VOLTA, Basel’s renowned art fair for new international positions, at Markthalle.
How to succeed a breakthrough year, building upon an edition that — to paraphrase lauded rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap — “went to eleven”, while still retaining VOLTA’s unique identity as a hotbed of contemporary artistic prowess? By dialing up the curated booths and emphasizing the visual power and elegance of solo- and two-artist projects, which proliferated among the 68 exhibitors of VOLTA12.
The dealers this year were particularly ambitious in their projects, championing historic relevance and recent commissions in a global array that had the early morning crowd abuzz.
“It’s been very satisfying this year to see how the fair has really consolidated in its mission, with the emphasis on discovery but not necessarily on youth,” said VOLTA Artistic Director Amanda Coulson. “The maturity of presentations and positions, both new and historic, created a beautiful range: from an undiscovered 84-year-old Slovenian painter with works from the ’70s (Mileena Usenik, showing with P74 Gallery, Ljubljana), or a late Japanese painter who spent his breakthrough, process-based years Subscribe Share Past Issues Translate in New York in the mid-’70s (Yoshishige Furukawa, presented by beta pictoris gallery, Birmingham AL), or a groundbreaking conceptualist from Slovakia (Stano Filko, presented by SODA gallery, Bratislava), to extremely fresh positions from Danish newcomer Asger Dybvad Larsen (LARMgalleri, Copenhagen) or 23-year-old Assunta Abdel Azim Mohamed (HilgerBROTKunsthalle, Vienna), pursuing her studies at University of Applied Arts, Vienna. This chorus of generations and artistic voices encapsulates the VOLTA brand, and the consistency of quality across the board unites the positions here into one harmonious whole.”
“The response to my booth on opening day has been phenomenal,” recounted veteran VOLTA gallerist Zavier Ellis of CHARLIE SMITH LONDON (London). “Within two hours we sold from six of our nine artists — some multiple times — to world-class collectors,” including Florian Heinke to Susan and Michael Hort (New York), Eric Manigaud to the SØR Rusche Collection (Berlin), plus John Stark, Claire Partington (who is in a concurrent exhibition at Weserburg, Museum of Modern Art, Bremen), and two new and disarming (and necessarily much-Instagrammed) figurative baby sculptures by Wendy Mayer. “I’d say that’s a pretty superb start!” AKINCI (Amsterdam) recorded immediate sales of Broerson & Lukacs’ cut-lambda print The Cave, Albrecht Schnider’s Untitled (Portrait), and Stephan Balkenhol’s brand-new rough-hewn figurative wood sculpture Mann mit blauem Kopf (created, according to director Leyla Akinci, in inspiration to the booth’s “man vs. nature” theme) within the first half hour of the Guest of Honor Preview, to new clients from Switzerland, Romania, and Germany.
Diagonally across the central aisle, Hilger BROTKunsthalle (Vienna) recorded two sales of Ángel Marcos’ Cuba-set photography, plus institutional interest in the mid-career Spanish artist’s floor installation, as well as two sales of emerging Austrian artist Assunta Abdel Azim Mohamed’s large-scale, poetic figurative ink drawings on paper. Dealer Michael Kaufmann was enthusiastic: “People are really amazed about Assunta and her work. She’s so young, just 23” and recent recipient of an Erasmus Scholarship at Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia, “and she’s doing brilliant things.” Returning exhibitor YOD Gallery (Osaka) sold a brand-new work Gold Hito, comprised of keychains from tourist attractions in Kyoto and Nara, by Masashi Hattori and several hand-embroidered circuit board compositions by Stitch Dog to new clients, while dealer Ryotaro Ishigami noted considerable interest in the booth’s balance of assemblage and handmade works that both focus on human connections. Collectors gather around Stephan Balkenhol’s sculpture Mann mit blauen Kopf at AKINCI (Amsterdam).
