Yesterday we went to Art Basel, a large 5-day exhibition of art in – you guessed it – Basel. Around 300 galleries from around the world come and bring work from their hottest, shiniest art stars to display and sell for insane amounts of money.
We arrived at 11 AM, just as the exhibit was opening its doors. We started in Hall 1 of the conference center, which housed several large-scale works (pictured above), pacing ourselves since we knew we had a lot to see that day. By 12 we were proudly ready to move on to Hall 2, where all of the gallery booths were set up.
We browsed through the first row of booths, soaking in the offerings. There were lacquered sculptures, c-print photos, and creative knitting projects. Gold-leafed collages and mirrored concave wall hangings. Abstract video installations and drawings of penises, lots and lots of penises. By 1:30, we were starving, and decided to grab a ridiculously-overpriced lunch out in the courtyard while resting our feet and our brains. Actually my brain wouldn’t turn off, as it danced around full of dreams of going back to art school to learn new techniques and make lots of crazy new things (that would happen to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at events such as this one). I loved art. I was an artist, and I was here in my element, hungry to learn more. Yay, art!
A couple hours and several rows of booths later, my attitude was a wee bit different. I think it could be blamed on over stimulation. Who were these freaks and what made them think these things were art? What was wrong with me that I couldn’t appreciate all this art? And where the hell were the paintings? It was time for another break, so we had some coffee and some cheese quiche, hoping it would revive us.
Later we stumbled upon the galleries specializing in 20th-century artists (otherwise known as Artists I’ve Actually Heard Of), but by then we were too tired to really care what we were seeing. Numerous Picassos, Kandinskys, Schieles and Warhols passed before my eyes completely unappreciated. Not even eavesdropping on the discussions around me by people who were actually buying this art could keep my interest. I was fading fast. We tried taking another break and then plowing ahead, but by then it had all just become torturous. Finally around 7 PM, we made our exit, having seen about 75% of the booths (and appreciating about 10% of them).
Despite the agony in this tale, I would actually highly recommend a trip to Art Basel. But set a timer and leave after three hours or at the height of your artistic appreciation abilities, whichever comes first.