PaperCity Magazine

September 2016 - Houston

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Page 127 of 197

Art Basel, the linchpin of modern and contempo- rary art fairs, kicks off the art world's annual grand tour. Additional stops in Venice (in the odd years of the Venice Biennale) and London, for the Modern and Con- temporary auctions, conclude the season for the highly charged world of collecting and dealing art before the summer convalescence. As a dealer, I've attended and taken clients to Basel for 20 years. This year, as so many have, begins in Paris. My wife, Cynthia, and I always stay in the Marais, the former Jewish ghetto, for its bohemian character. It's also home to almost every top international contemporary art gallery and the intimate and stately Picasso Museum, which reopened last year after a five-year closure for renovations. It's one of my favorite museums. Catching the high-speed TGV train for the three-hour ride is my preferred way to get to Basel. It's easy: no security check, the cars are comfort- able, and I always meet interesting people who are also on the way to the fair. This year was no different. A bright, enterprising private dealer from London was in my car. Stanford educated, reared in Europe, and a former Christie's auction house specialist, he had an easy charm and sophis- tication combined with an entrepreneurial nose. He was an early buyer and supporter of Gutai, the Japanese counterpart to New York Abstract Expressionism and the Jackson Pollock of the group, Kazuo Shiraga. The Dallas Museum of Art mounted a significant Shiraga exhibition a year ago. Howard Rachofsky, Dallas' most visible and shrewdest collector, bought the work long before prices exploded into the mid-seven figures. Sitting across from me was an editor of Billionaire maga- zine. No other art fair attracts the wealthy on such ROBERT McCLAIN TAKES NOTES ON HIS ANNUAL JOURNEY THROUGH THE CRACKLING, EMOTIVE WORLD OF ART FAIRS, DEALERS, AND COLLECTORS. an international scale, from New York hedge-fund billionaires to Russian oligarchs, European indus- trialists, private museum founders, and the new frontier of mega collectors: the super-rich Chinese. And where important art and major collectors gather, museum directors and curators follow. The internationally respected director of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Gary Tinterow and MFAH curator Alison de Lima Greene were grabbing a quick meal at the table next to me in the art fair's upstairs VIP lounge. I passed Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, on the way in. David Breslin, director of the Menil Drawing Institute, was also there. Though the art fair officially opened Thursday, June 16, Tuesday and Wednesday are when the world's top collectors are invited to First Choice, an opportunity to have first dibs on the coveted works that dealers have been saving to high- light. Dealers not only wish to sell, but they are also branding themselves. The competition is heated, not only for the best display of the most desirable art, but for whom will orga- nize the best dinner parties. Without a doubt, Swiss-born dealer Dominique Lévy, (NY and London), created the entertainment spectacle of the fair. Held at the Station Circus — an ac- tual working circus — Lévy staged an elegant seated dinner for 150 guests under a tent, with center ring, the Baccalà Clowns, and Vertical Tango, a dance performance on the trapeze by former members of Cirque du Soleil. During cocktails, I spotted the worldwide heads of the two major auctions houses. The world's largest collector of Joseph Cornell boxes confided to me his latest interest. A couple shared their plan to donate their collection to a major Swiss museum, which will create an entirely separate wing for its display. Seated across from me was the most important gallerist in Korea. Monday marked the VIP preview of "Unlim- ited," a curated series of installations by single artists. Most have enormous scale, such as the 50-foot-long painting by James Rosenquist or Peter Halley's installation of four large paint- ings hung on a wall the length of a tennis court and covered in a Halley-designed wallpaper. I ran into Alison de Lima Greene, who was chatting with Argentine artist Pablo Bronstein, in the midst of his installation of mock-Victo- rian architectural drawings. Bronstein's work was featured at the MFAH last year. No Art Basel event is complete without the Austro- German couple and performance artists Eva and Adele. They're always in matching outfits and shaved heads; one is vaguely aware that Eva is female and Adele, who sports at least a size-13 shoe, might be male, though they never discuss gender. The Messe Basel Convention Center is where WONDERWALL BASEL ART A Calder retrospective, among the fareArt market darling: Adrian Ghe- nie's painting of Picasso at Pace Robert McClain xxxxxxxxxxx 124 Art market darling: Adrian Ghenie's painting of Picasso at Pace Gallery

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