Art Basel Tour by Camera [part 2]


Still wondering what was for sale at Art Basel? The fair may be closing, but for those who skipped this year it’s still useful and entertaining to see the offerings. Fortunately, art adviser Todd Levin has provided a follow-up to the first installment of his walk-through photo survey which covered the “blue chip” ground floor of the fair. This second part presents 119 works from the second floor of the hall, mainly  younger artists. Visit Levin’s album here [ed. note: no longer accessible], and enjoy the commentary by artists, critics, and Levin himself, who has a seasoned eye and irreverence in the face of fashion.

Some favorites (mine, not Levin’s) include:

  • a bristling wooden relief by Leonardo Drew,
  • a David Noonan photo-based screenprint with dynamic graphic overlays that make it looks like it was made in Eastern Europe in the late 1920s,
  • a sculpture by Israeli Sigalit Landau of what looks like bedding and towels compressed by industrial pipes between two prison doors (status quo in the Mid-East),
  • a Tom Friedman dog biscuit carton made of strips of the original woven together to blur the packaging image,
  • some nice distressed and rilled canvases by Mark Bradford,
  • a big black and white watercolor by Swedish artists Andrehn Schiptjenko that’s apparently done from a projection of a photograph of a library reading room, but shows real control of the medium,
  • and for fun, a wall-relief by Jim Lambie that looks like a sheaf of different colored sheets of paper with their corners folded in — zingy but dated.

Disappointments are legion:  Mickalene Thomas, Mark Grotjahn, Sarah Morris, Tomma Abts, Gedi Sibony – whose heavily marketed unrewarding works make us victims of fashion. Dopey assemblages incorporating stuffed animals by Gelatin and John Bock draw deserved denunciation, though thankfully their prototype sculptures by Mike Kelley were absent. And Billy Childish, showing at Berlin gallery Neugerriemschneider and descrbed as Tracy Emin’s ex-boyfriend, becomes a prime target for ridicule by Levin and his followers.

Lastly, I mention Damien HIrst, many of whose works I admire, but whose shiny metal showcase for fake gemstones is nothing but an overpriced rehash of an overworked theme, and whose skull still-life on a table — painted in scratchy white against a bruised-purple-black background — reworks Bacon and Giacometti so blatantly that even future generations will notice.

P.S.: For slightly cheaper product in the Hirst brand, head to the Gagosian Shop on Madison and West 77th where spin-painted plastic skulls, glittery skull posters, and the like, can be had for prices that will make your skull spin.

P.P.S.: I admit I like the butterfly-printed canvas deck chairs for $375.

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Jason Edward Kaufman is an art historian and critic with expertise in museums and the international art world.

A complete list of past articles is available here.

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