Basel 2015 – Friends Reunited

ArtReview catches up with some old friends at this year's fair

By Stacey Langham

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Do We Dream Under The Same Sky, (2015). Installation view, Art Basel 2015. Photo: Mark Rappolt Alicja Kwade, Ein Tag in 7 Minuten und 23 Sekunden, 2006. Courtesy the artist and Johann König, Berlin Ragnar Kjartansson, Scandinavian Pain, 2006-12. Photo: Simon Liddiard. Courtesy HOME, Manchester Masks, 2012. Courtesy Mendes Wood DM, Sao Paulo Nancy Holt, Sunlight in Sun Tunnels, 1976/2012. Courtesy Haunch of Venison, London

While slurping down soup at Rirkrit Tiravanija’s cooking-and-eating-and-chatting-and-washing-up installation, Do We Dream Under The Same Sky, (2015), outside Art Basel’s exhibition hall, ArtReview kept spotting familiar faces – aggressively chasing bowls of food or dutifully doing the washing up in exchange for the free grub. After all, when you’re as seasoned as ArtReview (on the art trail since 1949 don’t you know!), you get to know a fair few people. Artreview met Tiravanija back in November 2013, you can read what he had to say about art and power in his cover feature from that year’s Power 100 issue, which led ArtReview to thinking that it might be nice to catch up with a few more old friends, who have previously graced its pages.

At the booth of Johann König, Berlin, ArtReview’s eye is taken by a three-metre framed board, mounted on to which is a neat row of tiny watch hands stretching its length. It’s a work that packs punchy ideas on the structure of time, of temporality and, inevitably, if one’s mind wanders in this direction, death and our final moments. These big, cosmic ideas, delivered so tightly, was the work of Alicja Kwade, who told ArtReview in its December 2013 issue that she was ‘Trying to see what reality is for me, and what it is for us all'.

The passing of time is major theme of Ragnar Kjartansson’s work too, another good friend, whom ArtReview wrote about in its May 2014 issue). At i8 Gallery, Reykjavik, the Icelander's four new paintings all depict the same subject: a mechanic the artist knows by name of Bjarni Bummer. Bummer isn’t mending cars though, but is instead slumped on a chair looking glum, next to a record player. The titles tell us he is listening to Take it Easy by The Eagles. ‘I've got seven women on my mind / Four that wanna own me / Two that wanna stone me’.

ArtReview hadn’t imagined that the segue-way into talking about Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s installation at Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, was to be provided by soft rock lyrics, but it’s happy that it has turned out that way, because Steegmann Mangrané has covered the booth in a layer of stones (stone – rock – soft rock, ok, the poetic, philosophical, Catalan artist deserves better than that!). One half of this rocky floor is made up of dark stones, the other half white stones, the comings and goings of fair visitors gradually eroding the once strict division. Hung, precariously from a length of string stretched from the exhibition hall ceiling are two sticks, each split with a large rock squeezed between. These new works, taking natural elements and moulding them into unfamiliar arrangements demonstrate the artist’s collision of formalism and the natural world – something that ArtReview’s feature on the artist in the September 2014 issue described as being formalist interventions ‘arbitrarily imposed upon a landscape, which is at once structured by and totally indifferent to it’.

Nancy Holt, whom ArtReview met for its September 2012 issue, was also one for interrupting, investigating and co-opting the landscape. Two of the several works by the late artist on show at Madrid / Ibiza gallery Parra and Romero’s booth, document, over several images, Holt’s friend and fellow artist Joan Jonas climbing a sun-drenched rocky terrain. Over the Hill (Joan Jonas) and Down Hill (Joan Jonas), both from 1968, perhaps hark back to enlightenment ideas of the sublime, testing and questioning humanity’s dominance over nature. Jonas seems small in this landscape, and yet she, as a human figure, is the focus of our attention.

Online exclusive published 18 June 2015