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Art 40 Basel: Extraordinary Quality; Surprisingly Strong Results
Renée Green, Partially Buried in Three Parts, 1996/97.

BASEL.- The 40th edition of Art Basel closed on Sunday, June 14, 2009. This year, the annual reunion of the international artworld attracted 61,000 artists, collectors, curators, and art lovers from around the globe, slightly more than last year and the highest number ever. The participating galleries, art connoisseurs, and the media were unanimous in pronouncing this a strong year for the show. Art 40 Basel demonstrated the health of the high-quality segment within the art market: Collectors rewarded excellent material and strong booth presentations with unexpectedly strong sales throughout the week.

The show drew 61,000 visitors and 2,800 media representatives. A great many artists also attended the event, among them Stefan Balkenhol, Matthew Barney, Elmgreen and Dragset, Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Dan Graham, Subodh Gupta, Joan Jonas, Jeff Koons, Mark Leckey, Sigmar Polke, Ed Ruscha, Nedko Solakov, Not Vital and Franz Erhard Walther. And over 50 museum groups visited Art 40 Basel, as did major private collectors from North and South America, Europe and the emerging markets of the artworld.

In this 40th edition of the show, more than 300 galleries from 29 countries exhibited works by over 2,500 artists. Participating galleries displayed their most interesting pieces and presented them in carefully curated booths. Many stands featured thematic exhibitions and one-person shows and many galleries presented video works, installations and large sculptures. Paintings, works on paper, and photography continued to be strongly represented. Private collectors came from all continents, as did representatives of almost all the world’s major museums. Many exhibitors reported excellent results given the current conditions, adding that they also made valuable new contacts for the future of their program, and look forward to Art 41 Basel, which takes place June 16 through June 20, 2010.

Discussing their experience at Art 40 Basel, gallerists offered positive reports, such as these:

“The overall quality of the fair really creates an energy that makes collectors excited about buying art, which has resulted in us doing solid business - not just on the opening but every day of the show.” Mark Payot, Hauser and Wirth, Zurich/London

“We came with no expectations, but it went really well for us. There were many pleasant surprises and we connected with many new people.” Tim Blum, Blum and Poe, Los Angeles

“Business was surprisingly good, which was unexpected. Art Basel still remains the best place to see clients who return for many years, and to meet new ones as well.” Monika Sprüth, Sprüth Magers, Berlin/London

One of the most spectacular events at this year’s Art Basel was the presentation of “Il Tempo del Postino” at Theater Basel. All three nights were completely sold out and many art lovers extended their stay to experience this unique presentation, which many viewers aftewards described as a “historical artworld event”. Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno as a group exhibition that would occupy time rather than space, “Il Tempo del Postino” (Postman Time) presented a sequential display of timebased art on the theatre stage. The Basel edition of “Il Tempo del Postino” was directed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala and Rirkrit Tiravanija; each of the twenty artists - Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney & Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Koo Jeong-A, Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal and Rirkrit Tiravanija & Arto Lindsay - created an act of different length. “Il Tempo del Postino” was organized by Art Basel, Fondation Beyeler and Theater Basel and was originally co-commissioned by the Manchester International Festival and Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris for the World Premiere in Manchester in July 2007.

Art Unlimited spotlighted 60 ambitious works and once again drew a huge audience. Many of the exhibited pieces were created especially for Art 40 Basel and the 10th edition of this special exhibition was especially strong this year. Highlights included major works by legendary artists such as Sigmar Polke, Lawrence Weiner, Franz Erhard Walther, Mel Bochner, Bruce Connor, Daido Moriyama, Nan Goldin, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Roni Horn and Jesús Rafael Soto, joined by pieces from younger and emerging stars as Thea Djordjadze, Ayse Erkmen, Bharti Kher, Mai Thu Perret, Falke Pisano, Banks Violette and Andro Wekua.

The Art Premiere sector was of extraordinary quality and showed an interesting mix of carefully curated exhibitions in the booths of the galleries. Art Premiere featured artistic dialogues juxtaposing two artists such as Reneé Green and Adrian Piper (Elisabeth Dee Gallery), Joan Jonas and Sung Hwan Kim (Wilkinson Gallery), presentations by a single artist such as Kerry James Marshall (Jack Shainman Gallery) and exceptional art historical material – a new possibility within the sector - featuring seminal works by Gino di Dominicis (Galleria Lia Rumma), Mario Merz (Tucci Russo Studio per l’Arte Contemporanea) and General Idea (Galerie d’Art Contemporain Frédéric Giroux).

