An Audacious Year at Art Basel
In 1970, three passionate and determined Basel gallerists — Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt — staged an international art exhibition. It was an immediate sensation, bringing together exceptional artwork from around the world to Switzerland. In that inaugural show, more than 16,000 enthusiasts attended to see art from 90 galleries and 30 publishers representing 10 countries.
Art Basel is now one of the world's major art shows for modern and contemporary works, with unique shows also hosted in Miami Beach and Hong Kong.
Basel continues to be the premier contemporary art fair, and last week nearly 300 of the world's leading galleries descended on the Swiss cultural capital to showcase paintings, drawings, sculpture, installations, prints, photography, video and digital art by more than 4,000 artists. The galleries represented 35 countries and six continents.
This year, amidst the talks, performances and soirées, visitors were drawn to the beating heart of the fair — the galleries that took over the Messeplatz and offered an array of raw and beautiful pieces, some of which boldly reflected the world’s current cultural and political climate.
There was a palpable frisson of excitement as art connoisseurs and buyers from around the world viewed work by such legends as Picasso, Miró and Schiele, along with awe-inspiring contemporary artists at the pinnacle of their careers. These included Swiss artist Urs Fischer who reinvented Rodin’s The Kiss with oil-based modelling clay and invited visitors to interact with it. They eagerly pulled off pieces and inscribed their names with it across on the walls.
Emerging artists were also celebrated. The Baloise Art Prize, which is awarded annually to two young artists, went to America’s Sam Pulitzer and Martha Atienza from the Philippines. Mr. Pulitzer exhibited a series of transparent corridors mounted with playful drawings in coloured pencil inspired by advertising, clip art and popular culture. Ms. Atienza’s video installation featured a parade of characters from one of the Philippines’ oldest festivals, which she shot walking across a seabed as a critical and humorous take not only on the state of society in her home country, but also on the threat of climate change.
Perhaps the most spellbinding exhibits were the enormous installations in the “Unlimited” section, such as Subodh Gupta’s Cooking the World, which featured a shelter made from cooking utensils suspended from the ceiling on fishing lines. Inside, the artist cooked Indian food for those lucky enough to have secured a ticket for the live performance. The sharing of food served as a gesture of inclusion and acceptance.
Sue Williamson’s large-scale installation featuring bottles each hand-engraved with information about a different slave from the 16th to the 19th century added to the mesmerising spectacle.
Camilla Brown, 63, from Lausanne, who has been attending the fair for the past 28 years, said: “Every year Art Basel gets better and better, and this year is absolutely astonishing. There’s super strong energy. Everyone can feel it.
In her mind, this was Art Basel’s strongest year.
All these fantastic pieces give you so many emotions,” said Ms. Brown. “The visitors are amazing too. It’s quite a show to sit and watch them – they’re a performance in themselves. I’ve been here for three days and you get a bit drunk on all the emotions you feel from everything you see.
And galleries were not the only ones showcasing electric works of art this year.
In a first-of-its-kind partnership, La Prairie — whose innovative spirit and passion for audacity mirrors the world of contemporary art — partnered with Art Basel to invite guests inside its rarefied world of timeless beauty.
Part of the fair’s VIP Lounge was transformed into a transcendental La Prairie universe, where guests enjoyed customised treatments next to an audacious installation by Paul Coudamy, who was commissioned to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the brand’s iconic Skin Caviar.
For his steel sculpture, entitled Living Cells, the French architect and artist uses volume to masterfully interpret La Prairie’s latest groundbreaking innovation, Skin Caviar Absolute Filler.
Inspired by the Weaire-Phelan structure, a mathematical formula of a complex three-dimensional form representing foam bubbles of equal size, Living Cells is comprised of lustrous black, magnetised marbles — reminiscent of caviar, another nod to its muse. The installation’s captivating form and spiral structure seemed to be in constant flux, transcending its surroundings and striking awe amongst viewers.
The installation echoed the culmination of the worlds of art and science seen throughout Art Basel this year.
Art Basel, art, skincare, Basel, Paul Coudamy, Living Cells, Skin Caviar Absolute Filler
La Prairie Invites: Audemars Piguet
For its first edition of La Prairie Invites, the premier luxury skincare brand talks to Audemars Piguet about the beauty of timelessness.
Just like La Prairie, Audemars Piguet has been inextricably linked to art from its very beginnings. With a shared vision for audacity, unparalleled aesthetics and timelessness, both luxury Swiss brands have a partnership with Art Basel — the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair — which has shows in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami.
Audemars Piguet, one of the world's most celebrated luxury watch manufacturers, has mastered the art of perfection with rule-breaking innovation.
