“contemporary art”

Marc Spiegler: Reflections

As Art Basel opens, we talk with the organization’s great Global Director, Marc Spiegler. He speaks very openly about his vision of his job, the Art Basel fairs, the market and its evolution, about art and the people making it. Marc Spiegler: the art market architect. Marc Spiegler, 48 years old, has always been a very fine analyst of the art market. He simply loves to understand it; and because we love that too, it is always a pleasure to speak with him.   How do you feel at the eve of your fair, a decade after taking on the job? I absolutely love the job and it’s tremendously rewarding, so it certainly doesn’t feel like ten years: it feels like yesterday. At the same time, this fair is my 26th with Art Basel. And if I look back, it feels like a lot has changed. Our organisation has certainly evolved enormously. When I started, we just had the Basel and Miami Beach fairs, we were solely coordinated from Basel, our digital presence was negligible… all we did was the two fairs. Ten years later, we’ve added an extremely strong fair in Asia, and built an extensive online presence – we now have an online catalogue with more than 20,000 artworks from past fairs, not to mention our very large reach on social media, with more than 2 million followers: eight times the 250,000 attendance across our three fairs. And the leadership structure shifted from being exclusively in Switzerland to spanning across three continents, with more than 80 staff making all that happen. When I started we were barely 20. At the same time, the business has changed greatly. The expectations for fairs continue to evolve. 10 years before I arrived, fairs were exclusively trading platforms. Now the international fairs are required to be events in the...

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Work, somewhere between emancipation and alienation

At the back of the first exhibition room, a McDonald’s lies submerged by water. Upstairs, a poster retraces the evolution of anarchy in France. Classroom desks and benches are set out here and there. This summer, the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne is gathering artists around the notion of work… According to the Larousse dictionary, work is “human activity applied towards producing, creating or maintaining something”. Does artistic practice fall into this category? As he strolls around around a city, artist Francis Alÿs pushes a block of ice until it melts, allows a thread from his sweater to unravel until nothing is left of it, attracts metallic objects with the help of a magnet. His performances carried out in public space at the end of the 1990s bring, head to head, the action of doing something, and its result. “Sometimes, doing nothing amounts to doing something and doing something amounts to doing nothing,” he explains. Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing also reveals the apparent uselessness of certain acts, namely artistic ones, according to a production-driven perspective. Since the objective of artistic practice is not utility, some believe it to be futile. And unlike the case of French intermittents de spectacle (contract workers in the entertainment industry), artists’ thinking time – these pauses which interrupt active production, necessary in order for thought, ideas, and the artistic work to emerge – receive no economic recognition. The question of the artist’s status in society is also at the heart of Patricio Gil Flood’s reflections. Since 2012, the Argentinean has focused his research on work, namely the status of the worker-artist, a question that is as topical in his country of origin as in France. In his work Travailler moins pour lire plus, published in 2015, he gathers philosophical, sociological and artistic texts that oppose...

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A.R. Penck, a man of openness

A.R. Penck passed away while the Fondation Maeght’s major retrospective on him was underway. A few days after the sad news, Suzanne Tarasiève gallery also opened an exhibition on the artist. Two paths for tracing the complexity of the work of A.R. Penck. A homage. A.R. Penck left this world on 2 May in Zurich at the age of 77 years. Symbolically, the exhibition being held on him at the Fondation Maeght is titled “A.R. Penck. Rites de passage”. This will therefore be the last retrospective to be organised on the artist during his lifetime, and also the first homage to be paid to him. Homage accompanied by the exhibition “À travers A.R. Penck” at Suzanne Tarasiève (Paris), which represents several big figures from German painting: Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Jörg Immendorff. Only Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter are absent from the list. A tumultuous life Ralf Winkler – this was the name he was born under – had a tumultuous life. He was born on 5 October 1939 in Dresden, in a Germany that would be designated as part of the “East” in 1949. Between 1956 and 1966, Ralf tried, unsuccessfully four times, to enter fine-arts schools in Dresden and East Berlin, even if he was not particularly troubled by this failure. He preferred contact with the “renegades” rather than the institutional painters – he would also be denied access to the Society of Artists of the German Democratic Republic. Already, in the middle of the 1960s, he adopted the pseudonym A.R. Penck for various reasons. Firstly, to pay homage to Albrecht Penck, a geologist specialising in the Ice Age. But above all, to get his works across the border more easily and to avoid censorship problems. The artist would take on other aliases: Tancred Michel or Théodor...

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Wolfgang Tillmans, at the frontiers of the visible

As one exhibition concludes, another opens… While the solo show dedicated to German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans is finishing at the Tate in London, the retrospective on him at the Fondation Beyeler is starting up in the Swiss city of Basel. Perfect timing for a closer look at this artist whose experimentations have taken him far and wide… Contemporary photography – unfortunately – doesn’t always have many superstars to boast about. Even if the medium has achieved recognition in the last decade, its ecosystem still remains closed: it has its own dedicated galleries, themed auction sales, mono-medium fairs, specialised journals… In this respect, Germany’s Wolfgang Tillmans emerges as something of a phenomenon. Earning steady recognition from institutions and art critics from a very early stage in his career, he is already counted amongst the most fashionable photographers… And yet we can sense that this artist still has more tricks up his sleeve. Born in 1968 in Remscheid in West Germany (near Cologne and Düsseldorf, and therefore also near Europe-focused Belgium and the Netherlands), he discovered the photography of Polke, Richter and Rauschenberg while he was still a teenager in the museums of big neighbouring cities. After three years in Hamburg, Tillmans continued his studies at the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design in South England. He then moved to London before staying in New York for one year in 1994. This is where he met gallerist Andrea Rosen, who would be the first to support him, as well as his lover, painter Jochen Klein. The two Germans would return to Europe where they lived together in the British capital until the death, in 1997, of Klein, a victim of AIDS. Tillmans was not yet 30 at the time. In 2000, the artist suddenly emerged from obscurity by becoming...

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In Julian Schnabel’s studio

An hour with Julian Schnabel, who shares with Art Media Agency reflections on the ground he has covered, the Plate Paintings series, surface and matter, film, sun and shade… An encounter in Manhattan. Born in 1951 in New York, the city where he continues to live, Julian Schnabel has maintained a reputation as an undisciplined artist. Winning the attention of critics early on while refusing to be pinned down by any particular style, he also became known to the public in 1996 thanks to his film Basquiat. Ever since, he has continued to paint, sculpt and make feature films when he’s not surfing near his villa in Montauk. And let’s not forget: Julian Schnabel is also an interior architect… It was incidentally in his Venetian palace in the West Village, New York, that he received us – at the heart of the Palazzo Chupi, in which the artist has based his studio and apartment, with a view of the Hudson…   At the very start of your career in the 1970s, did you feel close to European movements such as the Italian Transavanguardia? In terms of style, we get this impression, but did you know the artists that made up the movement such as Francesco Clemente, Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi or Mimmo Paladino? In 1982, when Harald Szeemann curated the “Settore Arti Visive” exhibition in which I took part at the Venice Biennale, Francesco Clemente was one of the artists. I then saw him again when Jean-Christophe Ammann showed us in Basel, along with Enzo Cucchi and Sandro Chia, and we started to keep up with one another. I particularly liked the work of Clemente, especially from that period, and we then became friends, but before this encounter, I didn’t know who these artists were.   This was also...

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