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Art Basel 2018. Photo: Art Basel and Creative Time.

Forty-Ninth Edition of Art Basel Opens Thursday

As the forty-ninth edition of Art Basel prepares to open to the public on Thursday, VIP guests are pouring into Basel to glimpse the thousands of artworks being displayed by the 290 participating galleries from thirty-five countries during the prestigious art fair’s two preview days, June 12 and June 13. Held at the Messe Basel exhibition hall, the event will run through June 17.

The sixteen galleries that are making their debuts at Art Basel this year include White Space Beijing from China; Freedman Fitzpatrick, Essex Street, and Franklin Parrasch Gallery from the United States; and Galerie Max Mayer, Jan Kaps, Sandy Brown, and Antoine Levi from Europe. The fair’s main sector features 227 exhibitors, including ten galleries that are “graduating”—moving from other sectors to the Galleries section: 47 Canal, Alexander Gray, Bergamin & Gomide, Kate MacGarry, KOW, and Mendes Wood DM, among others.

Boasting thirty-one curated projects, the fair’s Features sector includes presentations of works by the 2017 Turner Prize–winning artist Lubaina Himid at Hollybush Gardens, six pivotal works by British artist Helen Chadwick at Richard Saltoun Gallery, and rarely seen works by Rachel Whiteread at Galleria Lorcan O’Neill Roma, as well as a wide selection of unseen photographs by Irving Penn at Hamiltons. Galerist will also display a multimedia installation by Nil Yalter. Titled Le Chevalier d’Eon, 1978, the piece is one of the first artworks from the Middle East to engage with transgender identity.

The majority of the projects from this year’s Statements sector address sociopolitical issues. Highlights include Flaka Haliti’s robot, which is composed of found objects from KFOR military camps in Kosovo, at Deborah Schamoni; Alina Chaiderov’s work about her exile from her homeland Russia to Sweden in 1990 at Antoine Levi; Ektor Garcia’s exploration of craft traditions and themes of Mexican and queer culture at Mary Mary; and Doreen Garner’s meat-rack installation, which references the medical experiments conducted on enslaved black women in the United States in the mid-1800s, at JTT.

Curated for the seventh consecutive year by Gianni Jetzer, curator at large at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Unlimited sector will take place on the upper floor of Hall 1 for the first time. Created as a platform for projects that don’t fit into the traditional art booth display, it will feature work by Polly Apfelbaum, Rashid Johnson, Katherine Bernhardt, and Yu Hong, as well as nine sofas in the shapes of the nine Chinese characters constituting the phrase “I miss Socialism, maybe” by Nedko Solakov.

Also on view is Basilea, a collaboration between the artists Lara Almarcegui and Isabel Lewis and the Santiago Cirugeda–led architecture studio Recetas Urbanas. The firm designed a large-scale, multipurpose, civic structure made from salvaged materials that will be activated by programs and performances. Almarcegui produced an installation of gravel deposits from an active quarry, and Lewis conceived of a series of workshops that will challenge participants to rethink notions of the self and community. The project is Creative Time’s first international commission.

Returning for its ninth edition, Parcours—the sector presenting site-specific sculptures, interventions, and performances throughout Basel’s historic city center—is curated for the third time by Samuel Leuenberger, founder of the nonprofit exhibition space SALTS in Birsfelden, Switzerland. Focusing on the political potential of storytelling, the sector will boast a soundscape created by Hannah Weinberger, who will activate the city’s sewers with ten site-specific compositions, and a sculpture by Pierre Huyghe featuring a crouching female figure whose head is an actual beehive. The colony of bees living inside the hive will pollinate the surrounding flora in the garden of the Allgemeine Lesegesellschaft Basel.

Screened at Stadtkino Basel, Art Basel’s film program will feature works by and about artists and has been curated by the Cairo-based film curator and art lecturer Maxa Zoller for the fourth consecutive year. The program includes “Films from the Postcolony: (Counter)Images from South Africa,” a short film series that engages with Africa’s colonial history; Ai Weiwei’s documentary on the refugee crisis, Human Flow; and Lynn Hershman Leeson’s feature on Ada Lovelace, the nineteenth-century mathematician considered to have written the first computer program.

Art Basel’s talk series, Conversations, will feature prominent art-world figures, including Cecilia Alemani, Richard Armstrong, Ed Atkins, Anita Dube, RoseLee Goldberg, Katharina Grosse, Isabel Lewis, Kamel Mennour, Michael Rakowitz, Thomas Schütte, Uli Sigg, Sarah Sze, and Haegue Yang, among others, and will address a range of topics, such as sexism in the art world, the rise of the single-artist museum, and the impact of data on the market.

Outside of the art fair, museums in and around Basel are hosting a number of significant exhibitions, including a show dedicated to the work of Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon at the Fondation Beyeler and Theaster Gates’s exploration of the cult of the Black Madonna at the Kunstmuseum Basel. To learn about more must-see shows being staged in Basel, visit artforum.com. Among the other art fairs running parallel to Art Basel are SCOPE Art Show, Design Miami / Basel, Photo Basel, LISTE, and VOLTA.

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