IN THE TUILERIES
In The Tuileries– the expansive park in between the Louvre and the Impressionist works-rich Musee d’Orangerie – we mingled with a small army of fresh-faced students pursuing advanced studies in art history at the School of the Louvre. Knowledgeable and fluent in English too (if not more tourists’ tongues), they held court with park visitors stopped in their tracks by the 25 sculptures that had just been planted there as part of the Paris+ by Art Basel art fair. Like an amuse bouche for the Paris+ show as a whole, these sculptures competed to catch our eye, grab us by the lapel and stop us in our tracks. They lived on our path, or in the many fountains of the park. They asked us to think about the endangered planet, the modern human experience, AIDS and more.
PARIS+ BY ART BASEL EXTENDS A WARM WELCOME TO ART LOVERS
For Parisians and tourists alike, it was lucky that these sculptural installations stood beyond the second annual Paris+ by Art Basel open to all of the public from October 20 - 22, 2023 (following two private preview days).
Paris+ by Art Basel says, "...For several years, Zanele Muholi, a non-binary and queer artist, has been working on a vast project around portraiture and self-portraiture. They shine a light on people who would not normally be artists’ models – the invisible – and in particular Black LGBTQIA+ people in post-apartheid South Africa. Muholi has only recently started working with sculpture, and their pieces enter into a dialogue with the other statues in the garden. Presented without a pedestal, the sculptures challenge traditional modes of representation, making absence – whether due to gender or ethnicity – present. Juxtaposed with the garden’s historical warlike sculptures, the artist presents themself seated and restrained, sleeping, or emerging from the depths of the earth..."
Voulez-vous danser avec moi ? Merci, je ne préfère pas !, 2023
ROMINA DE NOVELLIS
You might think of Clément Delépine, Director of Paris+ par Art Basel as the General commanding this congenial docent force welcoming all to the Parisian art scene. In the pre-fair talk for press, as well as in the warm-touch promotional materials for the fair where he shared the likes of his tips on best watering holes or where to watch the Paris sunset, Delépine does come across as Paris Booster #1, as well he should.
Yet, for a fellow art-loving American in Paris, you might be thinking more of the scores of modern art masters who brought you to the dance, so to speak. It’s but a short ride to get to THE spot on Ile de la Grande Jatte where Seurat made his famed painting, and where you also find markers of where so many of his equivalent Impressionist greats made similar famed works. Walk a short hop from most spots in Paris and you seem bound to find an art museum, an artist’s atelier kept as it was, a café frequented by the art and literary crowd back in the day, art bookstores, and gallery after gallery. Keep looking and you soon lose count of the galleries that don’t make it to the official lists of galleries. Similarly, you lose count of the Picassos on view outside his namesake museum, or the special exhibits underway.
It was a bit of a surprise to this writer/photographer team that there weren’t actually more Americans making the journey to Paris since its U.S. equivalent is now situated in censorship-central, a.k.a. DeSantis’ Florida. Pinch me, you might think, as you look out the café window at the Grand Palais Éphémère, or take on the challenge of choosing between the cut-above patisseries in this art fair’s rest stops so emblematic of Paris+ finesse and flair in every sphere.
The impressionists, dadaists and other grand masters that made Paris the Mecca of the art world make their presence directly known in the Paris+ show. Many of the galleries at Paris+, similar to other Art Basel events, brought out Picassos, Calders, Dix, Le Corbusier, and similar— perhaps as magnets for the high net worth collectors whom they target.
GRAND MASTERS IN THE MAKING
So too did you find the more established names of today. If you speed walk the aisles you might start thinking, “...there seems to be a lot more shiny reflective work this year…”, until you zoom in realizing it is one after another gallery showcasing work by Anish Kapoor. A trademark Jaume Plensa face invites you to walk deep into a booth to see it from all angles. A burst of garden flowers and blackbirds seems to announce Kerry James Marshall is here.
STANDOUT WORKS BY WOMEN ARTISTS
How interesting for this writer/photographer team studying our photo records of the show to note that a disproportionate number of works that had the sought-for stop us in our tracks quality were made by women artists. It doesn’t seem to be that long ago when worldwide museums were first struck with the notion to achieve a better gender parity in their collections. Yet, Art Basel’s post-show report on the global art market details how acquisitions of works by female artists has somewhat declined.
It was in fact Giulia Andreani’s experimentation with making her signature blue/black prints into a carpet weaving, and emerging artist Simphiwe Buthelezi’s use of materials to create tapestries of a new sort, that put added focus on all the works at Paris+ using new materials or old materials in new ways. Rocks could float (Julien Berthier L’Invisible). Anthropomorphic projections onto smoking pipes transformed them into sexy dancers reminding of Playboy bunny cartoons. (Artist: Richard Fauguet). Toothbrushes and typewriter keys are texture-making brushstrokes (Artist: Moffat Takadiwa). One imagines much handwashing went into making a string of soap bars so aesthetically superb (Artist: Miroslaw Balka).
TENT ADD-ON and NEW SPACE TO COME
Curiously, there seemed to be little bright light advantage for the galleries inhabiting the add-on halls to the historic palace structure. In Miami shows, similar tent type environs on the beach always seemed to have the added advantage of happy-making vitamin D sunlight injections. Yet, for this writer/photographer team, there seemed to be an unexpected quality thinning in these areas– no matter if we made it the first or last stops on one or another day’s tour. Perhaps the upside of this unexplained phenomena was that it helped the standout works truly pop and distinguish themselves from their neighbors.
Next year, Paris+ by Art Basel will be in the Grand Palais, currently under renovation. For those determined to see it all, this is somewhat thrilling but daunting news.
For location alone and the wealth of concurrent art experiences the City of Lights offers, Paris+ by Art Basel would seem to always merit top pick status. That gallerists and show organizers touched this 2nd annual iteration with finesse all around makes it all the more so.
This year's show has concluded. You can bookmark the Art Basel website for continuing updates on this and all Art Basel shows.