The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Saturday, October 25, 2014


VOLTA10: Setting the gold standard for artistic discovery
Ashleigh Mclean, director of Whatiftheworld (Cape Town) engages a client in front of Athi-Patra Ruga's monumental tapestry The Versatile Queen and Autocrat of all Azania.
BASEL.- VOLTA10 set the gold standard in the 2014 Basel art week, formulating an ideal ratio of emerging and established artistic talent and presenting the 70-gallery array within a renowned local landmark. Markthalle's central location created a noticeable bump in visitor numbers, as guests passed under the soaring cupola dome, engaging with the art on view and discovering compelling -- and covetable -- creative output beyond the usual art-world trends.

"The three rules of a successful business have always been: location, location, location... and this year proved it for us," said VOLTA Artistic Director Amanda Coulson. "With the confirmation of the return to Markthalle, coinciding with our tenth year, we secured the return of key anchor galleries, and with such a strong foundation, we were able to construct a better fair, one that was easy to reach and therefore a must-see for most of the major collectors at Art Basel Week."

Private collectors and public institutions alike were attracted to VOLTA10's plethora of cogent projects. Patrick Mikhail Gallery (Ottawa) took a bold move by enveloping their booth in the immersive mixed-media project Animate Grounds by young Brooklyn- and Quebec-based artist Amy Schissel, a year's worth of output distilled into a wildly abstract wall work, plus related abstract paintings and digital media. Beyond sales of the more portable works, the gallery generated green-lights toward two major commissions, one for the Warsaw branch of a Washington architecture firm, and the other to a Toronto bank, for a combined total of over $130,000. "This wouldn't have happened at home," commented Mikhail. "And here, it happens like this." He snapped his fingers. "Our experience here has a yearlong affect for us back in Canada. It's epic." Ron Mandos (of his namesake Amsterdam gallery) noted major interest in Peter Feiler, moving eight of the young Berlin-based artist's meticulous and macabre works on paper to collectors from New York and Germany, as well as attraction from a Dutch museum in Feiler's pičce de résistance, the 4.6 x 3 meter mural Omnes Redeunt ad Origines. Whatiftheworld (Cape Town) practically sold out their solo project of young South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga's latest output, moving four of his archival inkjet prints (three small-scale and one extra-large), plus two of his monumental and vibrantly colorful figurative tapestries, for approximately 50,000 EUR total. As well, gallery director Ashleigh Mclean clocked major museum exhibition interest for Ruga, including a private New York foundation, as well as an Israeli collector pursuing Ruga's largest work to date, a 5-meter-square tapestry still in progress in the artist's studio.

Coherent booth concepts and curation indicative of gallery platforms reflected both rewarding discoveries and sustained sales throughout the week. "We have a well-defined program, a relationship between society and art," said Miguel Angel Sánchez, director of adn galería (Barcelona). "So in that sense it's a peculiar program, but in the end it helps us differentiate from the rest." The gallery sold multiple works in various mediums from exhibiting artists Carlos Aires, Marcos Ávila Forero, Adrian Melis, and Eugenio Merino to an international audience, with much of that going to new clients. Meanwhile, Laura Bulian Gallery's (Milan) focus on Eurasian artists, particularly the dual-generational dialogue between Vyacheslav Akhunov's '70s era Socialist criticism and Alimjan Jorobaev's post-Soviet photography. "It's a different narration of the same story," commented Bulian, "and people immediately recognized this." The gallery sold three of Akhunov's deconstructed propagandist works on paper to a Spanish collector residing in Moscow and another to a collector from Chicago, plus the gallery noted interest on both artists from new clients of Swiss and American foundations. Galerie Mario Mazzoli's (Berlin) booth attracted crowds to Kristoffer Myskja's intricate machine sculptures since opening day, and owner Mazzoli noted the many new contacts who came through the fair: "We do something very different and not everyone gets that. But the ones who do, they get hooked on us."

