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June 14, 2013

Art Basel Unveils “Unlimited”

By Adam H. Graham | Miami Art Basel

Art Basel Ai Wei Wei
Art Basel 2013 | Unlimited | Ai Weiwei | Meile // MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

After weeks of rain in central Europe the sun shone down on the Rhine Valley for the opening days of Art Basel. Buyers (as well as VIPs, VVIPs and VVVIPs) attended private pre-shows and receptions that opened a day early, but the fair kicked off officially yesterday (June 13) and runs through June 16.

The 44th edition of Art Basel introduced an extension of Hall 1 designed by native starchitects Herzog & de Meuron, which was not open entirely early on but still hosted some of the best events. The new Messe Basel is a wheel-shaped open dome composed of brushed aluminum in a honeycomb form that discreetly houses several additional halls and galleries. Its open ceiling is reminiscent of James Turell’s skylights and the courtyard fountain at Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.

Another highlight is the “Unlimited” show, which features 79 artworks curated for the second year in a row by Gianni Jetzer, director of the Swiss Institute in New York. Jetzer’s selections have a strong video element—one that was noticeably underrepresented among the 304 gallerists in the main hall.

Works include those by well-established artists like Thomas Demand, whose gorgeous Pacific Sun video recreates a New Zealand cruise ship (composed completely of paper) making its way through a storm, and Pierre Huyghe’s untitled film, which was shot in a compost heap in Karlsaue Park in Kassel, Germany, last year. It features a pink-legged dog and a statue with a beehive on its head.

Jetzer’s emerging artists really brought soul. Susan Hiller’s Wild Talents—two side-by-side film projections each featuring snippets of popular films about children with special powers (Poltergeist, Carrie, Firestarter)—explores the fears and connections associated with kids and psychic power.

Non-film pieces include Huang Yong Ping’s miniature terracotta replica of Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound—this one festooned with lush ferns and plants—where he was killed in 2011, and a work by Ai Weiwei called Fairytale Ladies Dormitory (pictured above). But one of the most amusing is Martin Creed’s Work No. 570 (better known as “The Jogger”), which involves several runners sprinting around the busy Art Basel halls every half hour, providing some fast-paced live action. artbasel.com/en/Basel.

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