Art Basel opens officially today, but the unofficial kick off started Sunday with a tour of Zurich organized by the indomitable Kunsthalle Director Beatrix Ruf. The tour was followed by a buffet dinner in a concrete modern palace on a hill outside the center overlooking the Zurich lake. The house was full of art including a Wolfgang Tillmans photograph hanging outside by the pool. The party has become a tradition for the collectors who seem to leave Basel earlier each year. Some of the guests included Serpentine Co-Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, Larry Gagosian, MOCA's Jeffrey Deitch, artists Christopher Williams, Rob Pruit and David Weiss, Stedelijk Museum's (and LA transplant) Ann Goldstein, and of course, the Beyler Director Sam Keller, who made Art Basel a must-see stop for international art travelers. Architecture lovers stopped before the dinner at Galerie Gmurzynska to see Zaha Hadid who had curated a show that totally transformed the architecture of the space with her design and works from the gallery's Russian avant-garde collection. Some, like Serpentine Gallery Co-Director Julia Peyton Jones and Kenny Schaeter, stayed for dinner honoring the Pritzer Prize winning architect and one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people of 2010.
At a brutally early breakfast meeting, I overheard a Swiss artist say "when the dealers are happy, everyone is happy." The fair had already gotten off to a propitious start. A long line at the VIP opening for Art Unlimited, an exhibition of large scale installations and videos, which was more then worth the wait. Doug Aitken's film Frontier, which had premiered on an island in Rome and stars Ed Ruscha, was shown in a room with cutouts so the viewer could see the film from the outside. It was right across from the great Agnes Varda's plastic whale, which served as a shelter for her latest film La Cabane sur la plage about the island of Sete. Varda says "everyone knows" the island "has the shape of a whale and is used as the city's seal." Her artist statement continued: "Some beached whales may be given back to the sea if it is done quickly. This whale is fake, its skin and fantail are made of black plastic and its head is that of an Italian statue. Be careful. It's angry because the world is sick." She spent two hours sitting in a beach chair today and told passersby that "I think about it, then I forget." Fitting advice for the days to come.
- By Bettina Korek