Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
    Sculpture at Basel
by Mary Barone
Henry Moore
Large Interior Form
(executed 1981)
on view at the entrance to the fair
Edgar Degas
The Dancer
ca. 1878-1880
at Jan Krugier
Willem de Kooning
Large Torso
at Michael Werner
Barry Flanagan
Left-handed Drummer
at Waddington
A Picasso miniature bronze
Femme debout
at Gonzalez
Alexander Calder
Yellow Disc
at C&M Arts
A Barnett Newman from 1946
at Pace
Willem de Kooning
Large Torso
at Michael Werner
Meret Oppenheim
Table with Bird's Feet
at Ziegler
Sherrie Levine
Fountain 5
at Paula Cooper
A selection of works by Christo from the 1950s and '60s.
Works by Harry Bertoia
at Robert Miller
And the body seems to be the overriding form.

For the past week, the City of Basel has been clanging with tram cars shuttling people back and forth to the Messe, as Art Basel 31 gets off to a running start. Even with the temperature soaring to nearly 100 degrees, people are flocking to the fair to check out what they're calling the "El Dorado" of the art world.

The range of media is superior, but as old-fashioned as it might sound moving into the 21st century, sculpture seems to be out in a big way, so to speak.

Beginning at the foot of the entrance to the fair is Henry Moore's Large Interior Form, 1953-54 (executed 1983), courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art. A classic Moore sculpture, it's priced at $3,000,000. Although still available, Mr. Koch at Marlborough added that it "won't be going to auction."

The ground floor of the fair is largely dedicated to the "Classical Moderns" that many consider to be the mainstay of Art Basel this year. At Jan Krugier, one has the chance to view prime examples of the roots of modernist sculpture, including Degas' Dancer, ca. 1878-1880, which is priced at $3,500,000, to bronzes by Giacometti and Matisse.

Ammann Fine Art Zurich has used paintings by de Kooning as a backdrop for early 20th-century sculptures by Picasso and Miro. Miro's Femme, 1970, an amazon of a sculpture, is placed at the foot of the stand to greet you. Mrs. Ammann said that interest has been running high -- and with a price tag of only $1,000,000, who could doubt her?

Turning the corner from Ammann, Barry Flanagan's Left Handed Drummer, 1997, juts out at you from Waddington's stand. It's number seven of eight in the edition, and priced at $375,000. The artist is now working on a new body of work, some measuring 10 meters high.

Alvira Gonzalez Gallery Madrid is also featuring 20th-century sculpture, ranging in scale from large to miniature, including a sweet little Picasso bronze titled Femme debout from 1945 that measures only 19.5 cm. high. Leave it to Picasso to make such a grand gesture with so little material. Mrs. Gonzalez has had the work for many years and decided to bring it to the fair this year. It sold the minute she put it out.

Calder's Yellow Disc, 1953, is the centerpiece at C&M Arts, and this post-war masterpiece has been put on "deep reserve," according to C&M's Robert Pincus-Witten. Although monumental in scale, it serves as a gentle anchor to the outstanding paintings on the stand, including major works by Bonnard and Balthus' 1955 Portrait of Frederique, a painting of the artist's niece that seems to be a good buy at $750,000. Balthus was recently interviewed on British television and at 94 he's still making intriguing paintings.

New York School artists and other post-war heavyweights are out in quanitity at Pace Wildenstein's booth, with a major concentration on painting. The newly opened Tate Modern in London has dedicated one of its galleries solely to a pairing of sculpture by Giacometti and paintings by Barnett Newman, a dynamic coupling. Here at the art fair, Pace's 1946 Newman zip painting seems the perfect fit among the hotbed of sculpture on view. The work was sold at the opening. The gallery would not disclose the price only to say it was "under a million bucks."

Michel Werner's stand was packed with formidable works by some of Germany's finest contemporary artists, including Penck, Beuys and Lupertz, but de Kooning's 1974 Large Torso reigns supreme. It's been put on reserve and a price was not available for publication.

At Ziegler you can see Meret Oppenheim's gold-leafed Table with Bird's Feet, originally made in 1939 and re-cast in 1983 as an edition of 30. It sold with no problem at the bargain price of SF15,000 ($1 = SF 1.65).

We heard that some early Duchamp readymades might be at the fair, but couldn't find one. Instead, Sherrie Levine's Fountain 5, 1997, was just as fine to stumble upon at Paula Cooper. Cast in bronze, it's a beautiful glimmering urinal. When I asked Paula the price, she noted with a gentle smile, "It's sold." The last Duchamp readymade at auction sold for approximately $1,000,000.

