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19 June 2007

On To Basel

For those of you who haven’t been to Basel, take note: it’s huge. Forget about the satellites or the corollary museum shows. There is more art here than one could ever see in one place. An art market Uffizi. A super-sized Warhol, Rothko, Picasso Big Mac mega meal. With fries.

[For information on the next two Art Basel exhibitions: this year's Art Basel Miami and Art 39 Basel, go to www.artbasel.com.]

I thought I had seen big shows. I've been to Art Basel Miami, Art Forum in Berlin, FIAC in Paris and Paris Photo, but this is the mother ship. The catalog has the heft of a phone book. I thought I had chops to absorb loads of art in an art fair environment. This was too much even for me. After a day spent zig-zagging through a seemingly endless maze of galleries and installations, I was hard-pressed to remember a single thing I’d seen.

But... it’s my job to remember something, right? So here goes.

Blue chip is the name of the game here, and photography is no exception. I found some of the great photo galleries of the world strutting their stuff. Rudolf Kicken´s booth had beautiful examples of vintage Otto Steinert, Ryuji Miyamoto, and Christoph Stromholm, in addition to relative newcomer Götz Diergarten. Mr.Kicken always has a fantastic booth.

Jeffrey Fraenkel had a marvelous small installation of portraits from the collection of Richard Avedon alongside a number of smaller scale portraits by Mr. Avedon. It was sublime.

But the treat for me was a gallery that may be less well-known to Americans. Francoise and Alain Paviot have been running a first-rate gallery in Paris for twenty years. They specialize in 19th century French photography; Man Ray; Brassai; and a well-curated collection of newer artists. Their booth was a revelation. First off there was a large Dieter Appelt twelve-piece installation. Very dark and conceptual, as his work always is, but very emotional in this case, too. Also on view were five very early Edward Weston nude studies. I had never seen anything like them. There was much more. Truly a gallery to check out.

Of course, there were all the big names you would expect: Becher, Gursky, Struth, Sugimoto, Lawler, Sherman, et al. But you knew that, didn’t you?

More later, on some of the satellite fairs, and then on to Documenta in Kassel. The caravan continues!

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