Expensive shopping malls or places for new cultural discoveries ? Without analyzing their controversial nature, international art fairs are major players in today’s art world.
Among the 200 international art fairs being held every year, Art Basel is the oldest and the most prestigious one. Often descibed as a the Olympics of the Art World, the 2015 edition of the Swiss fair took place last June, and featured approximately 300 leading art galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, with more than 4,000 artists on show, ranging from the great masters of Modern art to the latest generation of emerging contemporary artists. As the art market explodes in value and collecting becomes a global fashion, hundreds of galleries desperately apply to enter Art Basel’s elite and very few make the cut. With meticulously curated, often very large booths, the fair aims to look more and more like a Biennale, while pop and political references go hand in hand mirroring the eternal contraditions of the artworld. In this context, the artists currently showing at Venice Biennale benefited of a special hype, capitalizing the attention of both galleries and collectors. Works by French-Algerian artist Kader Attia, German painter Georg Baselitz, Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei, Greek artist Jannis Kounellis, and American Joseph Beuys, were widely spread around the epic showcase. Presenting a strong booth group including South African artists William Kentridge, Kendell Geers, Mikhael Subotzky, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, as well as Nigerian artist Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze and Moroccan artist Mounir Fatmi, Cape Town- based Goodman Gallery gave an interesting insight on the African art scene. UK galleries Frith Street Gallery and Victoria Miro together with Munich-based Daniel Blau stood out among others. Major highlight from the fair is the Unlimited sector, devoted to displaying breathtaking works in gigantic scale. The most remarkable pieces were Kader Attia’s Arab Spring, in which the artist recreated the attack to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo by destroying his own glass-filled installation with bricks, Emilio Vedova’s …in continuum (1987-88), consisting of 109 Expressionist paintings on shown as a whole for the first time, Ed Atkins‘s video Happy Birthday, and Wael Shawky‘s Cabaret Crusades: The secrets of Karbala, in which the artist used historical marionettes, ceramic and glass puppets as actors for a film trilogy that recounts the history of the Crusades from an Arab perspective.