The art world's most well-known art fair opened this week in Switzerland: Art Basel. Bill Cournoyer, the founder of The Meeting—an art advisory firm and private exhibition space in New York City—scoured the aisles for stand-out works of art. Informed by his own collecting experience (he's spent the last 20 years acquiring art by both emerging and established artists) and his seasoned curatorial eye, Cournoyer describes his twelve favorite works from he fair.
Greene Naftali, New York
Price upon request.
Abstract painting has never looked better or more relevant than in Jacqueline Humphries' paintings. Her work certainly doesn't stand still in time. I showed her work in 2006 and 2008 when she was using large gestures on silver painted grounds and her black light works. Her new body of work references the technological and digital age but remains as painterly as ever, demonstrated by an intense saturation of color, abstract gestures and her novel use of texture.
Essex Street, New York
Price upon request
I am a big fan of conceptual photography and of Sara Deraedt's work in particular since seeing her first exhibition at Essex Street in New York. I'm interested in the uncanny images she documents and the effect they have on the viewer. Each unique print is the result of several years of research and observation. She produces multiple images and prints of the same image in various printing techniques. The result is a singular and unique work—one that is worthy of being seen.
The Couple, 1955
Galerie Michael Haas, Zurich
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin.
Although my focus is on contemporary art while at Art Basel, one can't ignore the gems of modern and early post war art at the fair. Each year I make a point of visiting Galerie Haas based in Zurich. This year they had a great painting by Richard Lindner titled The Couple. I was attracted to the strangeness of the scene and the flatness of the painting. I was also reminded of how many artists are working within a similar style today.
Reiter und Pferd, 1990
Barbara Weiss, Berlin
Technology plays an interesting role in Thomas Bayrle's work. Concerned with mechanization early in his practice, Thomas Bayrle made Reiter und Pferd in 1990 wherein he transitioned from the production of paintings painted by hand, as if made by a machine, to collages made of xeroxed copies on canvas. The image in this work is a stunning depiction of a horse seemingly jumping in competition. What's fascinating about the work is that the repeated images within the horse are cars, as well as the landscape and horizon, reflecting concerns of a mass consumer society.
Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
Price on request
Photo: Simon Vogel via Galerie Gisela Capitain.
It's always great to be able to view one of Martin Kippenberger's lamp or light post sculptures. Untitled (1993) shown at Gisela Capitain is an excellent example of these anthropomorphic metaphorical works. This work has an intentionally ambiguous nature. Is it a human figure or a lamp? Is that an arm or a sword? Its meaning is open to interpretation. Its success may be in its ability to be simultaneously poignant and humorous.
LAWRENCE ABU HAMDAN
This whole time there were no land mines, 2017
Mor Charpentier, Paris
Price on request
In the Statements section of Art Basel, Lawrence Abu Hamden's This whole time there were no land mines (2017) is an impressive video installation with sound based on an event on the border between Syria and Israel by a group of Palestinians in a part of the Golan Heights in 2011. The event takes place between two sides of a valley with acoustic qualities producing a natural phenomenon. Relatives separated geographically and by politics are magically able to clearly hear each other by shouting across the valley. Hamden's focus on the challenges of human relations paralleled with the power of mother nature is provocative.
In Awe, 2017
$60,000 EUR (excluding VAT)
Image courtesy of the artist and Dépendance.
Since her debut exhibition in New York at Real Fine Arts, which recently closed, Jana Euler has been at the top of my list of emerging artists and painters specifically. Her work defies a particular style and therefore challenges the viewer to keep up with her promiscuous output. One can't help associate Euler with the artist Martin Kippenberger, whose oeuvre was extremely diverse. In the painting In Awe, Euler seems to be genuinely enjoying herself and interacts with the viewer in a way that makes us equally aware of her presence.
Untitled (Poles), 2018
The Box, Los Angeles
Price upon request
Japan-born Naotaka Hiro works in Pasadena, California. Hiro received his BA from University of California, Los Angeles in 1997, and his MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 2000. His work is included in the "Made in Los Angeles" exhibition up now at the Hammer Museum and is in the collection of MoMA. Hiro's performance-based practice explores the limitations and possibilities of the body in art making. His paintings like Untitled (Poles) are made using applied dye and paint while wrapping his body in the canvas. "Suspended by ropes and grommets, Hiro paints in various positions, cutting holes and slits in the canvas to gain access to paint specific angles," says the gallery's press release. The results are energetic and psychedelic abstract works. The questions surrounding their creation ceases to impress.
The Weeping Willow, 2018
Galeria Plan B, Berlin
One of the best reasons to visit an art fair is to have the opportunity to discover artists at galleries from across the globe. Galeria Plan B from Berlin is one of those galleries I make a point of visiting at each fair they participate in, especially to see Serban Savu's beautifully rendered paintings. Serban Savu, born 1978 in Sighisoara, Romania, lives and works in Cluj. The painting The Weeping Willows is an especially poetic example of his work. Savu poignantly interprets life's events both big and small in a way that feels optimistic while never denying reality. They provide essential moments of reflection.
Saturday Night, 2018
Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
$58,000 EUR (including VAT)
I became a fan of Walter Swennen's (b. 1946, Brussels) work at Art Basel a few years ago. Since then I seek out his work whenever or wherever I can in order to experience his world of painting. The painting, Saturday Night, is a classic example of how this poet and painter places importance on his relationship to language. In Saturday Night, we see the word "saloon" spelled backwards or seen from the inside of, well, a saloon. It doesn't take long to figure this out—but the short moment it takes to decipher the word is when he grabs your attention and makes you focus on his creation. It doesn't hurt that his love of painting, which comes through his seemingly carefree brushstrokes, provides a joyous experience. His ability to inject humor into the work while producing complex paintings is a testament to his practice and a bonus to us all.
Gleichheit, Fraternité, Vrijheid, 1986
Gelijkheid, Fraternité, Freiheit, 1986
Max Mayer, Düsseldorf
$80,000-100,000 EUR each
Jef Geys (b. 1934 in Leopoldsburg; d. 2018 in Genk), a major pioneering artist of the neo-avant-garde in Europe, initially exhibited the door-reliefs in the exhibition "Chambres d’amis" in Ghent in 1986. The exhibition took place in six private working-class homes on their wallpaper decorated walls across the Belgian town. "Jeff Geys painted on each door the terms ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,’ alternating in the three official languages of Belgium: French, Flemish, and German. Besides representing the ideals of the French Revolution and the civil republic, these refer to the common principles that organize debate, consent and dissent in the public sphere and the institutions that guarantee its continuation," stated Dirk Snauwaert in the press release. What attracted me to Gey's practice was his philosophical approach to art making and its concerns with socio-economic and cultural issues mixed with a sly wit. He strove to break down barriers to make art accessible to a larger audience.
Galerie Urs Miele, Beijing
While in Hong Kong for Art Basel this past March I went to an exhibition at the new Tai Kwun art museum. In one room hung three seemingly blank or minimal paintings by Qui Shihua as well as a sound installation by another artist, creating a rather spiritual or ambient environment. After researching Shihua's work I realized that the paintings were in fact landscapes. While hard to see at first, Shihua's faint landscapes become more apparent and change through time. Shihu meditates before the canvasses before painting them. Viewers also need to dedicate time when viewing them in order to appreciate these unbelievably beautiful and quietly powerful works.