in public space, placing art in the urban context and encouraging participation by the general public. The sector’s exhibition concept has once again been devised by experienced Basel curator Martin Schwander, and the pieces featured on Messeplatz will be installed site-specifically. Not at all a traditional sculpture exhibition, Public Art Projects showcases interventions in urban space.

The following galleries and artists have been selected by the Art Basel Committee:

Valentin Carron, born 1977
(Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich)

General Idea, founded 1969
(Esther Schipper, Berlin; Galerie Mai 36, Zürich;
Galerie d’Art Contemporain Frédéric Giroux, Paris)

Mark Handforth, born 1969
(Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich)

Jeppe Hein, born 1974
(Johann König, Berlin)

Gabriel Kuri, born 1970
(Galleria Franco Noero, Torino)

Mathieu Mercier, born 1970
(Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin)

John McCracken, born 1934
(David Zwirner, New York)

Ken Price, born 1935
(Matthew Marks Gallery, New York)

Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, shows “Fosbury Flop” (2009) by Swiss artist Valentin Carron, an immense cross made of wood, evoking questions about the symbolically enhanced objects that the artist finds in his immediate environment. The cross is both a public sculpture entailing universally known religious connotations and an abstract relief of two crossing lines referencing abstract art.

Both artefact and artwork, the “AIDS sculpture” (1989) recalls the late 1980s and the early 1990s, when the AIDS epidemic dominated headlines. The six-foot lacquered metal sculpture was created in 1989 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal of General Idea (presented by Esther Schipper, Berlin; Galerie Mai 36, Zurich; Galerie d’Art Contemporain Frédéric Giroux, Paris) at a time when few artworks dealt specifically with AIDS. Inspired by American artist Robert Indiana's first 1970 LOVE sculpture, General Idea replaced the word LOVE with AIDS, compressing the letters into two rows within a perfect square. Displayed outdoors on different sites since 1989, the sculpture has accumulated extensive graffiti, which itself then became an integral part of the work.

In his work “Platz” (2007) Mark Handforth (Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich) created massively dimensioned pieces of a chain that are interlaced and become an entity appearing to be almost organic. In his sculptural installations, Handforth transplants familiar objects into unfamiliar surroundings, in order to reveal something new about the ways in which these things exist and function in our everyday lives, and transforms them into a new form of physical poetics.

“Loop Bench” (2006) by Danish artist Jeppe Hein (Johann König, Berlin) is an artwork derived from the basic form of a usual park bench. The work enlarges the bench to an absurd degree, forming a long bench loop with crossings and bending, thus creating a kind of maze-like structure for visitors to sit on. At the same time the bench has its own sculptural quality. The key aspect of the artwork is the reaction or interaction it provokes in the viewer, and the ways in which that reaction ripples out to create further reactions and interactions, such that the artwork becomes the centre of a series of events and unpredictable social encounters.

The double meaning in the title “Hard-Pressed Cable”, by Gabriel Kuri (Galleria Franco Noero, Torino), is rather telling of the content in this piece. On the one hand it evokes the way in which an urgent news item is tagged in the lingo of the communication industry, and on the other, a direct allusion to physical compression. The sculpture is made of a large and empty floor-standing floodlighted billboard, against which a crushed tropical juice can is propped up by a long wooden beam. This creates a contrast between the actual physical weight of the structure and the lightness of the can. The commercial and promotional functions of the billboard are appropriated in order to depict the image of a distant oasis, flattened onto the vanishing point of its surface.

The sculpture “Untitled” (2009) by Mathieu Mercier (Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin) resembles a monumental, monochrome colored line, based on scientific research concerning our visual perception: When looking at our environment the eye shifts and moves from point to point, from detail to detail - rather than perceiving the entire structure simultaneously. Settled on the border of architecture and design, Mercier’s object-like sculptures possess a strong relation to banal behaviour patterns.

David Zwirner, New York, presents John McCracken’s new work “Liftoff” (2009), a sculpture consisting of a rectangular stainless steel column. As one of the West Coast Minimalists, McCracken calls his objects “blocks, slabs, columns, planks. Basic beautiful forms, neutral forms”. Bold solid colors with their highly polished finish will reflect the Messeplatz, as well as the observer, in a way that takes the work into another dimension.

Ken Price (Matthew Marks Gallery, New York) will present his first monumental outdoor sculpture, “Bulgogi” (2009), which stands over seven feet tall and presents the viewer with an entirely new way of seeing the artist’s work. The sculpture is made of clay elements whose surfaces, each painted with many layers of color, are then sanded down to create a rich and patterned skin.

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