Annely Juda of London has a mini-retrospective of early works by Christo from the 1950s and '60s. It's the first time they've been shown at market and the jewel is Showcase, 1963, an antique gift shop cabinet in which Christo has draped a thin lining of fabric around the inside of the cabinet and disconnected the plug for its interior light. In contrast to his classic wrapped exteriors, the work remains bound in his ideas of enclosing space. There has been tremendous interest in the piece and it's priced at SF1,500,000.

The Mod '50s architect Harry Bertoia is best known for his work in design. At Robert Miller it's his sculpture that's on view. The gallery brought over two pieces from his recent New York exhibition that also included sound works. Made of thin strands of metal, they are dated 1975 and a bargain at $35,000 each. Bertoia only made a few and didn't sign them or give them titles.

Galerie Hans Mayer had a mega-signed Tom Wesselman measuring 3.65 meters in height. Titled Tulip, 2000, and made of painted aluminium, the unique work is a good value at $240,000.

Thomas of Munich has transformed the usual traditional fair stand into a replica Baroque Cloister complete with terracotta brick flooring. It was a clever marketing tool, and brought in masses of full people to quietly wander around. Sculpture from the early part of the century include Jawlensky, Klee and the gallery has created a mystical surrealist pebble garden for a collection of small-scale sculptures by Max Ernst.

Tschudi has a vast vertical floor piece by Richard Long that spans nearly the entire length of its stand. Entitled Alpine Line, 1991, it is priced at $90,000.

New York's Marian Goodman Gallery has moved downstairs this year and it sold out its stand the night of the opening. Smart move! The gallery brought over a number of great sculptures by Juan Munoz and Thomas Schutte but everyone I bumped into raved on about Jeff Wall's Morning Cleaning, 1999. First exhibited at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, it's an edition of 2 and both have been placed in museum collections.

Who would have thought in this day in age that young artists would still draw inspiration from antiquity. Maurice Joosten, a 37-year-old Dutch artist who lives and works in Turin, Italy makes fiberglass sculptures sanded down bone thin and painted white. A hanging piece titled Curva Prassitelica, 1999, is based on the curves of sculptures by the Ancient Greek, Praxiteles. It can be found at stand Trisorio, Naples, and priced at SF 7,500.

Gallery Tanit has created an entry to its stand with a work by the Italian artist Giulio Paolini. It's titled Intervallo, 1986, and the asking price is $100,000.

At Art & Public, the Paul McCarthy edition titled Patrick Painter Pecker Leg Boy, 1992, measures 76 cm high. It's an edition that McCarthy has done and each one is different. A play on the notion of an edition. The work is priced at $15,000.

A brand new Ron Mueck can been seen at Anthony D'Offay Gallery. Untitled, 2000, is a baby-sized old man in the fetal position wrapped in different colored woolen blankets. The sad little thing sold immediately but will be included in Mueck's upcoming exhibition in London at Anthony D'Offay in September.

Upstairs at Jay Jopling's White Cube is Mona Hatoum's Slicer, 2000. Hatoum continues to work with themes of violence and vulnerability. Made of steel and thermo-plastic, it's immaculately fabricated and smooth to the touch. It brought to my mind a human mouse trap and found myself instinctively stepping back from it. It sold at the opening for £48,000.

At Michael Jannsen, Thomas Grunfeld's Misfit (Peacock), 1999, is part ostrich, part kangaroo and part peacock. Talk about genetic re-engineering. It is an amazing-looking creature, however, and priced at SF 120,000.

You usually don't get the chance to see works by British artist Abagail Lane, so it was great to happen upon one of her sculptures are Victoria Miro Gallery. It's called Legends, 2000... get it, leg ends! The price is £8,500 and the last I check it was still available.

Andrea Rosen has a great little pair of bronze sculptures by Sean Landers called Really Happy, 1996. They are an edition of one with one artist's proof and are priced at $12,000 each. They are meant to be kept together and Andrea quoted the pair at $18,000. Now that's a serious bargain. Landers currently has a great exhibition on in London at the Greengrassi Gallery.

Although sculpture was on the menu, who couldn't help being stopped dead in their tracks by the spectacular Picasso at Helly Nahmad Gallery. Femme assise a l'oiseau (Dora Maar) signed and dated 17 June 1939. It's one of many paintings by Picasso at Nahmad and clearly wins the prize for making the biggest "statement" at the fair. It hasn't been shown for some years now and the asking price is $18,000,000.

MARY BARONE writes on art from London.