Art is a rare passion where you can experience emotions, chokes, smiles, laughs and tears and being ignorant in the particular matter itself…
Basel is a small and calm town, a beautiful place nearby the Rhine, ideal to have a break. It is also the main swiss spot for any art related event, the location with the highest number museums in Switzerland. The city is surrounded by France and Germany, Alsace being probably one of my favorite place in Europe. Alsace means wine, cuisine and beautiful villages with typical architecture, sun, very cold winters with warm people setting up the most beautiful Christmas markets on the continent. Jokes apart, the region is absolutely stunning, if you go, enjoy the trip by train and bikes and experience multi-modal transportation! Cycling passes are perfect and trains arrive and pick you up on time – don’t be late – no second chance in Basel SBB!
Art|Basel is a unique event, the quality and number of items you may see during the exhibition is beyond imagination. Consideration left apart, everything become subject to ones own appreciation, references and preferences but I am somebody you may call an ignorant in art and art related topics. I am not aware of the latest trends and it does not interest me. I can’t afford most of the famous artists and my rented flat has not enough walls to be transformed into a gallery. But I don’t care, and more interestingly, I think I am lucky enough to be like that: Ignorant.
Walking Art|Basel is an adventure, it is jungle art or safari art! So jump in for the ultimate “art game drive”!
Accessing Art|Basel is easy, the region has probably the most efficient public transportation in the country. You may take your entrance ticket on line ahead to avoid the queue… You have to pass through security checks to access the main gates. I am then provided with a plan at the entrance desk which is likely to stay in my back pocket. You can’t believe really what you see and what is happening here. It is immediate and you are under a unique “positive” pressure within seconds. The quality of the artworks, the care taken to make all available to you, the people walking around, running the corridors between the booths, the languages spoken: Art|Basel is a unique world in itself, and discovering it requires only interest and curiosity… and a bit of time.
I start trying to agree the sense of the walk in order to miss the least possible number of booths. I did not make plan ahead in my mind on where I do want to go. All significant galleries of the world are here. I have a some Italian and American names as well as a few artists preselected, but nothing really precise. Art|Basel is about the destruction of stereotypes and standards, don’t limit your brain and the horizon of the trends made available to you! Not looking at names allows you to any surprise, the unexpected painting or choking picture at the back of the wall, the one that everybody missed, the bright idea and concept at the top of a staircase leading to a few extra square meters of a booth dedicated to a particular artist: Push the doors! Walk up and down! Don’t be shy! That what it is about.
And ask. The fact that almost all galleries and persons are here to make business with critical deals to negotiate during the show is an opportunity to talk, learn and get the story behind any painting or sculpture. Galleries floors are linked with superlatives, there is no place in the world where you can be that close to Botero, Picasso, Murakami, Opie and others, you really can touch them.
I want to be speechless…
I want to be choked by beauty, by aesthetic, by concept or by ideas. Art does not need to be justified. It is useless and does not allow you to achieve a particular thing, task or goal. Art provides you with your daily emotion prescription. It is not expensive and it is not cheap, at least when you are like probably most the visitors: it does not matter. Justifying or motivating preferences are sometime a kind of nonsense.
Explaining emotion or what is particularly attracting you can be a fruitful exchange of ideas and points of view but in the end, any justification become useless. Keep in mind that you are the only one reacting like this in front of a piece or painting. Unique is you, unique is what you are looking at, unique is the particular instant when this happens in your life: Enjoying this moment as a gift for the mind, and remember or forget for ever just after the entrance of the next gallery booth…
At the center of the galleries hall of Art|Basel is a bench and the bench may be a particular place.
I am facing the booths, at my back is the internal courtyard of the building. Seating and resting are both fine, but you also discuss…Looking at a painting, I took the right to react quite openly and perhaps in an unexpected manner for part of the “art literate” audience present: Escaping a gallery booth with an exuberant “gosh! $145’000.- for this!!” and seating on the famous bench, to recover. A man was seated a few meters away, he approaches me and says: “Expensive eh”. I responded “Yes, but I love it, would clearly see it in my entrance lobby or leaving room”. And the man to come back and say: “The gallery selling… it is well known name and the price is correct, they will not ruin their reputation by overselling you something too expensive”. And me to carry on by a resigned “Yep but I can’t afford it anyway”. The man gives me a brochure. I take it and carefully look at it. I am suddenly realizing that I am speaking with a gallery owner in Basel. He is doing this activity by passion and as a part time occupation. I come up with this consideration by reading the gallery schedule: Opened Thursdays and Fridays 1700 – 2000 and Saturday 1000 – 1600. The brochure mentions the current exhibition dedicated to Albert Merz, the gallery is supporting local Swiss artists (although Swiss, Albert Merz is working in Berlin). Prices are indeed much lower than the ones in the booth I just came out from.
I look again at the paintings responsible my unexpected “gosh $145’000.- for this!” and read again the artist”s name: Pier Paolo Calzolari. Both artists Albert Merz or Pier Paolo Calzolari, although very different in term of approaches and regardless of their respective values on the market, are appealing for me. Pushing a bit the thinking, pro and cons, I just discovered how easy and cool being an ignorant is. Yes the ignorant just expressing a “gosh! $145’000.- for this!!” for a painting of Pier Paolo Calzolari is also discovering what Arte Povera is. I will later start to read and inform myself on this particular trend from around the ’60s until now, and have great pleasure seeing exhibition dedicated to modern art.
Art|Basel is an environment in itself.
The gallery owner I discussed with has no booth in Art|Basel – too expensive and risky for him. But he is here to eventually make deals too and attract potential clients in his gallery. All businesses are there, all price ranges in the end and for all tastes and preferences. The booths with big names, the bench with “less big” names both doing business over four days. Some says that artwork bought at Art|Basel are immediately taking a 20% increase on their respective prices, I believe they take a lot more value to the eyes of their future happy owners and for the majority of the visitors they will remain only the souvenir of an exceptional moment.
Don’t believe me!
Just start walking the corridors of Art|Basel… by the way there is another hall nearby the galleries building, it is called Art|Basel Unlimited: in there you will find performances… and if you still have time and energy, walk the beautiful city streets where there is Art|Basel Parcours, where performances are into various historical buildings and locations around the city. An endless journey to eventually carry on in Miami Beach and Hong-Kong…