By: Claire McKown
June 16, 2012
The two biggest art events of the summer are underway: Art Basel in Switzerland, and Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany. For those lucky enough to have tickets to the events, lots of high powered people and artworks await them.
As extravagant as ever, Art Basel returns for its 43rd year in business. Over 300 galleries from 36 countries are represented at the Swiss fair, which is one of the biggest and oldest art fairs in the world. A number of artworks up for sale at the fair in Basel are reported to be going for record prices, such as Marlborough Gallery’s asking price of just under $80 million for a Mark Rothko painting. A Gerhard Richter painting worth $25 million has already been sold by Pace Gallery, further fueling the market for the artist, who’s work has been selling for big prices at auction too. The monolithic Gagosian Gallery has pieces by Picasso, Rauschenberg, and Warhol in their booth, the total value of which is supposed to be around $250 million (the total art inventory of the fair is supposed to be around $2 billion, to put that into perspective). With all this news being reported on the costs of the art at the fair, and the people who are attending (mega collectors such as Steve Cohen and Jerry Speyer, as well as some surprising faces like Pamela Anderson), there isn’t much being said of the art itself. Seems most the art being presented is by familiar names whose work tends to have big price tags. Unfortunate for those actually interested in the art, but potentially great news for the continued success of the art market.
Documenta, in its 13th installment, also returns this summer. Traditionally the most “serious” of the bi-, tri-, or other type of -ennials, it is so far receiving generally good reviews, though I get the sense that Documenta has turned into yet another big art show for the elite. This year’s Documenta, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, seems to be trying to avoid the more traditional art forms (i.e. painting or sculpture) in favor of installations and performances. However, in a show of this size, it remains simply impossible to absorb everything on display, which makes it difficult to appreciate the show as a whole. That said, Documenta is still the best place to understand what is happening in art today.
If you’re lucky enough to go to either of them, have fun, I hope it’s not too overwhelming, and tell me how it is!