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Let’s Go Art

by Rachel Corbett
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June is high season for the European art world. But this year the international clambake is bigger than usual with the collision of Art Basel, Manifesta and the Berlin Biennale with Documenta, the tastemaking German art exhibition that comes around just once every five years.

So for those planning to belly up to the smorgasbord of shows across the pond (or those just hungering from afar), here’s a guide to the main events.

Documenta 13
Established in the aftermath of World War II, Documenta was designed to renew Germany’s contemporary art scene with an enormous art exhibition that, as it developed, both reflected the social turmoil of its time and showcased the latest developments in avant-garde art in Europe and the U.S. The show attracts throngs of visitors -- 750,000 are expected during the upcoming 100-day run -- and features a wide array of artists -- 150 this year, hailing from 55 countries.

Given its history, it’s not much of a surprise that artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has imbued the latest iteration, June 9-Sept. 16, 2012, with a particularly anti-capitalist theme. As she put it in a statement, the exhibition isskeptical of the persisting belief in economic growth.” She has also invited non-artist participants, such physicist and eco-feminist Vandana Shiva, and several other thinkers from other fields who are no longer with us, including Theodor Adorno, Cornelius Castoriadis and Thomas Mann.

A partial artist list is available on the website, but details have been kept under wraps pending the official release on June 6. Recently the German newspaper Süeddeutsche Zeitung published a leaked line-up of artist names -- and bemoaned an overemphasis on U.S. artists -- but a publicist for Documenta disavowed the list as “outdated, incomplete and false.” What can be gleaned, however, is a special attention paid to participants who come from conflicted homelands and whose work deals with political subject matter, such as Allora and Calzadilla, Emily Jacir and Jalal Toufic. And, with the exception of Salvador Dalí, nearly all of the named artists are living.

Once again, the show extends beyond its main venue, the Fridericianum, into the nether reaches of Kassel, including a former bank, a theater and an old rail station. In Karlsaue Park, Pedro Reyes is staging the performance SANATORIUM, offering passersby therapy for “urban ills.”

Admission to Documenta is $25 (all prices have been converted to U.S. dollars).

Berlin Biennale
Curated by a powerhouse team of art-activists, Artur Zmijewski, Joanna Warsza and the Russian collective Voina, the seventh edition of the Berlin Biennale, Apr. 27-July 1, 2012, may be the most politically minded yet. “We hoped for a situation in which artists’ actions would become not only art, but could also reveal a political truth -- something with the potential to change selected aspects of our shared reality, so that art would possess the power of politics but not its fear, opportunism, and cynicism,” Zmijewski said in a statement.

Naturally, it hasn’t gone without criticism. The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel says the exhibition “failed spectacularly in its attempt to empower the arts,” while Frieze magazine suggested that it “generated more smoke than fire.” Nonetheless, if the Occupy Biennale protestors (given an official invitation to camp out) are not your thing, the show still presents hundreds of artworks, housed in five venues around town. A few notable names include Pawel Althamer, Yael Bartana, Olafur Eliasson and Martin Zet.

Admission is free.

Villa Schoeningen
Some of Georg Baselitz’s most scandalous paintings go on view to the public, many for the first time, at Villa Schoeningen in Potsdam, Feb. 4-Aug. 1, 2012. The 21 works, which come from Baselitz’s private estate, were done between 1959 and 1966 while the artist lived in Berlin. During this time, police seized several of Baselitz’s paintings, including the ribald The Big Night down the Drain from 1962-63 (the tale of which was amusingly related by dealer Michael Werner in an Artnet interview), which appears the show. Admission is $11.

Contemporary Fine Arts
For the new body of work, “Deus Ex Machina,” Apr. 28–July 28, 2012, Julian Schnabel blew up photographs of exotic imagery, printed them on polyester canvases and then painted over the backgrounds with his usual grand, colorful swaths of oil paint.

Helmut Newton Foundation
“White Women / Sleepless Nights / Big Nudes” features work from three series (and accompanying books) by the German fashion photographer Helmut Newton. The show debuted at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and is on view in Berlin, June 1-Nov. 12, 2012. Admission is $10.

Art 43 Basel
For its 43rd edition, the muscle man of art fairs draws 65,000 visitors and works by 2,500 artists to the Messe Basel exhibition center, June 14-17, 2012. Exhibitor attendance is up from 240 galleries in 2011 to this year’s 300 galleries from 36 countries -- with new names like the Green Art Gallery (Dubai), Thomas Dane Gallery (London) and Plan B (Berlin) joining such stalwarts as Gagosian, Marian Goodman and David Zwirner. Admission is $40.

Plus, there’s always plenty of action at the fair’s official sideshows:

*Art Statements
This is place to check out young galleries from participants exclusively featuring solo presentations. Berlin’s Arratia Beer shows five Matthew Metzger paintings inspired by AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” single; Prague’s Hunt Kastner gallery exhibits a collection of tiny sculpture fragments collected from the studio of artist Dominik Lang’s father; and Warsaw’s Raster shows work by international collective Slavs and Tatars.

