Basel Blörb #1 by Karim Crippa

by Karim Crippa

Every year in June, an avalanche of carefully curated instagram posts informing you of a booth number, an artist list or an unmissable talk moderated by someone who writes for artforum marks the inevitable return of the art world’s pendant to the Davos Economic Forum: Art Basel. To me the event is one of the main & best reasons for coming back to Switzerland, from which I hail; in the train to Basel though, two dozen sleepy soldiers on the way to their mandatory week of military exercise reminded me why I left it in the first place – technically, I should be one of them, as every Swiss male is required to “serve his country” by being forced into a bi-yearly hell of cold showers, miles and miles of senseless walking and submission to some hysterical officer probably called Urs. In 2010 I chose to escape this nonsense by studying art in a socialist country and therefore saying bye to Helvetia, the Cindy McCain of European countries. Yet I can’t help but coming back every year, delighted at the prospect of immersing myself into a weird limbo of familiarity and exoticism. Art Basel is bony ankles in studded Valentino stilettos; it’s exorbitantly priced paintings by dead white men and almost dead white men buying them; it’s Gipfeli for breakfast and a Betti Bossi sandwich from Coop for lunch; it’s witnessing Marc Spiegler dancing more passionately than you’ve ever danced at a party while Thaddaeus Ropac employees google translate descriptions of a Anselm Kiefer painting in Mandarin on their phone, hoping to sell it to some Chinese retail mogul; It’s the studied nonchalance of Liste gallerists versus the Hollywood smiles of those who, additionally to the astronomic booth costs, must consider bringing in the rent money for a two thousand square meter space in Chelsea; it’s gossip and glitter and critique of the art market while sipping champagne at Trois Rois; it’s both thorough professionalism and blatant amateurism. It’s knowing everyone but not remembering the name of the person who just assured you it was truly lovely to chat; it’s entertainment and hustle and pressure; it’s taking the tram to one of the 5 overbooked restaurants in which everyone has dinner only to be frowned upon by the waiter because you didn’t book at table 8 months in advance. It’s having beers with your feet in the Rhine, at peace with the constant hangover and the fact you can’t afford much; mostly though, it’s having a great time, because suddenly a small city fills up with big characters, great art, old friends and an ambiance one can only truly find once a year in this very place (Miami is cool too, but it doesn’t compare). Every day until Friday, KubaParis will keep you posted with its hopefully efficient, possibly not-that-condensed Basel Blörb: the best of the previous day, reduced to 500 words max, providing you with something to read while waiting in line to snatch a free tote bag.