Artist to Watch

10 Artists to Watch During Art Basel

10 Artists to Watch During Art Basel
The artist Davide Balula, with chicken

From the new stars of the sprightly LISTE art fair to the veterans with new turns in Art Basel or the city's museums, these are the artists you're going to want to look out for during this week's art-market festivities in Switzerland. 

Art Basel: Unlimited 

Does a performance-based art-historical guessing game sound as fun to you as it does to us? Then come on down to Art Basel’s Unlimited section this week to check out the impressively valanced rising art star Davide Balula’s piece with Gagosian Gallery, where a group of trained mimes wearing art-handling gloves and standing behind empty plinths will enact running their hands over specific artworks from the historical canon, including pieces by David Smith, Henry Moore, Giacometti, and Louise Bourgeois. Will you be able to judge from their movements what artwork they’re caressing? If so, perhaps your parents should have encouraged you to play outside a little more as a child. (Though we’re guessing the Giacometti may be a bit of a giveaway….)


For some people, artworks are becoming those things that ping around on Instagram and show up in Google Search, and then are occasionally spotted in their physical form at art fairs. The sculptures of Liz Craft are a bulwark against this tendency—because her extraordinary works, merging painting and the 3-D and creating scenarios that seem to arise from particularly creative nightmares, are theatrical experiences that need to be encountered, walked around, and communed with in the flesh. (For instance, her sculptural portrait of a graffiti-covered, be-shelled, naked mermaid on view now at the Whitney, lounging outside on a terrace, immediately transports the viewer to a world where such creatures are vividly real; it’s transfixing.) This week, Craft—a co-founder of L.A.'s Paramount Ranch art fair—is going to have new work at LISTE in the booth of Geneva’s Truth and Consequences gallery, so bring your popcorn and prepare yourself for some fireworks.

Art Basel: Statements 

In today’s art world, it’s always a cause for celebration when inspired difficulty finds its just reward, and Ajay Kurian (an occasional Artspace contributor) is swiftly becoming something of a sensation with his impeccably wrought, gorgeous sculpture expressing some pretty left-brain ideas. This week, the artist—who had head-turning appearances in shows from Greater New York (in a standout display alongside his friend Jamian Juliano-Villani) to Baltimore’s Rowhouse Project—will have his most prominent stage yet, when a new suite of sculptures goes on view in 47 Canal’s Art Basel Statements booth. Standalone mini-monuments that meld high-tech machinery with kiddie pools, sock puppets, Applejacks, and other child-friendly references, the series is loosely inspired by Pixar’s “Inside Out” together with skeptical views of child development under American capitalism. 

Schlaulager, June 12 – Oct. 2

Katharina Fritsch’s career has been much like a pebble thrown in the sea; a serious of widening ripples have brought her to international attention with nary a break in momentum. Born in Essen, now working in Düsseldorf, she represented her nation at the 1995 Venice Biennale two decades ago, six years later premiered a critically acclaimed show at Tate Modern and in 2013, her 15-foot blue rooster Hahn/Cock staked out Trafalger Square’s fourth plinth. In Basel, she and Minsk artist Alexej Koschkarow are now presenting a three-room installation at the Schaulager (home to her infamous 1993 ring-of-rodents sculpture Rat King) that opens to the public June 12.


Like Cheyney Thompson, Ned Vena has for a while been one of those painters who meld minimal, quasi-Op Art strategies with a kind of irreverent, lived-in humor (e.g. his show of black-and-white concentric-circle paintings at Société called “Menace II Société”). Now he’s back with something new, and weird. At Project Native Informant’s LISTE booth, Vena will be displaying several of his “Spiderman Eye Graffiti Skyline” paintings, renditions of the classic street-schlock trope of visions of the Manhattan skyline—sometimes with the Twin Towers, sometimes without—reflected in the black bug-eyes of your friendly neighborhood web-slinger. Peddled on the sidewalks of cities around the world, these odd crowd-favorites (which can be made by following a completely absorbing YouTube tutorial) are a distinct change of pace for Vena. It will be interesting to see how the sophisticates at LISTE respond.

Art Basel: Unlimited

Pick two. That’s what most “multidisciplinary” artists do: dabble in a mix of painting, film, sculpture, installation, drawing, et cetera, and then settle into a familiar groove favoring one or two media. Op de Beeck, however, has never narrowed down his options, and in Basel, at the same time his gothic-noir flavored watercolors and sculptures are on view at Marianne Boesky's Chelsea space, his immersive The Collector’s House will be showcased at Art Unlimited. The elaborate installation, his fifth appearance at Unlimited, depicts an art collector’s petrified library and music room. A critique, perhaps?

Kunsthalle Basel, through Aug. 14

To say that this Norwegian-German sculpture creates his work from industrial objects would be correct, but it misses the powerful, often chilling mood his bizarre pieces evoke. Holen, born in 1982, combines machines of the aeronautics, medical, automotive, and home-appliances industries—think CT-scanner tunnels, gleaming bus headlights, washing machines—in ways that juxtapose the futuristic and anachronistic, the soft and hard, the hopeful and the dark. This solo museum exhibition, his largest yet, memorably includes a slice of Porsche.  

Art Basel: Unlimited

The artist known as Pope.L (formerly/occasionally William Pope.L) is one of the shining stars in American performance art, and for good reason. His work represents some of the most incisive commentary on race in the United States being made today, and pieces like The Great White Way (in which the artist donned a superman costume, strapped a skateboard to his back, and crawled on his belly up the entire 22-mile length of Manhattan's Broadway—a feat that took him almost five years to complete and was documented for the 2002 Whitney Biennale) have become the stuff of legend. For his piece with Mitchell-Innes & Nash in Art Basel’s Unlimited section, Pope.L has released tantalizing information about a planned performance that includes a white gorilla who disperses white plantains on his way to pick up wads of cash from the gallery’s booth before decamping the fair the same way he arrived—in a white limousine. 

Art Basel: Statements

The American artist and filmmaker Mary Reid Kelley makes black-and-white videos—often with delightfully punny titles like You Make Me Iliad or The Syphilis of Sisyphus—that focus on the experience of unsung female characters during moments of historical import. To be clear, these aren’t reenactments: Kelley’s scripts are lyrical and often rhyming constructions of interlocking complexity, and she dresses her actors in highly stylized outfits and her signature black-and-white makeup, with cartoonish eyes drawn over her actors real eyelids. She’s premiering a new work with Arratia Beer in Art Basel’s Statements called This Is Offal, focusing on the trope of what she calls “the beautiful, dead, silent woman,” which has been featured and exploited in settings ranging from medieval medicine to contemporary crime dramas. Far from silent, the female protagonist converses with her disembodied organs, using wit and wordplay to explore the absurd and “awful” realities of unchallenged sexism and death itself.

Art Basel: Unlimited

As a member of the storied Pictures Generation alongside peers like Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, Gretchen Bender focused her artistic energy on that most pervasive of 1980s mediums: television. In the years before her death in 2004, she mined the language of good old American T.V. for a new kind of image, critiquing the structures and corporations that regulate mass media even as she employed their own strategies against them. Bender walked the walk, too—in addition to her decidedly anti-establishment artworks, she also designed the credits for "America’s Most Wanted" and edited and directed music videos for bands like Megadeth and Babes in Toyland, some real-world bona fides contemporary media artists can only dream of. Now Metro Pictures is bringing her 1987 piece Total Recall to Art Basel’s Unlimited section. Originally premiered at the Kitchen and consisting of some 24 projection screens, this is one project that will be hard to miss at the fair even if it wasn’t such necessary viewing.


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