True Colors: among the truly uncompromising collectors at Art Basel

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On Monday afternoon in Basel, Switzerland, a push alert rang the phones of several VIPs from the art world who gathered for the opening of Unlimited, the wing of the city’s eponymous art fair that showcases large-scale works too large for a stand. Across the hangar-sized showroom, the affluent clientele pulled phones out of their pockets or pouches and saw that the news, for once, was good: the United States. United announcement that it would ease travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens coming from overseas to the states, with proof of vaccination, starting in early November. Many believed that with the still raging delta variant, COVID travel bans would continue until 2022, making Art Basel in Miami Beach – which will begin in late November – an event on a continent barely worthy of being. assisted. From now on, it will indeed be the first gathering of the art world open to the world for almost two years.

The idea of ​​the light at the end of the tunnel was an adrenaline rush to the heart for the 51st edition of Art Basel, the most publicized contemporary art shindig on the calendar of each year, but this year was canceled by a lot given the circumstances. Collectors and dealers from Asian countries were unable to travel largely due to restrictions, and U.S. citizens feared strict testing requirements. Many collectors who usually make the trip from America to this Swiss town on the Rhine have instead decided to skip it in favor of the next edition, just nine months away in June 2022.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Messeplatz. A smaller but serious contingent showed up for the VIP Champagne Breakfast on Tuesday morning, and not just for the endless fresh oysters and bottomless flutes from Ruinart. They were, imagine, there to buy art.

“There are in fact very serious collectors here”, Jeffrey Deitch told me in the middle of his booth, his first at the fair since 2009, the year before he took a break from gallery business direct the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “Yes, some people were intimidated by the rules, but art collectors are a special breed, they are adventurous people. Look, here are some collectors now!

Deitch rushed to greet an enthusiastic group of English speakers, but added later that in the early hours of the fair he had sold enough to cover the costs of the entire week, with plenty of inventory awaiting new homes. . Above all, he had convinced long-time customer Dakis joannou, the Greek Cypriot industrial billionaire, to part ways with Urs fischer‘s Untitled (Maison du pain) (2004-2006), a 16-foot house that was indeed built from fresh bread. It’s on sale for $ 3 million, waiting for someone special who has room in their house to put it in… another smaller house that is moldy every day.

But Deitch was speaking on Tuesday, and by then there had already been a few days of action in the Rhineland. In Zurich, the generally crowded pre-Basel days seemed relatively quiet at first, with no crowds entering and exiting Löwenbräu, the old brewery transformed into a long complex full of galleries, museums and art bookstores. The shows were excellent. Those who reached Luma Westbau, the boss’s Zurich outpost Maja hoffmannart foundation based in Arles, saw an agile and innovative video work of Ian Cheng, within walls of another stunning video work in Korakrit Arunanondchaiat the Migros Museum. Elsewhere in Löwenbräu, Kunsthalle Zurich presented a wonderfully polished version of the ’90s Art Club2000 show that was at Artists Space in New York City earlier this year.

But the lack of crowds didn’t mean the big hitters were fleeing the city.

Long-time Zurich gallery owner Eva presenhuber presented a stunning new portrait show of Steven shearer– the king of punk opulence who just picked up internationally by David Zwirner– and celebrated it afterwards with a dinner in the hall of the pavilion of the hotel Baur au Lac, the beauty of the Talstrasse straddling the old Swiss lake. The galleries looked empty, but the dinner drew in Presenhuber’s other gallery leaders Sadie Coles, Barbara Gladstone, Dominique Levy, and Pilar Corrias, as well as the curator Beatrix Ruf and artists such as Shara Hughes, Ugo Rondinone, and Liam Gillick. Even more impressive: the event took place at the Baur while Hauser & Wirth hosted an equally star-studded dinner at the same hotel, in the newly renovated bar room called Baur’s. Held in honor of Simone leigh and Glenn Ligon, who has just started new exhibitions in Hauser spaces in Zurich, the dinner ended with the gallery partner Marc Payot happily showing the works that Hauser had given to the old hotel to equip his new golden den: paintings by Louise Bourgeois, a set of Raymond Pettibon drawings and photos of Annie Leibovitz.

In Basel, Monday took place the opening of the List trade fair, often fertile ground for finding new talents. The Power Advisor’s View Patricia marshall– who is whispered buying advice in the ears of the chairman of LVMH Bernard Arnault and billionaire Jumex Eugenio Lopez– entering List was a good sign, and it was encouraging to see a young drug dealer from Los Angeles Matthieu Brun fill your stand with massive ceramics in Heidi Lau, a rare sight of the medium during a week so heavy with paintings. Brown said he shipped them from Los Angeles only to sell them to a collector in Los Angeles – a good problem to have, especially when America was all but delisted before the fairs opened.

And at night, the city managed to throw parties for Gagosian at Nomad, Zwirner at Chez Donati and Pace at the Volkshaus. Marc Glimcher, President Pace of New York, had disputed some of the most prominent Yankees at his dinner party, including the collector and dealer Adam Lindemann, who presented at the fair a little seen work continuation through Peter Saul which includes shocking phallic portraits of people in society like Jackie O and Andy Warhol.


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