"At the beginning we were aware visitors were maybe not familiar with Ukrainian artists," commented Kateryna Filyuk of Dymchuk Gallery (Kiev). "So our first thing was to make them visible and familiar to people versus simply selling works. First we educate." Her three-artist presentation of Arsen Savadov, Vasiliy Tsagolov, and Igor Gusev -- all sociopolitical modernist mainstays in Ukraine whom participated in Contemporary Ukrainian Artists at Saatchi London last autumn -- encouraged dialogue from fair visitors throughout the week. "I'm absolutely satisfied with the fair," Filyuk added, noting the international scope at VOLTA: "Here, I can see what's going on in the world." Dymchuk's presence as one of Basel's only post-Soviet galleries emphasized this distinction. Both TEZUKAYAMA GALLERY's (Osaka) ambitious booth project -- Tomohiro Kato's true-to-scale, all-steel Japanese tea-room TETTEI -- and the tea ceremonies held within the Taro Okamoto award-winning installation throughout the first half of the fair, incurred many great reactions from inquisitive visitors and institutional figures alike. Along with selling several steel and spraypaint paintings, the gallery plans to stage Kato's tea-room in London next Spring. Speaking of their solo focus on Frohawk Two Feathers' vintaged figurative works on paper from his ongoing Frenglish series on colonialism and conflict, Kelly Freeman of Morgan Lehman Gallery (New York) noted "our project is 'different', and we know that." Considering the gallery's weeklong sales, she elaborated, VOLTA's platform helped the gallery in closing deals with noncommittal New York clientele: "They were like, 'oh you're bringing Frohawk to Basel?' and they closed the deal." The gallery directed new clients to their artist's activities as well, which Freeman enthused about: "a lot of our goals had to do with relationships, and new opportunities for Frohawk in Europe. So we've crossed off most of our goals in terms of marketing." She added, "we loved it! We're coming back!"

Markthalle itself -- its city-centre status and iconic domed cupola -- activated projects and generated much attention as backdrop to the 70 international exhibitors on view. From opening day, Stijn Ank's site-specific sculpture 08.2014, a plaster-cast monolith in craggy white presented by Michael Janssen (Berlin/Singapore), caught both the days' cyclical sunlight through the Markthalle skylight and attraction from many fair visitors, complementing the gallery's sublime and minimalist 2D works by Monique van Genderen and Jeremy Sharma. Jesper Elg, director of veteran VOLTA exhibitor V1 Gallery (Copenhagen), also sensed the magic of the new location, which will house the fair for at least the next few years. "The location is fantastic! With all the natural light, it couldn't be more ideal." Elg noted clients purchased from multiple artists, with Geoff McFetridge selling particularly briskly, and a dozen ceramic sculptures by Rose Eken heading to different clients, along with Troels Carlsen's entire elaborate works on paper series of art-historic women to the 21c Museum. "We've had such a positive response," added Elg. "For collectors seeing our different gallery artists in this context" -- under the gallery's ensemble concept "Gimme Death" by Trash Talk -- "generates attention to each of them." He noted much institutional interest in young Swedish artist Sara-Vide Ericsson, as well toward her debut solo gallery show after the summer holiday. Longtime and first-time galleries alike enthused about the return to Markthalle. David Risley (of his eponymous Copenhagen gallery) has participated in the fair since its inception, and his point-of-view on the week carried a profound wisdom: "Almost everything is better," he said, "the galleries overall, the venue, and the location." He sold well, from a booth of new works featuring both 2002 Turner Prize winner Keith Tyson (subject of an autumn exhibition at the gallery) to young Philadelphia-based artist Alex Da Corte. New to the VOLTA fold, Honor Fraser (of her namesake Los Angeles space) agreed: "People look forward to coming to this space because of its space." Her booth presentation, centered around a dynamic suite of new assemblages by Brenna Youngblood, received consistent traffic throughout the week with sales to match. "The community aspect is notable," Fraser added, "and this VOLTA community is very strong."

Cumulative sales greeted galleries as the week concluded. SLAG Gallery (Brooklyn) sold all three of Romanian artist Dan Voinea's large-scale sumptuous oil paintings by midweek (plus another fresh from the studio and available as image only), plus two of Brooklynite Tim Kent's abstracted architecture paintings and a realist work by Hannah Cole for approximately 50,000 EUR in total sales. Miriam Jesske of VOLTA co-founder Loock Galerie (Berlin) noted huge interest in Jonathan VanDyke's composed overdyed canvas patchworks, as well as pigment print documentation of his intense paint-related performances -- all of which sold to an international clientele. Jesske added that collectors were all mistaking Natalia Stachon's photorealist drawings for actual black-and-white photographs, though that did not stymie them from purchasing Stachon's entire output from her series Study for History of Aberrations. Takeshi Tatematsu, owner of Standing Pine (Nagoya), was thrilled by continental reactions to Shinji Ogawa's meticulous, mid-sized works on paper of European landmarks, selling three to new clients for a total of approximately 79,000 EUR. Second-time exhibitor Gallery H.A.N. (Seoul) built on their experience in Basel last year with a six-day selling, led by a German collector they met at VOLTA in 2013. The gallery cleared practically their entire booth, selling a combination of mixed-media relief book sculptures by Kyeongsig Yang and multiple abstract paintings from Myungil Lee's series To Exist, or To Sustain? to new international clients, with an additional five works from Lee on order. "I want to be back with you!" enthused director Sungwon Kim. "I love Switzerland!"

