Discover Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms: 235 Galleries & More
When Art Basel debuts its Online Viewing Rooms on March 20, 2020, it will be a turning point. The virtual space of a publicly accessible, timed, online exhibition is new territory for many of the 233 participating galleries. They have all risen to the challenge: each has chosen a curatorial concept for their virtual room as individual as a fingerprint, with the added bonus of being unconstrained by the dimensions of a traditional white cube. From blue-chip paintings to outdoor sculptures, the artworks offered are of the highest caliber. Read on for a sneak peek at what’s in store.
The most obvious advantage of the virtual realm is that dimensions cease to matter. Ambitious, even room-size installations – from Kimsooja’s Deductive object (1997) presented by Axel Vervoordt to an 8.8-meter Vivian Suter canvas at Karma International – are part of the mix. Others have taken this leeway as a kind of dare. Pilar Corrias is offering Philippe Parreno’s floating fish school, My Room is Another Fishbowl (2016), conceived for his much-acclaimed Tate Modern Turbine Hall installation. Galeria Continua is bringing Antony Gormley's Breathing Room II (2010), a unique environment that uses phosphorous to conjure an architecture as if from the air, while OMR has a new piece by James Turrell, Circular Glass (2020), which is embedded with computerized LED lights and whose dimensions will be customized for its future home. Taking things a step further into the virtual, one collector has the chance to acquire a Yayoi Kusama infinity room – the mirror-box format Life Shines On (2019), via Ota Fine Arts – perhaps one of the most talked-about artwork series in recent years.
Philppe Parreno, My Room is Another Fishbowl, 2016. Courtesy Pilar Corrias, London.
Another advantage of the Online Viewing Room is the collapse of geographic distance, bringing many Art Basel Hong Kong participating galleries to global attention. Nowhere is this more evident than in the selection of major Middle Eastern, Asian, and Southeast Asian masters little seen in the west. A case in point is the late I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih, a pathbreaking Balinese artist who boldly addressed pleasure and sexuality in her paintings, shown by Gajah Gallery. In Selma Feriani’s thoughtfully composed room, abstract paintings by the Moroccan painter Mohammed Hamidi fold African symbols into modernism’s customary flatness. And Watanuki Ltd./Toki-no-Wasuremono brings to light the Japanese avant-gardist Onosato Toshinobu, who drew inspiration from traditional textile patterns, eventually blowing them up to macro size with an Op Art effect.
Left: I GaK Murniasih, Tali KBku di Caplok Ikan Dalam Mimpi, 1999. Courtesy Gajah Gallery, Singapore. Right: Mohammed Hamidi, Composition 1964, 1964. Courtesy Selma Feriani, London, Tunis.
The incorporation – and sometimes even recovery – of indigenous crafts in contemporary artworks is a pronounced trend from Canada to the Pacific Rim. Silverlens has chosen to focus on materials and makers. The Manila gallery is presenting woven mats in pandanus or bamboo by the Malay artist I-Lann Yee, who gives traditional objects a political twist. Jan Murphy Gallery has composed a dual show of richly hued, celestial works by two contemporary painters, Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken and Tjungkara Ken, from the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands of South Australia, who draw on an artistic heritage some 40,000 years old.
EJA 19, 2018-2019. Courtesy Silverlens, Manila.
Mathematical precision can be found in several rooms, often bridging East and West. The godfathers of minimalism, Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt, are on offer at Alfonso Artiaco and Konrad Fischer Galerie – the latter having paired a copper Andre floor sculpture with a bronze plinth by Yuji Takeoka. Sabrina Amrani is featuring Formation of a Square II (2018) by Egyptian artist Chant Avedissian, whose acrylic-painted motifs collapse the colors, architecture, and patterns of the Silk Road. Meanwhile, The Third Line proposes a dialog of geometrically inspired works, with reflectors on aluminum by Rana Begum and embroideries by Jordan Nassar.
Left: Carl Andre, 2 x 18 Cyprigene, 1994. Right, Yuji Takeoka, Golden Base, 1987. Courtesy of Konrad Fischer Galerie, Cologne, Berlin.
Other galleries are using the relative intimacy and cohesion of the Online Viewing Rooms to contextualize early and unusual works by major names. Hanart TZ has collages by the prolific ink artist Luis Chan; Meyer Riegger has a 1987 chalk-on-paper installation by Miriam Cahn. Nathalie Obadia will show early photographs by Agnès Varda taken in China just before the Cultural Revolution, while Gallery Espace will offer two cast-paper works by the India-born artist Zarina, among others.
Luis Chan, Door God, 1978. Courtesy Hanart TZ, Hong Kong.
The internet lends itself well to photographic and video works, as the strong lineup of lens-based works shown in the Online Viewing Rooms suggests. Chi-Wen Gallery presents ‘Just Kids!’, a grouping of works by fluid young Taiwanese photographers and artists. A highlight is a video by Yu Cheng-Ta and Victoria Sin, known for referencing drag culture in their practice. David Lewis gallery, on the other hand, has chosen to concentrate on one piece, Madame de Void: A Melodrama (2018), a 45-minute long film by Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin billed as ‘101 Dalmatians as seen through the lens of Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.’
Victoria Sin, If I had the words to tell you we wouldn’t be here now, 2019. Courtesy Chi-Wen Gallery, Taipei.
Photographic offerings run a full gamut, from modern, black-and-white classics to contemporary artists using the camera conceptually or as an activist tool. Cao Fei, featured in Vitamin Creative Space’s room, shows stills from her 2019 retro-futurist film Nova (2019). For 40 kilómetros (40 kilometers) (2014), Teresa Margolles, presented by Galerie Peter Kilchmann, shot the altars marked by acts of violence along a notorious stretch of road in northern Mexico. The Third Gallery Aya has given over their room to Eiko Yamazawa. Born in Osaka in 1899, Yamazawa went on to become one of Japan’s first female photographers, who developed late in life a particularly distinctive style of abstraction captured in chromogenic and gelatin-silver prints.
Marina Abramović, Aaa-aaa with Ulay, 1978-2010. Courtesy Lia Rumma, Naples and Milan.
Take Ninagawa offers a gilded cardboard box by the Vietnamese-Danish artist Danh Vo that serves as a meditation on consumption. In Fortes d’Aloia & Gabriel’s room, pegged to the transporting powers of reflective surfaces, Valeska Soares’s mirrored sculpture trio, Self-portrait in denial (2004), riffs on the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil motif. At Matthew Marks Gallery, sculptures by Ron Nagle – humorously titled Señor Sensimilla and Dietary Indiscretion (both 2019) – pack personality that belies their sub-seven-inch stature.
Valeska Soares, Self-portrait in denial, 2004. Courtesy Fortes d'Aloia and Gabriel, Lisbon.
Find out here if your favorite gallery is showing in Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms, follow #artbaselovr on Instagram for more works, and set a reminder for the go-live at 6pm HKT on March 20, on view through 6pm HKT on March 25.