In 1972 — 97 years after its birth — the Swiss brand dared to do the unthinkable. As part of an eternal quest to combine artistic excellence and technical expertise, Audemars Piguet launched a watch that rocked the tranquil waters of horology. It transcended the inelegant confines of the average sports watch to produce a masterpiece of opulence and engineering.
The Royal Oak was both sporty and infinitely beautiful. Treated with the reverence of gold, its steel case had an astonishing lustre. The bezel was a groundbreaking octagonal shape and the dial’s tapisserie pattern captivated with its ability to reflect light. With its audacious design and breathtaking craftsmanship, the Royal Oak entered the elite club of timeless classics.
Based in the Vallée de Joux, known as the cradle of fine watchmaking, the brand continues to be revered for its innovation and sophistication. It still inspires the Royal Oak’s devoted followers with regular updates and produces a limited 40,000 watches per year to ensure exclusivity across all its collections.
“I believe that luxury products have almost become a philosophical refuge from the pace of today’s world,” asserted Chadi Gruber, Audemars Piguet’s head of product development. “Luxury means taking your time in a world where everything is too fast. We are proposing a slow perfection.”
Luxuries not only make time appear to stand still — they can also produce a poetic resonance.
“The creativity of our designs and movements, and the painstaking precision and rarity of our materials, provide an escape from pure vital needs,” stated Chadi.
“We create objects that allow you to travel internally, like art does. We’re here to create emotions and make people travel outside the purely material and technological world. You can see the artist’s soul in its work and for me it’s the same thing for our watches. They include a part of the artisan’s soul. I often make the analogy between our watches and art because, for me, a watch is a painting that you wear on your wrist.”
The birthplace of the brand, Switzerland has become synonymous with luxury, elegance and precision because of its centuries-old culture of embracing seriousness, refusing to compromise on quality and valuing hard work, Chadi stated.
The industrious character of the Swiss, along with the harsh weather, helped them to become world leaders in horology, as farmers with a penchant for precision turned to watchmaking during the long winters.
Today, Audemars Piguet continues to create timeless elegance by never forgetting its rich past and having a vision for the future.
How does it manage to keep ahead of time?
“I would say we’re perfectly on time. We just know it before others,” declared Chadi.
Audemars Piguet, Time, Luxury, Swiss Watches, Art Basel, Royal Oak
Majestic Matterhorn: Behind the Lens
A symbol of eternity and audacious beauty, the Matterhorn is the iconic image of Switzerland — one that represents La Prairie.
Such is the mountain’s breathtaking allure, it has been an inspiration to countless artists for centuries. John Ruskin, the great Victorian art critic and social commentator, declared it “the most noble cliff in Europe”. He not only painted the Matterhorn, he also took the first photograph of it in 1849.
The majestic mountain continues to captivate artists and audiences today.
Nenad Saljic’s haunting black-and-white photographs of the mountain have earned him two National Geographic Awards, and resulted in the honour of being named Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year at the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards.
Nenad, who was born in Croatia, became enraptured with mountaineering on a school hiking trip when he was only 12 years old. Seven years later, he climbed Mont Blanc. But it wasn’t until his 40s that Nenad first set eyes on the bewitching Matterhorn Mountain.
“That was love at first sight,” admitted Nenad, who now lives in Zermatt, which boasts arresting views of the mountain. In 2009, he first began photographing the Matterhorn, a project that lasted several years until 2015.
The fulfilling endeavour resulted in several thousand portraits and his book "Matterhorn: Portrait of a Mountain." It features 43 black-and-white duotone photographs accompanied by a timeline of the most significant events in the Matterhorn’s history.
Photo credit: Nenad Saljic
“There are several aspects of the Matterhorn that have attracted me,” Nenad pronounced. “Artistically, it is one of the world’s most magnificent mountains – with its pyramidal shape and solitary position it could be considered an ideal mountain. The Matterhorn even produces its own banner clouds due to the special atmospheric conditions.”
Nenad is also attracted to its rich history. The Matterhorn had long been deemed inaccessible, and it remained unclimbed long after most of the other great Alpine peaks had been reached. Edward Whymper finally conquered the mountain in 1865, marking the end of the golden age of Alpinism.
“The triumph and tragedy of this feat marks the epitome of our human desire to explore and venture beyond our limitations, simultaneously reminding us of how great and how small we are,” asserted Nenad. “The Matterhorn is a product of geological processes that transcend human beings and our concept of time.”
Photo credit: Nenad Saljic
A trained mountaineer and caver, he has never climbed a mountain that has had such a pull on him. “I think there is a Buddhist saying that the best view of a mountain is not from the top, because once you are on the summit you cannot see the mountain itself. This is a nice philosophical excuse, at least,” he stated.
Eternally captivated, Nenad finds that time gradually slows down when he is working, and eventually seems to stop entirely.
Matterhorn, Switzerland, Photography, Artist, Nenad Saljic, Art, Portrait of a Mountain