Art Basel opened to VIPS on Tuesday. According to the special edition of The Art Newspaper, which is printed daily during the major art fairs, "collectors vied for works with proven track records and critical validation." Galleries vie not only to sell work, but to host dinners for artists which will attract collectors and curators. At the dinner for Doug Aitken hosted by Shaun Regen, Eva Presenhuber and Lisa Spellman at Jay's Indian restaurant, guests spilled out on to the street and the overflow was entertained by a cross-dressing crasher curator next door, and some even had to be seated in the kitchen.
On Wednesday, after an early morning conversation between Paul McCarthy and Trussardi curator Massimiliano Gioni, we were invited to join a small group to tour the Novartis campus, which is usually closed to the public. Our tour guide was curator Jacqueline Burckhardt, who succeeded the great Harold Szeemann in 2006. They worked closely with artists like Richard Serra, Dan Graham, and Sigmar Polke on site-specific works for the campus. Novartis is in the first stage of a major undertaking to transform their global company headquarters into a "Campus of Knowledge" where "encounter, interaction and innovation is encouraged. Obsolete buildings are being replaced one after the other." Planned by architect and urban planner Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, who created the long-term, flexible master plan with an internationally famous team of architects from around the world including Frank Gehry, SANAA, Taniguchi, Rafael Moneo, and Alvaro Siza all contributing. I can't imagine what it would be like to go to work on my bicycle everyday to a place like this. There is a different restaurant in each building specially designed by the architect.
Thursday, we joined a group of curators and collectors on a day trip to Milan
organized by Hauser & Wirth. We visited Paul McCarthy's installation of his seven year-long project Pig Island. The Trussardi Foundation invited the legendary artist to install works in the abandoned underground spaces of Palazzo Citterio, an 18th century building that was left in the middle of a radical transformation in the '80s and left unopened for 25 years, until this exhibition. It is well worth the trip. McCarthy's unique language of Pop Art, performance, Minimalism and Disneyland was at its best.
The Trussardi Foundation is an example of innovative patronage: "It's rather an agency for the production and the diffusion of contemporary art in a wide variety of contexts and channels." Since Milan doesn't have a dedicated space for contemporary art, Beatrice Trussardi decided in 2002 with director Massimilano Gioni (also of the New Museum) to create a series of nomadic projects especially conceived for public spaces. The list of artists reads like a who's who in the art world - Maurizio Cattelan, Martin Creed, Urs Fisher, Tino Seghal, Anri Sala and Tacita Dean but I was struck by what Beatrice Trussardi said in an interview in the foundation's first book, What Good Is the Moon (borrowed from the title of a Fischli/Weiss film done for their Trussardi Foundation project) "In the end, the more informal encounters and conversations are those that truly appeal to us. Maybe the moon is there so that we will talk about it, because we need an excuse to come together. Maybe that is what art is really for: to help us see ourselves as part of a community and, together, make the community grow."
An incredible lunch at the Trussardi restaurant was followed by a "surprise" private visit to da Vinci's The Last Supper. Although the Zurich, New York, London based gallery Hauser & Wirth may not be as widely known outside of the art world as Gagosian, it's kind of like comparing Chanel to Hermes, the quality is simply impeccable. It was the kind of day that only happens around a gathering like Art Basel.
- By Bettina Korek