9 Artists Under 39 To Know at Art Basel 2016
Who are the young artists to watch at Art Basel?
Art Basel’s original European art fair in Basel, Switzerland, opens its doors to the public once again on June 16, bringing center-stage an array of up-and-coming artists to the art fair. But in addition to sectors such as “Statements” dedicated entirely to younger, emerging names, there’s much to discover in the fair’s other sectors such as “Unlimited,” and in the city’s museums and non-profit institutions.
At the start of their careers, most of these artists might not have their own Wikipedia page yet, but they are surely making significant strides in the contemporary art scene. Here are the ones to watch in Basel this year:
1. Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme
The artist duo is part of a larger movement of artists with a background in music, who look to break away from the confines of medium specificity by experimenting with the immersive potential of sound, image, and environment. Abbas and Abou-Rahme live and work in New York and Ramallah. Both aged 33, they have already participated in biennials including the 12th Sarjah Biennial and the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. Abbas and Abou-Rahme were the recipients of the 2015 Sarjah Biennial Prize, which praises artists for their contribution to the cultural landscape of Sharjah and the Middle East. The duo’s importance in the young contemporary art scene is both marked by their experimentation with mediums in the post-image era as well as their role in bringing the Middle East into the often Western-centric contemporary art discourse.
2. Ketuta Alexi-Meskhisvilli
Part of a larger movement of artists who focus on the photograph as a three-dimensional, sculptural object, Alexi-Meskhisvilli uses photography in a self-referential fashion, and as objects from which to create new images rather than flat, finished pieces. The young photographer has had solo shows in both New York’s Andrea Rosen Gallery and Berlin’s Galerie Micky Schubert. She was one of the participating artists in New York’s 2015 New Museum Triennial and appeared in various other group shows in New York, Berlin, and Belgium. Photography becomes a tricky subject in the age of digital reproduction and Alexi-Meskhisvilli, who will be features in the Statements sector, is one of the artists to watch when it comes to keeping this powerful medium afloat in the contemporary art world.
3. Sol Calero
Venezuelan artist Sol Calero created large-scale installations ranging from restaurants and salsa dance halls, to hair salons and cyber-cafes. The work’s importance lies in its successful incorporation of non-Western culture, and serves as is a vehicle for a culture with limited visibility to permeate more freely through Western society. Nonetheless, it remains true that Calero left Venezuela to study and produce art. She therefore also stands as testimony of the important truth that while art can promote diversity, the depiction of Non-Western cultures is often doomed to exist within the confines of Western conventions.
Her rise to prominence in the art world also coincides with an important and relevant time in Venezuela’s history, namely, the tenure of President Nicolás Maduro after Hugo Chavez’s death. Calero has participated in international exhibitions including shows at Laura Bartlett Gallery and Studio Voltaire in London, Gillmeier Rech in Berlin, and S.A.L.T.S. in Basel. She is also co-founder and manager of the Berlin-based project space called Kinderhook & Caracas.
4. Nina Canell
Swedish-born Canell abolishes the stereotype of sculpture as strictly material by emphasizing its restless possibilities. In her work matter and non-matter become one, highlighting the elusive nature of existence. Apart from exhibiting in galleries internationally, Canell has also previously participated in large events such as Manifesta 7, The European Biennale for Contemporary art in Trentino, and the 7th Gwangju Biennale. She is participating in Art Basel’s show “UNLIMITED” curated by Gianni Jetzer, which gives artists the opportunity to exhibit large scale works within the context of an art fair, where often smaller artworks in easily consumable mediums are favored. Canell offers the interesting possibility of altering sculpture to revive its relevance and offer a fresh take on an ever-evolving medium.
5. Lena Henke
Henke’s pieces dance in the graveyard of past art movements, both utilizing and undermining art historical categories. Her approach has been described as the mid-way point between pure art and IKEA designs, investigating the transition and interplay between these aesthetic polarities. Henke’s use of temporal, physical, and political space demonstrates the frailty of delineated artistic movements due to their often contradictory nature. She has an upcoming show at S.A.L.T.S. in Basel, opening on June 16. In this exhibition, she will use the interior gallery space to create an inclusive environment, as she often works with architectural means. Henke’s work finds a lofty spot in the yet undefined contemporary art scene due to its rejection (bordering ridicule) of established artistic guidelines.
6. Yngve Holen
A mirror into a dehumanized future, Holen’s work considers the possibility of human beings as an endangered species. While the human body itself is absent from the artist’s work, in a time where technology is advancing at an alarming rate, Holen captures the preoccupation with humanity’s fleeting presence. Holen published a magazine titled ETOPS, an acronym for “Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards,” a term originating in the aviation industry for the practice of flying aircrafts beyond their approved specifications. The publication explores this idea as applied to the human condition by investigating the boundaries of the human body and the desire to surpass them.
Holen has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, including in his motherlands of Germany and Norway, and is currently showing at Kunsthalle Basel in Basel, Switzerland. His current exhibition titled “VERTICALSEAT” will run through August 14 and illustrates Holen’s concern with absence of humanity through the manipulation of mundane objects.
7. Cheng Ran
Mongolian artist Cheng Ren explores the peculiar relationship between Chinese and Western culture created through the exchange and modification of content between the two. Working primarily in video and photography, Ran masterfully combines seemingly contradictory elements, such as rock’n’roll music and Chinese ink painting, to highlight the cautious and manipulative interactions between different incarnations of popular culture.
Voted 2011’s “Best Video Artist” by Radian magazine and nominated for the Absolut Art Award in 2013, Ran has already been on the art world’s radar for a couple of years. Apart from having exhibited in institutions and film festivals both in China and internationally, Ran will also participate in Art Basel’s “UNLIMITED” sector, which fittingly allows the incorporation of non-traditional mediums into an environment designed for traditional art exhibition. The artist is not only commenting on the Chinese/Western discourse, but also becomes a player in it by allowing his work to permeate through culture boundaries via large-scale distribution.
8. Timur Si-Qin
Coming from a mixed background of German and Mongolian-Chinese origins, with a partly American upbringing, conceptual artist Timur Si-Qin takes the media and image-crazed world head on in his witty constructions. From 3D-printed fossils and samurai swords cutting through bottles of Axe shower gel, to his unwavering fascination with stock photography, Si-Qin leans towards a subtle mockery of human self-importance as embodied, for example, in the health, luxury, and beauty industries. Si-Qin has exhibited internationally in a long list of contemporary art hubs including New York, Paris, London, Milan, Zurich, Shanghai, and has a large installation currently on view at the 9th Berlin Biennale. The artist’s peculiar works and installations exist harmoniously with the equally-as-peculiar evolution of media in the digital age.
9. Sonia Leimer
Italian-born artist Sonia Leimer explores the roots of perception by questioning the significance of materials in the context of space and time. Often using entire environments as her platform for creation, Leimer transforms spaces in order to create a tangible link between the material world and the socio-historical changes that have made it the way it is. Leimer has exhibited internationally from Los Angeles and London, to Vienna and Cologne. She has also participated in large art world events such as the 5th Moscow Biennale, ABC Berlin, and Manifesta 7. With her spatially and temporally involved sculptures, Leimer revives an interest in history as author of everything that is and will be.
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