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Art fair offers visitors "the cutting edge" at bargain prices

Art Basel allows young artists to make a name for themselves

(Keystone Archive)

Organisers of Art Basel - one of the world's biggest annual art fairs - are expanding what they describe as their window to the future of art.

Every year Art Basel, which takes place in June, generates millions of francs worth of sales as dealers and collectors buy works by major artists.

But it also has a section called "Art Statements" offering an opportunity to obtain paintings, sculptures and installations which, because their creators are not yet well-known, are on sale at affordable prices.

Announcing details of this year's "Art Statements", fair director Samuel Keller said the selection committee had chosen works by 17 young artists from 11 countries. The number of applications was a record 240.

Keller says sales at this section tend to be excellent: "Gallery owners know that whoever obtains one of the booths devoted to young art will enjoy the attention of the profession to an extent virtually unrivalled anywhere else. News spreads like wildfire when works are purchased for renowned collections or exhibitions."

"Art Statements" is also regarded as a barometer of future art trends. While two years ago it focused on abstract painting, there is now a tendency to feature video, installations and multimedia works.

Unlike booths exhibiting pictures and sculptures by leading figures in the world of modern and contemporary art, it offers a view of the "cutting edge" which is redefining some traditional art forms.

As Keller acknowledges, it now seems almost impossible to continue using the word "sculpture" in today's art. "The term has been expanded," he says, "and even dissolved over the last 40 years. Where do we draw the line between sculpture and installation today?"

For example at this year's fair, works made from fabric, foam rubber, word or plastic by Dutch artist Lara Schnitger at first sight look like traditional sculpture.

However during Art Basel she will change her sculptures every day, to show what she regards as the dynamic qualities of the sculptural environment and its transitory nature.

by Richard Dawson


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