THe InsIDER'S GUIDe: ArT BaSEL

We chat to the industry’s insiders to get a taste for what to expect at Art Basel this year

Angela Choon, Senior Partner, David Zwirner Gallery

Photo: Roger Keller

KOIBIRD: What are you most looking forward to about Art Basel this year?

Angela Choon: I've been attending Art Basel for over twenty years -- it felt very strange not to travel to the fair last year, along with everything else. I'm very much looking forward to going back this month and seeing everyone there. We'll be presenting some fantastic works on our booth (G8), including a beautiful painting by Robert Ryman, whose estate we recently started working with as well as works by Kerry James Marshall, Josef Albers, William Eggleston and Liu Ye. We'll also have works by Sherrie Levine, Nate Lowman, Dan Flavin, and Josh Smith in the Unlimited section, which is very exciting. I'm eager to see Close-Up at the Beyeler, which includes works by Alice Neel and Marlene Dumas. 

K: What’s your stance on the rise of the ‘digital’ art gallery and NFTs?

A: David Zwirner launched its first online viewing room in 2017, and after the first lockdown in March 2020 we expanded our online presence significantly and launched four new platforms: Platform, Studio, Exceptional Works, and Offsite/Online. So far, we've presented over 100 online viewing rooms, engaging with clients from over 55 countries, across all continents. The digital presence of art galleries makes the art world more democratic, opening it up to a much wider and more diverse audience. Online platforms also provide a great way for us as a gallery to offer a more holistic experience when paired with bricks-and-mortar exhibitions. With that in mind, we'll be presenting two Exceptional Works online viewing rooms dedicated to the Robert Ryman's Untitled c.1963 which will be on view on the David Zwirner booth (G8), and Dan Flavin's pink barrier untitled 1974, which will be on view at Unlimited.

K: Do you buy your art like you do fashion? Quick and instinctive or do you like to take your time?

A: I buy my clothes in the same way I acquire a work of art. I certainly do take my time -- I think it's important to consider the longevity of a statement piece before adding it to my wardrobe or collection. 

Mark Godfrey, independent curator, London

KOIBIRD: What are your thoughts on Art Basel, and do you recommend going?

Mark Godfrey: Art Basel is the best of the fairs because dealers bring works that you will never see elsewhere. I remember when I was curating a Gerhard Richter show in 2011 and I’d spent three years researching his work. I had every catalogue in my office and felt I knew what all his works were. At Basel I discovered a collage he had made in the early 1960s and given to a friend. It had never been exhibited, and it had never been published. I’m speaking as a curator, not a collector – as a curator I’ve discovered these kinds of extremely rare works. This year, I hope to go, and as well as the fair, I’m excited to see the show of Matthew Angelo Harrison at the Kunsthalle. I recently wrote about his work for frieze magazine.

K: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given when it comes to discovering great art?

M: I studied art history with Briony Fer at UCL, and her approach informs how I discover great art: look closely at the object. Think about its materials, its scale, and the decisions taken by the artist when they were making it. How serious was the artist about all these decisions? These questions have guided me in studio and gallery visits over the years.

K: In what ways do you believe the pandemic has affected the art world most?

M: It has given many artists a respite from the constant activity of exhibitions and openings, and I think many have made fascinating works in a relatively quiet time. At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt relief at not having to spend time at openings, gallery dinners, and suchlike, and I enjoyed all the zoom talks with artists. But social life is, and has always been an essential part of the art world, and I grew to miss it. I’m glad openings and celebrations of artists are returning.

K: What’s the best piece of art you have been given, inherited, or bought and why.

M: I’m a massive fan of Tacita Dean’s work and have written about it many times. Years ago, she gave me a study for one of her massive overpainted tree photographs. I look at it every day, and the combination of the paint and the image still beguile me.

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