What to Look Forward to at Art Basel 2016

Expect a mountain of blue chip art.

Oscar Tuazon's Zome Alloy in front of Art Basel. Image: Courtesy Art Basel.

Coming off a spring auction season that saw a steep plunge in volume—evening sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s alone plunged roughly 60 percent, from $2.3 billion in May 2015 to $924.8 million last month—the art world is now gearing up for the next major art event on the annual calendar, Art Basel in Switzerland.

Michaël Borremans Shimmy, 2016 Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Michaël Borremans
Shimmy (2016) Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Is the mood in the art market more sober?

We got an emphatic “yes” from virtually every dealer, expert and collector we spoke with. The good news? That’s not a bad thing.

Jean-Paul Engelen, Phillips worlwide head of contemporary art, insists that the overall market is “very healthy,” noting the auction house’s 92 percent sell through rate at the recent major evening sale in May.

Looking forward to Basel, he said “clients are always keen to see what is in Basel. It’s still by far the most important fair and therefore a barometer of the market. I see that a lot of clients are really interested in engaging with galleries in the primary market.”

“I think it’s actually going to be a great Basel for me,” art advisor Lisa Schiff told artnet News. “The last time I had an exceptional Basel was in 2009 when the mood was so bad and not so many people went. There were so many artists that we had tried to get before that we couldn’t get access to… I think there will be opportunities.”

The fair and its packed roster of activities and special sections, including “Statements” (new solo projects by emerging artists), “Unlimited” (massive sculptures, paintings, video and live performances), and “Parcours” (site-specific sculptures and interventions throughout the city), officially opens to the public on June 16 and runs through June 19.

The main anchor of the show, of course, is the galleries section that takes over the Messeplatz. We spoke to some of the top dealers exhibiting at Basel this year to find out what they’re bringing and why.



PIerre Soulages, Peinture 89 x 130 cm, 20 juin 1959 (1959) © 2016 Pierre Soulages / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and ADAGP, Paris.

Schiff was particularly enthusiastic about dealer Dominique Lévy’s booth for the upcoming show. Levy is dedicating the booth to”revolutionary postwar artistic practices in the US and Europe, demonstrating an international spirit of radical rebirth, innovation, and transformation.” Artists on view will include Alberto Burri, Jean Dubuffet, Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Robert Motherwell, Gerhard Richter, and Pierre Soulages.

Lee Lozano, No title, (ca. 1962). © The Estate of Lee Lozano Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth

Lee Lozano, No title (ca. 1962). © The Estate of Lee Lozano
Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth

The vibrant selection of works at Hauser & Wirth includes an arresting untitled painting (above) by Lee Lozano, along with works by Mary Heilmann, Philip Guston, Vija Celmins, Eva Hesse, Roni Horn, Rashid Johnson, Louise Bourgeois, and Mark Bradford. Gallery artists Isa Genzken, Paul McCarthy and Dieter Roth all have presentations as part of Unlimited and Hans Josephsohn will feature in the Parcours programme, with a display of 16 bronze sculptures on the central Münsterplatz.

AB-Jospeh Kosuth Install SKNY 2011 Waiting for - Installation view 20

Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) (1968) at Sean Kelly, New York in 2011. © Joseph Kosuth, Photography: Jason Wyche, New York, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

Joseph Kosuth’s presentation in “Unlimited” is co-presented by Sean Kelly and Sprüth Magers, a recreation of his very first gallery show in LA in 1968 when he was 23. It features 10 dictionary definitions of the word “nothing.”

Josef Albers Study for Homage to the Square: Zephir, 1969 Oil on Masonite 16 x 16 inches (40.6 x 40.6 cm) © 2016 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square: Zephir (1969) © 2016 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy David Zwirner, New York/Londonj

David Zwirner Gallery, which recently began representing the estate of Josef Albers, will be showing the legendary abstractionist’s iconic square paintings alongside other works by the gallery’s stable of stars including Francis Alÿs. Mamma Andersson, Michaël Borremans, R. Crumb, Marlene Dumas, Marcel Dzama, Kerry James Marshall, and Lisa Yuskavage. Further, Zwirner is presenting the work of Stan Douglas (co-presented with Victoria Miro Gallery), John McCracken, and Wolfgang Tillmans in the “Unlimited” section.

Kurt Schwitters, Untitled (Das Doppelte Bild)

Kurt Schwitters, Untitled (Das Doppelte Bild)

Galerie Gmurzynska will curate two areas in their booth this year at Basel. At one entrance, three sculptures by Joan Miró will be on view near his paintings and collages. The opposite side of the booth will be focused on celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dadaism including works from “Kurt Schwitters: Merz” with a reproduced digital backdrop of the late Zaha Hadid’s Merz Bau installation. This was an interpretation of Schwitters’s Merzbau, the name given to the Hanover house he transformed with grotto-like forms in the 1920s and 1930s. Gmurzynska will also show works by Fernand Leger, Wifredo Lam, Yves Klein, and Robert Indiana.

Bernard Frize, Balaire (2015). Image: Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nacht St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwalder, Vienna.

Bernard Frize, Balaire (2015). Image: Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nächt St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwärzwalder, Vienna.

Rosemarie Schwärzwalder, of Galerie Nächt St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwärzwalder, told artnet News via email: “Our booth at Art Basel this year will have a strong focus on painting, showing different generations and styles of artists beside one another which will uniquely highlight common features between artists such as Josef Albers and Imi Knoebel and Helmut Federle’s ‘Cornerfield Painting’. The single gesture of Lee Ufan’s painting will be juxtaposed with Katharina Grosse’s multi-layered images. Jessica Stockholder’s large-scale installation and a table filled with shreds of painted paper by Adrian Schiess take our booth into the third dimension.”

Doug Aitken, NOW (dark wood) (2016), Image: Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Doug Aitken,
NOW (dark wood)

(2016), Image: Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Los Angeles gallery Regen Projects is bringing work by a wide range of artists in its stable including  Anish Kapoor, Doug Aitken, Theaster Gates, and Liz Larner.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.