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What not to miss at Art Basel 2016

This week, Art Basel – the largest and most important art fair in the world – opens its doors for the 47th time. Here’s what not to miss at the exhibition and the many events taking place across the city over the coming week…

“See you in Basel!” – for weeks now, most phone calls in the art world will have been concluded like this. There’s hardly a gallerist, collector, curator or humble art enthusiast who would miss out on Art Basel, such is its breadth and significance. After two preview days on Tuesday and Wednesday – that double up as ‘shopping’ days, during which many pieces will trade for millions of Swiss francs – the fair will be opened to the public. In addition to the larger galleries’ exhibitions, there are numerous ‘satellite’ shows taking place around the city, riding on the wave of the main event’s popularity and providing an exciting insight into the current art scene. 

The sectors

With 286 galleries from 33 countries exhibiting the work of around 4,000 artists, Art Basel provides a representative picture of the international art market. In the main sector, titled ‘Galleries’, the biggest dealers from New York, Paris, Zurich and Tokyo will offer their most sought-after paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs and videos, ranging from the early 20th Century to the present. We’re particularly looking forward to the retrospective of the racing sculptor Salvatore Scarpitta at Tornabuoni’s booth, and to seeing Cindy Sherman’s latest works at Metro Pictures. 

In the ‘Editions’ sector, the focus moves to editioned works and prints, while the ‘Feature’ sector comprises curated projects by galleries featuring the work of established and historical artists. Exciting new projects by emerging artists will be displayed in the ‘Statements’ sector, and the 88 large sculptures, paintings and installations in the ‘Unlimited’ sector go beyond the limits of the traditional trade-fair format. Those who would like to use Art Basel to network and reflect, the ‘Conversations and Salon’ talk programmes should be of interest, while the ‘Parcours’ sector in the cathedral square of the old town of Basel is a great excuse to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main fair. 

Beyond the fair

If you’d like to discover younger and lesser-known artists in Basel this week, the satellite fairs at Scope, Volta and Liste will feature the works of the stars of tomorrow. Who knows – you might even unearth one of the Basel ‘big players’ of the future? We’ll be following the presentation of the winners of both the Baloise Art Prize and the BMW Art Journey award with interest. Incidentally, at the BMW Art & Design talk, the Bavarian car company’s chief designer Karim Habib and the Chinese artist Cao will discuss the latest BMW ‘Art Car’, among many other things. 

Design Miami Basel

Another important destination for collectors will be Design Miami Basel, in which more than 50 galleries will present pieces of historical and contemporary design. For the first time, automobiles will take centre stage – Hess Classic will celebrate Italian ‘mobility design’ from the 1950s to the ’70s, with a Lamborghini Miura, Fiat 500 and a classic Ducati. A further solo exhibition will acknowledge the work of the late architect Zaha Hadid, who sadly died just a few weeks ago. And a new interpretation of minimalist Mid-Century furniture by Ilmari Tapiovaara from Artek and Raf Simmons for Kvadrat should also pique the interest of collectors and enthusiasts alike. 

Museums and exhibitions

Thanks to numerous museums and exhibition spaces, the metropolitan region of the Rhine has developed into a true ‘hot spot’ of the art world, even beyond Art Basel. The Kunstmuseum Basel boasts an impressive, recently opened extension, housing prints by Barnett Newman, and a show of the development of sculpture from 1946 to today. Many visitors will no doubt schedule a trip to the newly opened Herzog & de Meuron-designed Vitra Schaudepot in Weil am Rhein, as well as the Vitra Design Museum with its current retrospective of textile artist Alexander Girard. Also not to be missed is the comprehensive exhibition dedicated to Alexander Calder at the Fondation Beyeler, in which his work is contrasted with that of the Swiss architects Fischli and Weiss. 

Photos: Art Basel / Design Miami / Citco / Hess / Liste / Kunstmuseum Basel / Vitra Design Museum / Fondation Beyeler

You can find more information about Art Basel 2016 at