Luis de Jesus (of his eponymous Los Angeles gallery) noted much curatorial interest and contact with advisors from major European institutions on the gallery's LA-based three-artist photography project, featuring Whitney Biennial artists Zackary Drucker & Rhys Ernst alongside Masood Kamandy and Chris Engman. "We're exposing our artists to a European audience." After their opening-day triumph, BERLONI (London) continued the momentum throughout the week, selling two additional neo-AbEx paintings by William Bradley fresh from the studio (via photographs) plus Carl Randall's Tokyo Portrait (20,000 Ł, approx.) to a prominent foundation in France."We've had good people coming through all week -- and that's a good thing!" said Gitte Johanessen of SPECTA (Copenhagen), selling Daniel Svarre's mixed-media sculptures to new clients from Turkey and Belgium, as well as several of Thordis Adalsteinsdottir's surrealist paintings. PONCE + ROBLES (Madrid) had completely sold out of Portuguese artist Manuel Caeiro's large-scale geometric compositions by mid-week, and the gallery's technique-based concept -- artists who use painting to sculpt (Caeiro), photography to paint (Irene Grau), and sculptures to draw (Raúl Díaz Reyes) -- garnered attention and conversation from the opening onward. Across the halle, Brunnhofer Galerie (Linz) engaged much attention from their dual-artist concept, "Fantastic Housing", selling all of Lorenz Estermann's painted wood architectural sculptures to a prominent and private Swiss collection, as well as young Karlsruhe-based artist INDRA.'s largest spatially-blended canvas, Teaceremony, plus owner Stefan Brunnhofer noted further interest in both artists' works. Nearby, longtime exhibitor Erika Deák Gallery (Budapest) fielded concerted interest in their classic master-student pairing of prominent Moldavian metaphysical painter Alexander Tinei and young Hungarian artist Éva Magyarósi, alongside mesmeric oils by Attila Szücs, Tinei's kindred who has exhibited separately with both artists. The gallery sold from both Tinei and Szücs while commencing long-term relationships with new clients. "I get the sense that people were unhappy at Liste and were more intrigued by VOLTA," said Deák, adding "it´s more exciting at VOLTA."

Throughout the week, a coterie of distinguished guests flocked to Markthalle: Susan and Michael Hort (New York, in their second trip to VOLTA10 that week); Susan Goodman and Rodney Lubeznik (Chicago, on their second VOLTA trip during the week); Renee and Robert Drake (Wassenaar, NL); Luc Bouley (Basel); Karin Pernegger (Director, Kunstraum Innsbruck, AU); Knight Landesman (Publisher, Artforum, New York); Steve Shane (New York); Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson (co-founders, 21c Museum, Louisville, KY); Jasper Sharp (Curator, Vienna); Vincent De Smedt (Ghent); Pieter and Marieke Sanders (Amsterdam); José Diaz (Curator of Exhibitions, Bass Museum, Miami Beach); James Barron (South Kent); Henriette Strasoldo (Wachtberg-Villip); Rolf Auf der Mauer (Zurich); Thomas Collins (Director, Pérez Art Museum Miami); Marie-Jenny Koch-Burckhardt (Zurich); Laurence Sillars (Chief curator, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK); plus representatives from La Sucričre (Lyon), Sammlung Boros (Berlin), Bonnefanten Museum (Maastricht), Conde Nast Publications International (London); as well as many other international patrons, institutions, and critics.

Summing up the VOLTA10 experience, Coulson channelled Spinal Tap: "We couldn't have wished for a better tenth year. But now there is only one thing to do: go to eleven."





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