By: Sheila Gibson Stoodley
Few art fairs that focus on modern and contemporary art remain vital long enough to mark their 40th editions; Art Basel is one of those few. The 2009 fair will take place June 10–14 in Basel, Switzerland and will feature more than 300 exhibitors, including 11 first-timers. Art Basel has felt an aftershock from the economic earthquake—its longtime sponsor, UBS, announced in April that it would close its art advisory division—but the sponsorship reportedly will continue until 2011.
The quality of the works that will appear at Art Basel should insulate it from further tremors. Newcomer J Crist Gallery of Boise, Idaho, will mount a one-man show of works by James Castle, a 20th-century Outsider artist from Idaho who fashioned his images from scavenged materials and ink made from soot mixed with saliva. “Text is a very important aspect to his work,” says gallery founder Jacqueline Crist, who declines to give prices for the 45 pieces, about a third of which emphasize letterforms. “I felt it hasn’t had a really major venue to introduce it, and I thought Basel would be a good place for that.”
Michael Haas of Galerie Haas & Fuchs of Berlin will offer a 1930 portrait by Christian Schad, Fräulein Mulino von Kluck. He depicts the 18-year-old German actress with a coquettish attitude and a pink orchid on her décolletage. “It’s a very typical portrait not only for Christian Schad, but for his period,” Haas says, noting that the artist belongs to the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, which also included Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and George Grosz. Haas has priced it at €1.2 million ($1.5 million).
New York dealer Tony Shafrazi will offer works by three artists he has never shown before at Art Basel: Robert Williams, Thoralf Knobloch and Jason Bereswill. Shafrazi is eager to display several Bereswill landscapes of the island of St. Barth’s because he wants to carry forward an unusual project on which he and the artist are collaborating. From Nov. 11–Feb. 7, Bereswill worked on the canvases live in Shafrazi’s gallery. The dealer intends to arrange for Bereswill to continue working on some of the paintings at the Art Basel booth. “He goes in front of each one and paints it while it’s hanging,” says Shafrazi. “It’s a novel idea.”
Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs of Manhattan will have a cyanotype of an iris by British botanist Anna Atkins, who created the image in the 1850s by preparing a sheet of paper with photosensitive chemicals and laying the flower directly on it. Russell Lord, director of the gallery, claims Atkins is probably the first female photographer. “We haven’t found anyone earlier yet,” he says, explaining that Victorian women were discouraged from soiling their hands with chemicals. As the daughter of a scientist, Atkins escaped such strictures. The gallery values the cyanotype at $75,000.