With its 27 single-artist projects from young galleries and artists from around the globe, this year’s Art Statements was often described by viewers as ranking among the strongest editions the sector has ever produced. The two Bâloise Art Prizes of CHF 30,000 per artist were awarded to Nina Canell and Geert Goiris, and Bâloise Insurance Group will acquire works by both artists and once again donated them to the Hamburger Kunsthalle und the MUMOK Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation in Vienna.

The exhibition area on the exhibition square in front of the buildings hosting Art Basel again served as an arena for the Public Art Projects. The sector on Messeplatz placed art in the urban context and encourages interaction with the general public. The eight works by internationally renowned artists Valentin Carron, General Idea, Mark Handforth, Jeppe Hein, Gabriel Kuri, Mathieu Mercier, John McCracken and Ken Price delighted both visitors and passerby.

The Art Edition sector, joined this year by Galerie Helga Maria Klosterfelde (Hamburg) and Galerie de Multiples (Paris), where international publishers present prints and multiples and exhibit the results of their collaboration with renowned artists, also attracted great interest.

Staged every morning (June 10 to June 13), Art Basel Conversations brought together prominent members of the international art scene, including Hans Ulrich Obrist (Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, London), Klaus Biesenbach (Chief Curator, The Museum of Modern Art, New York), Iwona Blazwick (OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, London), RoseLee Goldberg (Founding Director and Curator, Performa, New York), Lars Nittve (Director, The Moderna Museet, Stockholm), Robert Wilson (Theater and Visual Artist, New York), Peter Weibel (CEO, ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe), Christine Macel (Chief Curator, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris) and Nicolaus Schafhausen (Director, Witte de With, Rotterdam). For the Premiere of the Art Basel Conversations the curator Sir Norman Rosenthal jousted with the artist Jeff Koons. Further topics included “ Artistic Production: Collecting Performance”, “The Future of the Museum: Digital Frontiers” and “Public / Private: Institutions: A Time of Crisis – and Opportunity?”

Additionally, six daily program of artist talks, book signings, discussion forums, and other presentations took place in the Art Lobby forum every afternoon. Those participating in these daily encounters included Joan Jonas (Artist, New York), Catherine David (Artistic Director, ADACH Platform for Visual Arts in Venice), Massimiliano Gioni (Artistic Director, Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan; Director of Special Exhibitions, New Museum, New York), Elmgreen and Dragset (Artists, Berlin/London; Artists / Curators of the Danish and Nordic Pavilions, 53rd Venice Biennale), Adam Szymczyk (Director, Kunsthalle Basel), Josh Baer (Publisher of Baer Faxt, New York) and Valie Export (Media- and Performance Artist and Filmmaker, Vienna; Commissioner of the Austrian Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale).

Once again the Art Film program featured an outstanding program, screened at the Stadtkino Basel. This Brunner, a collector with profound knowledge of the international film scene, presented the incisive and revelatory “Picasso & Braque Go to the Movies” (2008) by Arne Glimcher on Thursday evening. The rest of the Art Film program, including many shorter artist films and videos, focused on the themes “New Landscapes,” “Rediscovery”, “Bending Identities” and “Storylines”, and were curated by Berlin-based film scholar Marc Glöde.

On the weekend of June 12 to June 14, 2009, Art 40 Basel celebrated the first Art Basel Weekend, highlighting special activities (solo shows, performances, book signings etc.) at the booths of participating galleries. The museums and institutions in Basel also featured a broad range of special events such as guided tours, performances and talks. The special program put together by our galleries and the institutions encouraged many visitors to return or attend during the weekend. With more than 25 galleries participating in the program, the launch of this new initiative demonstrated its great future potential.

Art Basel | Thomas Demand | Olafur Eliasson | Liam Gillick | Dan Graham | Subodh Gupta | Joan Jonas | Jeff Koons | Mark Leckey | Sigmar Polke | Ed Ruscha | Nedko Solakov | Not Vital |

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