Art Basel 2024 Opens to the Public: Here Are Some of Its Highlights

Art Basel art fair in Basel, Switzerland is a highlight in the annual art calendar, and this year’s program features a range of surprising and ambitious ventures.

Jun 13, 2024By Rosie Lesso, MA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine Art

art basel 2024

 

The hotly anticipated Art Basel art fair in Basel, Switzerland, kicks off today with a series of monumental displays featuring art by some of the most notable names in contemporary art. These include Agnes Denes, Petrit Halilaj, Christo, Liza Lou, Chiharu Shiota, and Stefanie Hessler. An impressive 285 galleries will also be showcasing their wares, with art sales already reaching into the millions following the VIP previews this Tuesday. The fair’s newly appointed director Maike Cruse says, “We are a small city with a rich density of high-profile art.” The fair runs from 13-16 June.

 

Agnes Denes

Installation view of Agnes Denes’s artwork Honoring Wheatfield – A Confrontation (2024) in Basel, 2024. Source: Art Basel.

 

Basel’s Messeplatz has been transformed by iconic American land artist Agnes Denes into a field of wheat, titled Honoring Wheatfield – A Confrontation, 2024. The rural-inspired intervention is a recreation of her environmental installation Wheatfield – A Confrontation, 1982, in which she installed a field of wheat into a two-acre landfill site in lower Manhattan, where it provided a stark antidote to the grey, capitalistic urbanism of the World Trade Center and New York’s Wall Street. This time, Denes has covered 1,000 square meters of the Swiss plaza with lush, green wheat, and a pathway down the center for visitors to walk through. Her latest iteration speaks of the challenges faced by the global wheat market following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Denes also calls on our need to address the climate crisis, and the constructive, rather than destructive, role art fairs might play in preserving the future of the planet.

 

Petrit Halilaj

Art Basel and UBS celebrate 30 years of partnership with Petrit Halilaj’s co-commissioned artwork When the Sun Goes Away we Paint the Sky, installed on the façade of the former Hotel Merian, Basel. Photo credit: Peter Macdiarmid. Source: Art Basel

 

Elsewhere, Basel’s historic Merian Hotel has been given a new makeover by Kosovo-born artist Petrit Halilaj. His light installation When the Sun Goes Away we Paint the Sky, 2024, adorns the surface of the hotel with a scattering of illuminated five-pointed stars, which he sees as a potent message of hope for a brighter future. First presented in Manifesta 14 in 2022 on the Grand Hotel Prishtina, this latest installation celebrates the 30th anniversary between Art Basel and global financial firm UBS. Cruse says, “The collaboration over these 30 years between UBS and Art Basel helps us craft spaces together with artists, making their dreams come true and bringing them to reality.”

 

Chiharu Shiota

The Extended Line, 2023-24, by Chiharus Shiota. Source: chiharushiota.com

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As part of Art Basel’s Unlimited program, which focusses on large-scale projects, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota has produced a 16 x 9 meter installation titled The Extended Line, 2023-24, in which suspended strands of red rope drip from the ceiling like red rain, spilling out onto a bronze cast of the artist’s hands. Interspersed within the thread are scattered white papers, resembling a flock of birds in the sky. As with much of her art, Shiota addresses deeply personal themes in this work of art, reflecting on her experiences of “suffering, regrets, and joys,” as a cancer survivor. She says, “What does it mean to be human? I am asking questions which I believe everyone is dealing with during their lifetime, and not really getting to a clear conclusion.”

 

Liza Lou

Security Fence, by Liza Lou, 2005. Source: Lehmann Maupin Gallery.

 

Meanwhile, Liza Lou’s visually arresting installation Security Fence, 2005 is a replica prison fence made from razor wire and glass beads, for which she enlisted the help of 20 Zulu women. The work is a jarring reflection on post-Apartheid South Africa, exploring, on one hand, the oppressive connotations of barbed wire fencing, yet also the collective, humanizing act of beading as a form of resistance and personal, creative freedom. Lou says, “During apartheid, the whites surrounded the townships with barbed wire fencing so that they couldn’t get out. We talked often about what it meant, what we were doing – one of my workers, Buhle, said, ‘We are covering it with love.'”

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By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.