The Very Best and Worst of Art Basel

That fascinating painting in your Facebook memories? That is the piece you should have bought.

Amazing. My mind goes empty and is completely immersed in sucking in the ingenuity of the art piece. And then I look to the left and I am stunned by the beauty of the second piece. I am not at Art Basel, which gave me brain freeze with all its noise and neediness; rather, I am at SCOPE – the little sister of the Art Basel fair – and I am finally looking at art that speaks to me, involves me and makes me curious. These emotions are in stark contrast to Art Basel, where the art pieces are loud and crying for attention, and where the gallerists and their assistants do their best to be the opposite of their art – which is quiet, elegant and elevated. The SCOPE fair in Basel is the best part of the famous Art Week, and I feel immediately at home. Even the people – the widely criticized gallerists – seem to like people and not just their art. The vibe at SCOPE is energetic, friendly and yet unhurried. And SCOPE has some true gems: art that has a narrative, awakens emotions and is even beautiful.

The best of Art Basel was not to be found at Art Basel itself, but at Joerg Heitsch, a German gallery. Its art was mind blowing – there was no need for a long academic pep talk to understand the pieces. There was immediate beauty, universal stories and masterly fusion of old and new. The Joerg Heitsch Gallery specializes in the inspiration and ideas of old masters represented by contemporary artists and their methods, creating new masters in the process. Yes, it is remaking and getting inspiration from the best works of the past, but the artist who claims that he is not influenced by the past is lying anyway. The reason why I am so taken by Heitsch’s booth is the supreme quality of its art. There is no weak piece to be found. All the pieces are expertly completed and presented. Every single piece talks to me. And none feel empty or needy. Have a look at the below pictures from the gallery.

Warzone. This single word best describes the Art Basel Unlimited exhibition. ‘Unlimited’ is the area at Art Basel dedicated to large-scale art from the current masters. And these masters are squeezed into this one space to compete against each other. It is an aggressive, needy and unworthy place for the masters of contemporary art. The attention seeking of the art works is extreme. The scale of the pieces is over-dimensional. And when the pieces are set next to each other, they shout at each other, sometimes in a literal manner. There is no visible theme except the scale of the pieces. I am left irritated and disappointed that I have to experience some of the best minds of our time being exhibited in such an aggressive manner.

Often, the best art is not found in the most obvious places but is hidden from the crowd. It’s like when you visit a popular tourist destination and you wind your way into the small streets, away from the Eiffel towers and Dubai malls; you find yourself sitting in a small local café, drinking the perfect wine, watching a father play football with his son on the cobbled street, and with the gentle breeze taking your worries away. Then you gaze at the Eiffel tower between the rustic buildings and say: “It sure looks marvelous, that tower there”. And then you ask the waitress to take a picture of you with the small glass of wine in your hand, smiling, and with this odd painting in the background – the one by an unknown artist that has fascinated you. This is the picture you post on Facebook. This is the place you recommend to your friends. And that fascinating painting in your Facebook memories? That is the piece you should have bought.

My name is Max Noble. I am an art adventurer, watch connoisseur and globetrotter, and I commit acts of nobleness around the world. This was my personal note about Art Basel. 

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