Friday, June 27, 2008

Crown Point Press at Art Basel, by Sasha Baguskas

A crane maneuvering Roxy Paine's silver root at the Art Basel Fair in Basel,Switzerland.

This year was the seventh year that Crown Point Press has had a booth at the prestigious Art Basel fair, where nearly 300 dealers from around the world show the work of over 3,000 artists. Crown Point’s booth is located in the Editions section of the fair, along with other print publishers such as Gemini GEL, Pace Prints, Paragon Press, Two Palms, Borch Jensen Editions, to name a few. Kathan Brown, founder and director of Crown Point, showed prints at Basel in the 1970s. Valerie Wade, along with Kathan, has been at the fair for the past seven years.

On Friday, May 31, Valerie and I traveled across the US, the Atlantic and part of Europe to land in the fair city of Basel, Switzerland. We landed mid-morning on Saturday, and spent the day separately, adjusting to the time change. I walked around the Old City, and managed to get caught in a quick thunder shower. I hovered in a doorway till all was clear.

I ate some herring at my hotel, in the garden, and then promptly fell asleep, which is not recommended for the jet lagged, but I really couldn’t help it. In the evening I met a friend at the Kunsthalle beer garden, a popular spot for drinking with the Art Basel crowd. You can see a Tinguely fountain and a Richard Serra sculpture from the garden bar, though sadly the Serra sculpture has graffiti all over it.

The following day was the first of two installation days. We arranged to have the crates unpacked upon our arrival, so we were all ready to hang the art. Valerie had figured out in advance (on the plane? in her sleep?) how the framed prints should be arranged in the booth, and with her usual alacrity and aesthetic expertise, the design of the booth went smoothly and seemingly effortlessly.

Installation Day

We brought with us the three new etchings by Swedish artist, Jockum Nordström as well as two new prints by Julie Mehretu. Amy Sillman’s suite of four etchings paraded across an outside wall; these are not technically new releases though are new to the Basel crowd. Basel is the place to debut anything new.

Jockum Nordstrom's new prints are to the left.

We displayed our books, and premiered our newest Magical Secrets title, Magical Secrets about Aquatint, by Crown Point master printer Emily York. The books were a success, and helpful for explaining intaglio processes, especially to a crowd whose first language is not English. The Vision journal is always popular with Europeans, as is John Cage Visual Art, by Kathan Brown, and Tom Marioni’s, Beer, Art and Philosophy.

Our book table, by Pia Fries and Ed Ruscha prints.

Valerie in our booth.

The opening day, the Vernissage, was Tuesday and it lasted from 11 in the morning til 10 at night. The Vernissage is open only to those with a special invitation; the days following are opened to the paying public.

Here I am, all ready!

Most visitors to the booth commented on how lovely the prints were, and often people made mention of how our booth was an oasis of calm. One visitor exclaimed that the booth “had personality!"

More booth, with Peter Doig, Laura Owens, Fred Wilson, and Alex Katz.

Opposite our booth was a large and colorful piece by the Danish cooperative SuperFlux, (FREE BEER FREE BEER!!!) which, depending on one’s mood, would lead you to our booth, for the quiet contemplation of Tom Marioni’s Walking Drawing.

Tom Marioni's Walking Drawing.

The Old City of Basel is medieval with many small streets winding up and down hills, fountains brimming with fresh Swiss glacial water (I am guessing), and lovely painted details on the houses.

Basel streets.

Painted buildings!

Adjacent to the fair is the Unlimited, a huge space where 70 artists are represented by one work each. The artists are selected by the Art Basel Committee, and this year they were in colloboration with curator Simon Lamuniere.

Unlimited, from above.

Daniel Buren's striped escalator at Unlimited.

Sol Lewitt sculpture at the side entrance to Art Basel (during de-installation)

During the de-install day, the cranes were out, taking away the outside public art works.

Two workers puzzled about moving Ugo Rondinone's clay heads.

We had a wonderful time, we met some great people at the booth and saw great art. There are more stories, of course, but hopefully this gives an idea of how it all went.