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Highlights of Art Basel 2010 and the Indian participation
Located on the banks of the Rhine, at the border between Switzerland, France and Germany, Basel is a vibrant venue for showcasing the finest of international art. With its world-class museums, outdoor sculptures, medieval old town and buildings, the city has emerged as a captivating culture capital. The annual Art Week here is a premier event attended by collectors, dealers, artists, and curators from across the globe.

Counted among the world's premier international art shows for Modern and contemporary works, Art 41 Basel took place in June 2010. Its multiple sections, which included quality paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, video and editioned works, featured nearly 300 leading galleries from North and Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Over 2,500 artists, ranging from the great masters of Modern art to the new emerging stars, were represented.

It was also a real celebration time for contemporary Indian art at Art Basel 41 that featured five leading galleries from the country, namely Chemould Prescott Road, Chatterjee & Lal, Sakshi, Nature Morte, and Gallery SKE. They presented some of the best works, reflecting the current trends, to a global audience. Shireen Gandhy of Chemould quipped, “Art Basel has recognized the presence of India in a big way.” The gallery was selected for the new Art Feature section that had select solo presentations, juxtapositions and thematic exhibits from artists representing a wide range of cultures, generations, and approaches. Its curated booth had two artists from different generations: Bhupen Khakhar and Atul Dodiya, one of India’s most dynamic contemporary artists, who worked on a series of paintings on full-size metal shutters, in the late 1990s.

His recent shutter paintings respond to iconic paintings from the 1970s by late Bhupen Khakhar, called ‘trade series’ – namely, ‘Janta Watch Repairing’, ’Sheikh Shoe Mart’ and, ‘Shanker Saloon’, depicting middle-class figures from a wide range of professions. On the hood of each of the rolling shutters are mentioned the actual names of the Bhupen Khakhar’s paintings, giving you the feel of actually entering ‘Khakhar’s shop’. While the politics of the 1970s provoked him to give an image to and celebrate the ubiquitous vocations across urban India, the new shutter works by Atul Dodiya poignantly refer to the historical moment when their work and lives were interrupted and threatened. The presentation at Basel contextualized the respective artist’s works from these important time periods and the relationship between their oeuvre.

Among the other enterprising sections at Art Basel 2010, Art Statements featured one-person stands from rising galleries worldwide. By displaying a solo project of young artists, yet to get a solo show at any big museum, it brought them to the eyes of an international audience. Gallery SKE presented ‘Zero Knot’, an installation and publication by Sreshta Premnath, who examined the spectral figure of the monument – a memorial from the past, pointing toward its historic conception of a future – always gesturing towards something which could never have been…Like the mathematical zero knot, the monument was a cipher, simultaneously absent and present. Sunitha Kumar of Gallery SKE mentioned that it indeed was a big thing for them to be a part of Art Basel.

Chatterjee & Lal presented Nikhil Chopra, known for his performance-based practice. He conceived a project that wove positions associated with museum display around the residues of a performance undertaken in the environs of a Mumbai based museum earlier this year. On the other hand, Nature Morte displayed works by artists Suhasini Kejriwal, Schandra Singh, Thukral & Tagra, Gauri Gill, Atul Dodiya, Aditya Pande, and TV Santhosh. According to Peter Nagy, the event offered an excellent opportunity to meet several important collectors, critics, gallerists, and curators from across the globe. Sakshi’s Geeta Mehra stated that it was really nice to see Art Basel not disregarding Indian art and what’s happening in it. Incidentally, the gallery presented Taiwan’s Chen Chieh-Jen, whose video work explored issues connected to globalization, in particular labor, consumerism and migration.

Among the most impressive sections at Art Basel was Art Unlimited, a platform for projects transcending the classical art-show stand. The lineup of artists read like a cross-section of leading figures from the international art scene. They featured exclusive video projections, large-scale installations, massive sculptures and live performances. The section also presented 26 one-person shows of young artists this year. On the other hand, projects by international artists on the exhibition square and at Isteinerstrasse engaged directly with the viewers as part of Art Public.

If Art Film program featured a varied program of films by and about artists, with different themes, a special Book show highlighted Artists' fanzines. Bringing together various 'historical' examples and experiments by the latest publishers, it offered a source for numerous hard-to-find works little concerned with classic distribution. Leading publishers of editioned works exhibited the results of their collaboration with renowned artists at Art Edition section. Art Salon incorporated talks, panels, book signing and other presentations on the current state of the art world.

In fact, Art Basel continues to witness experiments and innovations to sustain the art lover’s interest. Since 2007, it has set aside a section (in the context of Art Unlimited) for a certain type of object: the vinyl record, a symbolic object of the 20th century, especially as many artists now have opted for vinyl as an artistic medium. The new Art Parcours program positioned contemporary art within the city in an unprecedented way, temporarily occupying iconic venues throughout its historic center.

Indeed, Art Basel 2010 reinforced its status as the world’s premier platform for showcasing the best of art! It was also heartening to see Indian art and artists firmly in the spotlight during this global celebration of art.