The Pinnacle: Datin Shalini Ganendra At Art Basel 2018

Arts

August 23, 2018 | BY Datin Shalini Ganendra

Art advisor and collector Datin Shalini Ganendra recounts her first visit to Art Basel as a member of the TATE Gallery Acquisitions Committee. Datin Shalini's career as art advisor spans over 20 years extending to individual and institutional projects.

In the frenzied world of art fairs and high rollers, Art Basel is the champion, marking the beginning, development and standard for galleries to signify accomplishment and quality.  

This was my first visit to Art Basel and, indeed, to Basel, Switzerland.  Landing at the very basic Basel Airport, one is faced with the curious choice of exiting to three countries – a hint of the expansive cultural terrain that lay ahead. Parties and cocktails abounded, with a steady flow of wine tastings in the VIP Rooms.

The Fair was huge, taking up all floors of the exhibition center, with Basel Miami Design featured across the way. Many aisles, many gallery codes, many galleries – and SO much to see; 290 Galleries from 35 countries participated from June 11 – 16, 2018.

See also: Datin Shalini Ganendra on where to start as a new art collector

The vision of Art Basel’s founder, Ernst Beyeler, has lead to startling results that have not only created a commercial hub for galleries, visitors, and museums during the Art Basel dates, but extending far beyond to meaningful exploration of the city. Art Basel is truly about experiencing the Bigger Picture.

The offerings outside the Fair proved to be as exciting as the Fair itself, giving  quieter moments of view and engagement.

At Kunstaholle Basel, Turner Prize Nominee,  Luke Willis Thompson, (African descent from New Zealand, born 1988) presented an unusual performance piece, with film, piano, haunting sounds and presence. Titled  '_Human',  the single screen, 3-minute,  35mm silent film projection,  “strange and luminous… appears for just a few fleeting frames and then blackness.“

KunstMuseum Basel offered a traditional collection of European Modernist work, the best of which was the stunning staircase and art work featured in the natural light.

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Further afield is the Fondation Beyler, housed in a Renzo Piazo building.  

The founder, Ernst Beyeler (1921–2010), was a Swiss art dealer and collector, who became "Europe’s pre-eminent dealer in modern art”, carries on his legacy through the Foundation’s collections which  encompass over 260 works – selectively featured across 19 galleries. Sited in extensive grounds and boasting a sculpture garden featuring works by Jenny Holzer and Alexander Calder, the building’s minimalist architecture marries space and natural light,  illuminating artworks to a level of spirituality.

A highlight of this Basel Experience, was the TATE private viewing of the Ulig & Rita Sigg collection, graciously hosted by the couple, and housed in an idyllic 17th century castle situated on an island, about an hour’s drive from Basel.

“A man’s home is his castle” takes on literal meaning here, where the framework offered extensive opportunity for living with art. Art is everywhere — in the bathrooms, kitchen and bedrooms — in addition to public spaces. Ulig’s study furniture is designed by close friend, Ai Wei Wei. We were treated to an extensive tour by Ulig, through all rooms, including attic.  

The days were not enough. I should have scheduled for 5 days in total to breathe in more of the visual and culinary delights of Basel. I did relax with a fresh Swiss milk cappuccino at the Market Square just before heading to the airport. And then it was a wrap for me here – until next year.  

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