*Art Unlimited
Often home to the more memorable works in the fair, curator Gianni Jetzer has selected 62 large-scale artworks, installations, films and more for this year’s Art Unlimited section. Details on most projects have yet to be released, but expect work by Ugo Rondinone, Walid Raad, Richard Phillips, Shirana Shahbazi, Roni Horn and others, including Gagosian’s presentation of Franz West’s largest outdoor sculpture yet, a mass of intestinal pink loops, titled Gekröse (2011).

*Art Parcours
A kind of Basel-without-borders, this section gives visitors a chance to escape the exhibition halls and enjoy the city with site-specific works installed throughout Basel’s historic districts. For the third year, CCA Wattis Institute director Jens Hoffman organized the free, public works by Pawel Althamer, Los Carpinteros, Pedro Reyes, Dieter Roth and more.

Probably the most established of the Art Basel satellite fairs, Volta returns for its eighth edition, June 11-16, 2012, with 81 exhibitors, typically holding solo or small-group presentations. Free shuttles take guests between Art Basel and Volta, held a few minutes away at Dreispitzhalle. The vast majority of galleries, 64 to be exact, are European, including BACKLASH GALLERY (Paris), galerie baer (Dresden), EB&Flow (London), Galerie Mathias Guntner (Hamburg), H’art Gallery (Bucharest), KATZ CONTEMPORARY (Zurich), LOOCK Galerie (Berlin) and V1 Gallery (Copenhagen). Just 12 are from the Americas, such as Sue Scott Gallery, Tyler Rollins Fine Art (New York) and Galeria Enrique Guerrero (Mexico City), while the remaining few hail from elsewhere in the world. Admission is $17.

The sixth-annual SCOPE Basel, June 12-17, 2012, sets up shop just blocks from the Art Basel exhibition in a pavilion in Kaserne. This year, the satellite fair unites 80 international galleries, including Amstel Gallery, Canvas International Art (Amsterdam), Camara Obscura (Madrid), Dubner Moderne (Lausanne), Galerie Karin Sutter, Licht Feld (Basel), Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, Kaikai Kiki Gallery (New York) and Robert Fontaine Gallery (Miami). Special to SCOPE this year is a site-specific LED-lit billboard by Robert Montgomery and Swiss artist duo Invisible Heroes debuts something called “self-heating paint.” Admission is $20.

Fondation Beyeler
Jeff Koons makes his Swiss solo debut at the Renzo Piano-designed Fondation Beyeler, the near-perfect museum in a Basel suburb, May 13-Sept. 2, 2012. The survey splits Koons’ career into three sections, starting with “The New,” readymades from 1980 to 1987; 20 works from his pop-culture “Banality” series of 1988, including his famous porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles; and his most recent “Celebration” series, comprised of high-production-value sculptures and porno paintings from 1994 to the present. The show is sponsored by longtime Koons supporter Hugo Boss. Admission is $25.

Designed to suggest an open “warehouse” as much as a museum, the Schaulager holds the collection of the Emanuel Hoffman Foundation and has hosted special public exhibitions from artists ranging from Robert Gober and Francis Alÿs to, next year, Steve McQueen. The space is closed for renovations until late summer, but fairgoers can get a taste of the unique institution in the form of the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Schaulager Satellite, erected in the exhibition square, June 4-17, 2012. No artworks are on view, but a multimedia installation teaches visitors about the Schaulager’s history, how its collection is stored, and includes artifacts from previous exhibitions. Admission is free.

LISTE: The Young Art Fair for artists under 40 and galleries under five, June 12-17, at Burgweg 15; Design Basel, June 12-17, at Hall 5 of the Messe Basel; the “I Never Read” Independent Art Book Fair, June 14-16, at Hinterhof Bar; and The Solo Project independent fair for single-artist presentations, June 13-17 at St. Jakobshalle.

One last note: Ping Pong 2012, June 13-17, 2012, opens at the M54 space (at Morsbergerstrasse 54), featuring works by Artnet Magazine's own Walter Robinson and almost a dozen other artists from Basel, Miami and Los Angeles, including Robert Chambers, Sue Irion and Mette Tommerup.

Manifesta 9
The only travelling European contemporary-art biennial, Manifesta has set up shop in Rotterdam, Ljubljana, Frankfurt and other cities since 1996, and now, for its ninth edition, June 2-Sept. 30, 2012, it’s set its sights on the old coal-mining town of Genk, Belgium, population 64,000. This year’s theme, “The Deep of the Modern,” a meditation on the relationship between art and history, is viewed through the lens of Genk’s once abandoned but recently restored Waterschei mine.

Mexican curator Cuauhtémoc Medina brought together more than 100 artists from around the world, including Bernar Venet, Robert Smithson, David Hammons, Goldin + Senneby, Claire Fontaine and Christian Boltanski, as well as a strong showing of Belgian artists -- Ana Torfs, Ante Timmermans and Emile Claus, among others. Admission is $12.

RACHEL CORBETT is the news editor of Artnet Magazine. She can be reached at Send Email