Curator Filipa Ramos Art Basel Online Art Favorites
Art Basel debuted its digital platform, the Online Viewing Rooms, with 235 galleries showing over 2,000 pieces. To help our readers navigate these first virtual aisles, curators were invited to preview the offering and share what caught their eye. Art Basel's Film sector curator Filipa Ramos kicked off the series.
Nam June Paik, Untitled, 1994; Leeahn Gallery, Seoul and Daegu
The more spontaneous, playful, and sometimes outright funny aspects of Nam June Paik’s drawings and paintings are sometimes less considered than his technological environments, robotic creations, and explorations of modern communication devices for which the artist is better known. Untitled (1994) features a little humanoid figure painted on top of a television test card, an image that used to be transmitted when a channel wasn’t broadcasting a program. It brings together Paik’s humorous spirit, his investigation into the visual culture of television, and his interest in the relationship between people and media. Reverting the logics of his better-known painted television screens, which Paik would cover in paint with abstract gestures, he opted here for figuration to signal a bright and almost explosive encounter between a person and a machine.
Lee Ufan, From Line, 1979; Kamel Mennour, Paris and London
Despite being a manifesto against representation, Lee Ufan’s paintings sing. I’d love to be a musician just to be able to play the incredible melodies that come out of his compositions of lines and patches. In this beautiful work from the ‘From Line’ series from the 1970s, you can hear the sounds of deep cobalt blue, warm white, and the rhythm of long, parallel stripes – calm, bright, and assertive, aligned side by side like a flock of birds flying together across the sky. A major figure of the important Korean Monotone Art movement (Dansaekjo Yesul), Lee was also the co-founder of Mono-ha in the 1960s and is one of its last survivors.
Ma Paisui, Spring of Taroko, 1976; Asia Art Center, Taipei, Beijing, and Shanghai
I recently saw Gu Xiaogang’s stunning film Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (2019), the young Chinese filmmaker’s first feature film. Named after a legendary 14th-century scroll by Chinese painter Huang Gongwang, the film also unfolds like a scroll: slowly, bit by bit, long shot after long shot. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains shows four seasons of the lives of various members of the Yu family, whose individual stories are shaped by the major challenges facing contemporary China today.
While depicting a different landscape, the Taroko National Park in Taiwan, and a single season, spring, Ma Paisui’s painting, with its vivid jade and sapphire mountains rising high above the clouds and dwarfing the tiny human figures and their infrastructure, brought back to me the outstanding images of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains. There is something incredibly disruptive in Ma’s use of color in his landscape – at once vivid and outlandish, concrete and unreal – that makes the spaces he captures look like a lucid hallucination.
Andi Fischer, Oh Oh Endkampf, 2019; Sies + Höke, Dusseldorf
Peter Paul Rubens liked to paint flabby naked women and dramatic scenes. Sometimes he would combine these, sometimes not. He also enjoyed painting brutal hunting scenes in which strong, patrician men were portrayed slaughtering foxes, wolves, crocodiles, hippos, tigers, lions, leopards, and other ferocious beasts. Zoological bloodbaths anticipating the Anthropocene, these paintings should be used to mourn the harm humans have inflicted on the world.
It’s of Rubens I think of when I look at Andi Fischer’s monumentally childish Oh Oh Endkampf (2019). I enjoy how this work exposes the ridiculous ambition and offensive imagery of so much European religious and aristocratic baroque painting, Rubens included. Schematic, straightforward, and cartoonish, but also funny in their childish manners, Fischer’s works reveal the absurdity of Western iconography while offering us potential stories to be told by the child in each of us.
Ana Mazzei, Woodpecker, 2020; Ana Mazzei, Hare, 2020; Green Art Gallery, Dubai
Just like cherries, which always grow in groups, Ana Mazzei’s elegant sculptural works should always come in sets of at least two or three pieces. To separate the Brazilian artist’s freestanding wooden objects would be to deprive them of their narrative strength, to prevent their theatrical potential from unfolding, and to abolish the stories they are about to tell. Here, two creatures from the woods, a woodpecker and a hare, engage in a playful dialogue about the relationship between abstraction and figuration, modernism and postmodernism, subject and object, nature and culture, art and life.
Yunizar, Untitled, 2020; Gajah Gallery, Singapore
Red dogs and black birds and funny lizards. Jellyfish and sea cucumbers, small fish and large fish, all close to the bottom. Crowned coronaviruses, little volcanoes, and huge flowers… You can find so many figures in this painting by the Indonesian artist Yunizar. At once bestiary, mental map, scribbled drawing, delirious fantasy, and textile pattern, Untitled (2020) is inspired by the oral stories of the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia, a matrilineal society arranged in female clans from which the artist descends. Despite its apparent simplicity and naïve style, this rhythmic composition requires time and attention for its details to be observed, and for each character to be fully considered as part of a complex whole, in which forms, words, and movements are brought together in a continuous festival of lines and colors.
The Online Viewing Rooms launched on March 18 and closed on March 25, 2020, but collectors can still contact galleries using the contact details on the individual gallery page. Information about the next edition will be released soon.
Filipa Ramos is a Lisbon-born writer and lecturer based in London. She is Curator of Art Basel’s Film sector. Her research looks at humans' engagement with animals in the contexts of art and artists’ cinema. Her essays and texts have been published in magazines and books worldwide. She co-founded and co-curates Vdrome, a program of screenings of artists’ films. She is Lecturer at the MRes Arts at Central Saint Martins, London, and at the Master Programme of the Arts Institute of the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst, Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Basel.
She was Editor in Chief of art-agenda, Associate Editor of Manifesta Journal, and collaborated with Documenta 13 (2012) and 14 (2017). She edited Animals (Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press, 2016) and curated the group exhibition ‘Animalesque’ (Bildmuseet Umeå, Summer 2019, and BALTIC, Gateshead, Winter 2019/20). She curates the ongoing symposia series ‘The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish’ with Lucia Pietroiusti for the Serpentine Galleries.