A Journey Through Art Basel’s Unforgettable Moments

This years’ edition of Art Basel is just around the corner, as it will take place at Messe Basel, from 23-26 September, while Art Basel Miami Beach turn will be at the end of the year, from 2-5 December. Postponed because of the pandemic, the wait has been long for art lovers, so I Lobo You has decided to share with you some of the most iconic and memorable art moments of this art fair! Art Basel has spent the last 50 years giving art a new meaning and changing the conception of art fairs, and what art fairs can be!

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Founded in 1979 by Basel gallerist, Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner, and Balz Hilt, Art Basel’s initial purpose was to create and attract a new generation of collectors and art enthusiasts. The fair attracted different people, from different economical ranges and ages. In its first year, Art Basel got 16,000 visitors, and in 2019, its last edition, the fair secured 93,000 visitors over six days, presenting 290 galleries from 35 countries.

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Besides being a marketplace for artists, and art collectors, a place to gather celebrities in awesome parties, Art Basel has become a cultural home for some of the boldest and iconic events in the history of art. Keep reading to discover some of the most unforgettable moments, that left a mark in Art Basel’s history.

Maurizio Cattelan’s duct tape-meets-banana drama 

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In 2019, Maurizio Cattelan took Art Basel as an opportunity to strike and surprised the art world, as his artwork consisted of a fresh lonely banana, taped to the Perrotin gallery’s booth wall with a piece of metallic duct tape. This simple composition had to purpose to comment on global trade, or as the artists said “The banana is supposed to be a banana”.

Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist got a room, well 14 Rooms 

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One of Art Basel’s most famous art moments stands somewhere between theatre, sculpture, and art exhibition. To create 14 rooms, Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist invited 14 international artists to each ‘activate’ a room, exploring the relationship within space, time, and physicality. The twist was in each of the rooms, the artwork material was a human being.

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Art Basel braved a new virtual reality

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Online Viewing Rooms are now a common term for most of us, as since covid-19 struck, it became a reality for art galleries. But before that, the term OVR might found like something weird. In 2020 Art Basel had no alternative than to cancel its edition, on its 50th anniversary. But to keep this date alive, they released the first digital-only edition, in which all galleries for the 2020 Hong Kong show were invited to participate at no cost. From 16 – 19 June, Art Basel will stage its inaugural curator-led edition of Online Viewing Rooms, ‘OVR: Portals’. 

Kader Attia smashed up his Arab Spring installation

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Inspired by an image of looted glass vitrines in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, Kader Atti created the Arab Spring (2014). A sculptural art installation staged at Art Basel Unlimited in 2015, where the artists re-enacted the moment protesters entered the museum, destroyed its display cases, and robbed their contents during the Arab Revolutions of 2011-12. The artists explored the legacy of colonialism, specifically French colonialism, and the contradictory notion of how a country intent on reclaiming its future would destroy what was, at last, becoming theirs.

Abraham Cruzvillegas built a dance stage from trash

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“Autorreconstrucción: To Insist, to Insist, to Insist”, by Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillega is also on the list of one of Art Basel’s most iconic art moments. The performance piece was comprised of literal trash, devised by Cruzvillegas and the Argentine choreographer Barbara Foulkes. It was installed to inaugurate the newly built 60,000 sq ft Grand Ballroom at Art Basel Miami Beach and organized with curator Philipp Kaiser and the independent New York art space The Kitchen, where the work was shown previously. 

Performers swarmed inside Alexandra Pirici’s Messeplatz igloo

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Inside an igloo-like construction on Basel’s Messeplatz, Romanian artist and dancer Alexandra Pirici’s public installation “Aggregate” had an intense performative environment, as the audience mingles with a swarm of performers, who spontaneously pick from a list of rehearsed enactments. At any given time, performers can initiate movements that others might choose to follow. The reference points for these actions were wide-ranging: from the leap of an antelope to Michelangelo’s David, or a Depeche Mode song lyric.

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