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Art world searches for next Picasso

The galleries at this year's Art Basel are packed with visitors swissinfo.ch

The work of young artists is becoming increasingly popular as collectors scour the world for the next Picasso, according to organisers of this year’s Art Basel.

This content was published on June 17, 2004 - 19:04

Switzerland’s biggest contemporary art fair is seen by many as a showcase for hundreds of undiscovered artists.

“Ten years ago, it was the established artists who were being bought. Now it’s the turn of young artists,” said Maria Finders, one of the organisers of Art Basel.

“This is a phenomenon to the point where young artists can’t produce enough work,” she told swissinfo.

Since 1996 organisers of Art Basel have made a point of honouring young artists by inviting them to take part in a competition called Art Statements.

A panel of judges selected 17 finalists from more than 200 entries for the contest with a SFr25,000 cash prize.

Big brolly

One of the winners was Aleksandra Mir from Poland, who was awarded the prize for her work entitled “The Big Umbrella”.

The 37-year-old designed the giant black umbrella which can shield up to 16 people from the rain. She took it to cities such as Copenhagen and Dresden and captured the reactions of passers-by on film.

“It was originally created to attract people and to stand as a metaphor for socialism, but many people thought it was simply too grotesque, strange, ridiculous or threatening,” said Mir.

Later in the year she will take her umbrella to the island of Martinique in time for the rainy season.

Geneva-born Mai-Thu Perret, 28, was selected as one of the competition finalists for her colour print called “Bake and Sale Economics”, while 33-year-old Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena was chosen for his print depicting soldiers on the brink of war.

View from the floor

The galleries at Art Basel devoted to young artists were packed with visitors when swissinfo turned up to see the show.

Jules Spinatsch and Jari Lager, both visiting from London, said their favourite piece of work was a military watchtower created by Christoph Büchel from Basel.

Büchel, 38, modelled his “Medium Security Observation Tower” on those used by coalition forces to guard prisoners in Iraq.

A steep ladder leads to an observation room inside the tower. Once at the top of the ladder, Spinatsch said he was surprised to find he was standing on a stage designed for pole dancers.

“The tower becomes like a prison cell, with chains and very little light, but at the same time there is music,” he said.

"It seems to me to stand for everything we think about - work, sex and violence.”

swissinfo, Elizabeth Meen in Basel

In brief

Art Basel runs until June 21.

This year more than 270 galleries from all over the world have stands at Switzerland's largest contemporary art fair.

More than 200 young artists entered a competition to win SFr25,000 at the fair.

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