A number of exhibitors were new to Basel, either first-time VOLTA exhibitors or galleries who had participated in prior New York editions. Richard Heller Gallery (Los Angeles) assembled an American mixed-media powerhouse trio — Dustin Yellin, Sasha Pierce, and Devin Troy Strother — and fielded considerable interest from an international clientele. The gallery noted sales from both a new iteration of Yellin’s eye-catching Psychogeographies layered glass and acrylic figurative “painting-sculptures” as well as several of Strother’s art history-skewering works to clients from New York, Denmark, and Austria, and Heller himself was enthused by the consistent crowds. “The attendance is really amazing,” agreed Salome Vakhania of Project ArtBeat (Tbilisi) on their first VOLTA outing, noting focused attention from collectors and critics alike to booth artists Gio Sumbadze (who installed his Kamikaze Loggia at Georgian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale), Nino Chubinishvili, and Lado Pochkhua, featured in the latest iteration of GalleryLOG’s artist-interview video series. “Really great people are coming around, and I am very proud of the response.”
Likewise, Galerie l’inlassable (Paris) were thrilled by attention to and sales toward their solo project Bending Space by young astrophysics-forward French artist Caroline Corbasson. “We are really delighted to be at VOLTA and presenting this new body of work by Caroline,” said co-director John Ferrère. “And we are happy to see collectors and friends coming out from Paris to support us,” agreed co-director Ulysse Geissler. As well, building upon their successful VOLTA debuts in this past VOLTA NY, two London dealers — Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery and Ed Cross Fine Art — each found success in their first Basel day. Hjellegjerde recorded sales of young London-based Norwegian artist Martine Poppe’s ethereal landscape paintings (plus holds on several new, abstract compositions) as well as interest from new clients to Richard Stone’s shapely bronze sculptures. Cross was likewise cheered by the public’s reaction to his solo project of Senegalese artist Eric Pina’s large-scale mixedmedia compositions of figures wandering in expansive landscapes.
“Though Eric comes from West Africa, it’s not immediately apparent that he’s an African artist,” said Cross, “Which pleases me, as this way I can show the breadth and diversity of artistic positions from the continent on this international stage.”
Fueling their renowned sociopolitical array from their usual position front and left, ADN Galería (Barcelona) was pleased at the opening, moving South African iconoclast Kendall Geers’ modified found sculpture Mutus Liber (Fetish) 68 and Eugenio Merino’s sculpture Victory or Death to an international clientele, while fielding further interest from significant new collectors. “We have had so much good feedback this time,” noted owner Miguel Ángel Sánchez. “It’s a promising start. And I am confident we will have another good VOLTA edition — again!”
Gerhard Hofland (Amsterdam/Leipzig) returned to his sunlit corridor corner space, selling a brand-new large-scale figurative scupture by Dutch ceramicist Johan Tahon as well as a new Koen Delaere abstract painting to an American he’d met at VOLTA last year who, as Hofland recounted, “was too late on the Koen then but first in line today.”
Longtime VOLTA exhibitor Patrick Heide Contemporary Art (London) counted good interest in his fourartist presentation, particularly in gallery staple Thomas Müller (selling the artist’s monumental work on paper as well as a grid of eight smaller works) plus new Cluj recruit Dan Maciuca to a new client, with a further Maciuca on reserve. Gallery Kogure (Tokyo) received constant attention for their Amassmentthemed two-artist booth, selling three Euro Cup football-sized newsprint sculptures by Asuka Sakuma as well as large pointillist portrait Hérisson by Futaro Mitsuki, all to new clients. CONRADS (Düsseldorf) sold from Sven Drühl and the venerable herman de vries, who represented The Netherlands at last year’s Venice Biennale, and dealer Helga Weckop-Conrads noted considered interest in their coherent, landscape-conscious two-artist dialogue. Remarking on opening day attendance, she said “This is my thought: people used to go to Art Basel first and then VOLTA later in the week. Now they are coming here first. That’s a good move.”
Continuing the two-artist angle but from an historic perspective (specifically the early to mid 1970s), beta pictoris gallery (Birmingham, AL) was enlivened by public reaction to late Japanese process-abstraction vanguard Yoshishige Furukawa and German photography couple Barbara and Michael Leisgen. “We started early and strong, with a consistent flow of international collectors,” remarked owner Guido Maus, who placed work by both artists to European and American collectors and by 2 p.m. had sold a majority of works on view. He emphasized: “This profound effort for promoting solo/dual artist projects and historical positions is important — people have a different perception of what VOLTA can be.”
Top Image: Martin Asbæk (center right, of his namesake Copenhagen gallery) presents works by Markus Oehlen and Kristian Dahlgaard to collectors Carole Server and Michael Hort