Art Basel (4) – What I like. Simply.

At a place with over 300 galleries and more than 4 000 artists from all over the world, it is of course impossible to mention everything one likes. Actually, if you have the slightest interest in contemporary art, it is much better you go there yourself next year; a pas to all four exhibition days is โ‚ฌ 95 and I find it worth every Euro.

I won’t explain to you why I like the works below. But we live in times where it is important for many – no matter the field – to criticize, put down, appear more experienced, etc. for reasons I don’t know. I believe in positive energy, in inspiration and in learning from what others do – more from those you like than those you don’t like. After all, we may learn from our own mistakes but cannot essentially learn from those committed by others. But you can learn from those who are much better than yourself.

And should you see some features in my art photography in the future, I don’t mind at all. Only a fool believes that every artist, small or great, has not been standing on – or looked over – the shoulder of someone else. So when in Basel I was hunting good ideas, wonderful images, things that just spoke spontaneously to my heart – and technical professionalism that makes a good work superb.

Most of what I looked for is, of course, art photography – but categories are over-lapping so watch out. And many of the works I have displayed in the three other articles here are (with exceptions) also works I really like.

Whenever I see works by Gerhard Richter I stop, have to stop. No matter how simple it looks it is innovative and experimental and many of his paintings are “photographic” – however not this one, but I love it.

Gerhard Richter at Art Basel 2013
Gerhard Richter at Art Basel 2013

Perhaps it is the “Buddhist” repetitive, meditative aspect that brings such serenity, such clarity; I don’t know and if I knew it would probably not be so attractive to me.

Motherwell has been a favourite of mine for decades. Here some of his collages hung in one of the best, creative stands – a dark room with spots: the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London.

Collages by Robert Motherwell
Collages by Robert Motherwell

New York-based photographer and painter, Saul Leiter (born 1923) was quite unknown until a couple of years ago. As far as I can see he must have inspired several painters and photographers, among them Robert Rauschenberg. I was taken aback when recently I stumbled upon a book about his life and work in an art bookshop in Berlin. Wow! Bought it immediately and have been inspired ever since. Seeing his work “live” for the first time was breathtaking to me.

Saul Leiter works from about 50 years ago
Saul Leiter works from about 50 years ago

In the Unlimited section, there was a small gallery calling itself mother’s tankstation, from Dublin. There were several enigmatic, soft and powerful paintings, here one by Mairead O’hEocha:

Mairead O'hEocha at Mother's Tankstation
Mairead O’hEocha at Mother’s Tankstation

What the title of this – quite small – piece is, I don’t know. But I adore it with its filled emptiness and its slightly surreal realism.

“In Silence” by Chiharu Shiota – a molested piano, some ramshackle chairs for the pianist and the audience, all surrounded by forest-like black threads, spun in and out to create new views if you move just an inch. Last year, I saw a similar work by Shiota in Venice at a small gallery near the Arsenale and immediately recognized this huge installation when coming close here at Art Basel. No one speaks this way, through remotely similar aesthetics, no one as enigmatic – scary and yet attractive. A truly creative creator of drama – perhaps about the end of music, or culture as such, inside a forest dense with lines of communication that leads nowhere – an inaccessible nowhere which I can watch at close distance but not enter.

Chiharu Shiota, "In Silence" 2002/2003 - I made the other visitors green...
Chiharu Shiota, “In Silence” 2002/2003 – I made the other visitors green…

And while we are at the likeable weird – and because I am weak when it comes to everything Jaguar E-Type – here is the installation of an E-Type hearse in front of a video in which it is driven around in heavy rain and mud. At the end the driver gets out and does some incomprehensible movements, gymnastic exercises. All by Francois Curlet and called “Speed Limit”, 2013.

Francois Curlet, video installation "Speed Limit" 2013
Francois Curlet, video installation “Speed Limit” 2013

OK, if one ends life by driving beyond the speed limit, this wouldn’t be the worst last car to be transported in to the final destination. Without gymnastics!

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Uta Barth’s beautiful, strict and story-telling photos attract me a lot. Here she is at the Stockholm-based Andrรฉhn-Schiptjenko Gallery’s stand:

Uta Barth, Deep Blue Day, 2012
Uta Barth, Deep Blue Day, 2012

On the way to the men’s room… No, it’s not the title of this wonderful work, but you see where it has been pinned to the wall. It’s Lucy Skaer Heavy On The Page and it is no less than 300 x 250 cm and aluminium leaf and watercolour on paper from galerie Nelson-Freeman. I think it is an extraordinary piece that had deserved a better hanging.

Lucy Skaer "Heavy on the Page" 2009
Lucy Skaer “Heavy on the Page” 2009

Finally two of my favourites – Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg. There was surprisingly little of the latter who may well turn out in the future to be considered the most important of his time?

An entire space devoted to Roy Lichtenstein
An entire space devoted to Roy Lichtenstein
Not one of the best of Rauschenberg but still more original, trend-setting, inspiring than most...
Not one of the best of Rauschenberg but still more original, trend-setting, inspiring than most…

Talking of which…Gemini G.E.L.

For about 40 years I’ve followed the production of one of the world’s finest contemporary art printers – Gemini G.E. L. at Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. My father, F. W. Oberg (1913-1981) who founded gallery Ars Studeo in Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark, in the mid-1960s and was a keen long-time art collector bought many prints from Gemini G.E.L. With six years only in school, he wasn’t good enough at writing English to artists, galleries and printers around the world; I therefore worked as his secretary (and financed my studies that way).

I was therefore immensely happy to find that Gemini was one of the print publishers having a stand in the so-called Limited-editioned works section of Art Basel. Here I met Ellen Grinstein Perliter, daughter of one of the founders of Gemini, Stanley Grinstein (the other two being Sidney Felsen and Ken Tyler). Here Ellen stands in front of two new prints by Ellsworth Kelly who has just turned 80…

Ellen Grinstein Perliter of Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles in front of two new editions, by Ellsworth Kelly
Ellen Grinstein Perliter of Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles in front of two new editions, by Ellsworth Kelly

You may take a tour around Gemini G.E.L. here and here is an article with a special focus on the co-operation between Gemini and Rauschenberg from 1972 to 2001. Finally, The National Gallery of Art in Washington is the home of the flourishing Gemini G.E.L. Archive, which is intended to include one example of each edition published at Gemini while preserving selected rare proof impressions, unique working material, and related photographs and documents.

And by that happy encounter, I end my four-part report from Art Basel 2013.

Would love to read your views, ideas or suggestions here

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