For the first time in 18 months, collectors and art enthusiasts gathered at the Messe Basel for the world’s most elite contemporary art fair, Art Basel. Founded by gallerists Trudl Bruckner, Ernst Beyeler and Balz Hilt, the fair has traditionally been held in Switzerland since 1970. Along with the Venice Biennale and the "documenta" in Kassel, it is one of the major international events in the art world.
For one week, 272 galleries from 33 countries were brought together, presenting outstanding works across all media, from rare and historical masterpieces to new works by today's emerging voices. Private collectors, curators and representatives of over 300 museums – including the Serpentine Gallery London , the Guggenheim New York City and the Tate London – purchased works worth millions.
In addition to showcasing exceptional art within its Galleries and Feature sectors, the fair also presented Statements sector dedicated to emerging artists; Edition section for editioned works, prints, and multiples; 62 monumental projects that transcend the classical art fair booth in the Unlimited section; 20 site-specific works presented under Parcours program; public artworks and performance on the Messeplatz; Film program; and the fair’s vibrant talks series, Conversations.
If you didn’t make it to Art Basel 2021 and missed the new virtual tours, look at our highlights here.
Hardware Store by Jean-Michel Basquiat
presented by Van de Weghe
via Van de Weghe
One of the most expensive items at this year’s Art Bazel, the monumental cross-bar diptych ‘Hardware Store’ by Jean Michel Basquiat, was on offer by New York’s Van de Weghe gallery for $40 million. The painting stands approximately 7 feet tall and 11 feet wide, combining one canvas in yellow and another in blue along with Basquiat’s signature skulls, heads and scrawled words and phrases.
‘Hardware store’ was painted in 1983 and has since been in the same private collection, according to art dealer Christophe Van de Weghe. The work has previously been featured in major Basquiat exhibitions, including in New York, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1992–1993, and in Paris, at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in 2018–2019. This was the first time it hit the market.
Untitled (Bread House) by Urs Fischer
presented by Jeffrey Deitch
A realistic house, made entirely of bread, was on offer for $3 million. The tasty monumental piece is the iconic installation “Untitled” by Urs Fischer, presented by Jeffrey Deitch gallery, and constructed with loaves of fresh bread from Zurich’s oldest bakery in the artist’s hometown. Sitting on top of Persian carpets, reimagining the classic story of Hansel & Grettel, the house fuses Fischer’s exploration of fantasy and materiality.
Drift x Sou Fujimoto
presented by Superblue
The European debut of Superblue at Design Miami/Basel 2021 was marked by an installation of flower-like lamps rising and falling within a "forest" of wooden beams. It combined two works: Shy Synchrony, by Studio Drift, and Forest of Space, by Fujimoto.
Shy Synchrony showcased “Shylight” – a textile lamp programmed to continuously rise and fall, reminiscing flowers blossoming. For the Art Bazel 2021, dozens of these lamps were grouped in a poetic landscape, choreographed to move in synchronisation. In addition, “Forest of Space”, by architect Sou Fujimoto was designed specifically to frame the installation – a hemicycle of wooden elements doubled as seats that recreate a dynamic forest that intervenes in the space and with the movement of visitors.
Anish Kapoor’s “Random Triangle Mirror”
presented by Regen Projects
Via Regen Projects
Anish Karpool – the artist behind “Cloud Gate” (2006), a reflective stainless steel sculpture in Chicago – was among the big names at Art Basel 2021. His “Random Triangle Mirror” was introduced by Regen Projects from LA. Relying on geometry and mathematical logic in his work, the “mirror” seems to move with the viewer like it is almost ready to start turning.
Hélène Delprat, The Nautilus Room, Basel 2021
Another highlight at “Unlimited” was the multimedia installation “The Nautilus Room” by the Parisian artist Hélène Delprat. Often influenced by great works of literature, the piece was inspired by the science fiction classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. A wax clone of the artist herself appeared, sitting in a chair in the middle of a room, slowly turning on its own axis. On its two sides are projected fragments of Delprat’s work with voices and threatening music playing in the background.
David Shrigley for Ruinart
British visual artist David Shringley created the tiniest of works at this year’s Art Bazel for his artistic collaboration with Ruinart, the official champagne partner of the fair. From a distance, it was a circle with the bold caption “Look Closer”. In the middle of it, there was the tiniest painting of a billboard bearing the caption “Please do not destroy the world”.
Untitled by Dan Flavin
presented by David Zwirner gallery
Via Regen Projects
For this year’s edition of Untitled, David Zwirner presented Dan Flavin’s “untitled” (1974), a site-situational pink barrier work, which was produced for the artist’s solo exhibition at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, in 1975.