This year's fair marks an important milestone for three major Polish galleries, presenting works from the most intriguing artists on the local and global scene from the past and present - Roman Opałka, Alina Szapocznikow, Wilhelm Sasnal, Paweł Althamer, Anna Molska, Slavs & Tatars...
Three Polish galleries – Fundacja Galerii Foksal, Galeria Raster and Galeria Starmach – are taking part in the 43rd Basel Art Fair, an event aimed at highlighting major artists and galleries from around the world. Fundacja Galerii Foksal and Galeria Starmach are exhibiting in the Art Galleries section.
Foksal's stand is graced with paintings by Wilhelm Sasnal from his most recent Father series, which recently premiered in Warsaw, along with a collection of sculptures by Paweł Althamer. The artist's most recent works are based on the idea of "science fiction meets Baroque", presenting a crowd of eerie sculptures of beings from another, unknown civilisation. He worked with employees from the Almech factory to make facial casts of real people from the factory and the Deutsche Guggenheim museum, then placed them on metal skeletons. Then the sculptures were coated with polyethylene, giving them their ghostly pallor.
The younger generation is represented by the Warsaw-based gallery in the guise of Anna Molska, who exhibited in London and New York, among others, and is now having her first exhibition at the Tate Modern in the English capital. Through performance, film and photography, Molska's video works take up cultural production and its representation that are modified and manipulated to make a statement on life, society, culture and even death.
Galeria Raster brings its customary twist to the Polish showcase, presenting the Régions d'etre exhibition from the Slavs & Tatars collective as part of the Art Statements section. Slavs & Tatars is "a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia". Founded in 2006, the group is made up of Poland's Kasia Korczak and American-Iranian Payam Sharifi and includes several contributing members across the globe. The group conducts interdisciplinary research on the history, culture and politics of the Eurasian borderland and attempts to revive the culture of the region through various works, happenings and lectures. Their most recent exhibition Not Moscow Not Mecca at Vienna's Secession carries the intellectual weight of the two grand narratives of Central Asia - Communism and Islam. "We want to be both happy and intellectual, cheerful and critical", say the artists of Slavs and Tatars.
Galeria Starmach takes a more traditional approach to Polish art, presenting works by established artists of the past, including Edward Krasiński, Roman Opałka, Henryk Stażewski, Władysław Strzemiński and Alina Szapocznikow, whose achievements have already gained international recognition. A spectacular retrospective of Szapocznikow's work will be held at New York's MoMA in the autumn of 2012 as Sculpture Undone tours the world with growing interest on the part of the international community.
Held every year in the first half of June, the event in Basel is an elite club of international contemporary art dealers. A six-member committee decides which galleries attend the exclusive fair. The event is immensely popular. Nearly 300 galleries from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa take part. Over 2,500 artists – from great modernism masters to art stars from the youngest generation. As many as 65,000 visitors attended the 2011 edition. The first day of the fair is only open for VIPs to purchase art, while the other days are open to the general public.
The Basel event is the place for the most effective "positioning" of artists on the international art circuit. Sarah Thornton highlighted the distinction between commercial fairs and the singular character of the Basel event in her 2008 book Seven days in the art world.
When gallery owners are confident that there is a need for the work of a particular artist, they do not even think about putting them in the hands of either the first willing, nor of those who offer the most. They draw up a list of interested parties, in order to put the work in the most prestigious hands. This is the most important part of the career management of artists. Unlike other industries where buyers are anonymous and interchangeable, here the artist's reputation is strengthened or shattered by people who own the work.
Art Basel was first held in 1970. Back then it was the just one of two international art shows – the other being Art Cologne. Despite the fact that the competition become fiercer every year, the Swiss fair has defended its position as number one, and even expanded its range of influence. Since 2002, the Art Basel fair has also been held in Miami.
The 12th and the 13th of June 2012 is open only to invited guests, including collectors, dealers and heads of major art institutions. Art Basel is open to the public between the 14th and 17th of June, 2012.
Organiser: MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd.
Director: Marc Spiegler.
For more information, please visit the Art Basel website on: www.artbasel.com.
Gallery contacts: Foksal Gallery, Starmach Gallery, Raster Gallery
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart
Source: Art Basel, Gallery info