This week’s most relevant event took place yesterday: the First Choice VIP Preview of Art Basel.
To be clear: I myself am neither first choice, nor a VIP, but Exhibitionary co-founder Jan Winkelmann is, and since he’s also a friendly guy, he ushered me in and suggested I go right to Gagosian’s booth to witness the fair’s essence. It was indeed stormed by an army of collectors so familiar with gallery staff you’d think they babysat them for years before sending them to Gallerina school. While Larry himself looked slightly bored, at least four twenty-one year old female Ivy League graduates in chiffon dresses sat on a bench, typing something at supersonic speed on their laptops while intensely looking at some horribly complicated, endlessly long list. I could have watched them for hours, their concentration unfazed by the sea of blond perms and Italian wool, but there was a whole lot to see, so I left the antechamber of Capitalism to check out the rest. According to the looks I got the following 3 hours, I definitely didn’t seem like a guy who collects art or could influence anybody to buy some. I was wearing shorts, apparently a piece of clothing incompatible with money or power, and a couple of old messieurs gave me incredibly irritated side-eye worthy of Michelle Visage herself. I didn’t really care because I was looking at mostly great works: a fantastic Kazuo Shiraga at Hauser & Wirth, mysterious photographs by Tørbjørn Rødland at Standard Olso, an exquisite Landon Metz at Von Bartha, a regal Troy Brauntuch at Petzel, wonderful erotic Yves Saint-Laurent sketches at Neu, an outstanding Guan Xiao installation at Antenna Space, an powerful multimedia structure by Cecile B. Evans at Emanuel Layr, a fascinating Martha Atienza video at Silverlens… the list could go on, but those pieces I remember with particular vividness. As a contrast to this capsule of exclusivity, I went to the opening of “Umwelt Mode” a group exhibition staged in a former clothing store – actually, an indoors construction site – dealing with the grey zone between fashion and art. There, hip young people were drinking 2€ beer, looking ready to walk a Vetements show and blending in perfectly with their surroundings, which consisted of carefully nonchalant pieces; my favourite was a crowd-pleaser by Adriano Costa, a lolling play on Adam Szymczyk’s “Learning from Athens”, which he changed to “Learning from Aliens” and printed above a group photo of some healthy-looking people on a tropical island. It made me want to go back to Kassel just to poster it all over town. This refreshing intermezzo was followed by various shenanigans at soirées where alcohol was either very spare or very expensive; the night ended with some necessary dancing at a great party thrown by some of Liste’s most trendy galleries and an early-morning dip in the Rhine, which explains why this is being posted only now. Basel Basel: so far so good!