From June 12th through the 17th, the world's leading
fair of modern and contemporary art, Art Basel, takes place in Switzerland.
The year before some 55,000 visitors and some 1,500 journalists found their way
to Basle. In 2002, roughly the same number of art lovers is expected. 268 galleries from around the globe present works by over
1,000 artists of the 20th and 21st century. 99% of last year's exhibitors
reapplied, testifying to the fact that Art Basel is not only the largest and most
important art fair of its kind, but also the most successful, a must for
galleries and collectors.
The range of works for sale can be illustrated with a few numbers. Probably the most expensive
piece of art can be found at Acquavella, New York City. The
gallery offers Nature Morte by
Fernand Léger (1914, 100 x 65 cm, oil on canvas) for $16.5 million. For this price, you get a first-class,
museum quality painting.
On the other side of the time and price range you can also find quality among the
not less convincing
brand new works by Claudia Matzko at Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, California.
conceptual artist, who often uses minimalist serialization, was born in 1958 in
Providence, Rhode Island, earned a fine arts degree from Yale University,
lives in Baltimore and teaches full-time at the Maryland Institute,
College of Art. She is an intellectual artist and a happily married mother of
She has just finished Voices#1-6. At Art Basel, the six cibachrome prints mounted on cintra
(35.56 x 27.94 cm), made in
an edition of four, are offered for $5,500. You can also get a single print
for $1,200 (see photograph on the right).
Claudia Matzko's suite of photographs depicts six heads in various ambiguous
states of vocalization - they may screaming, singing, laughing, crying - drawn
from deep within the body. The impression of hysteric or euphoric tension in
the work is heightened by the ghost-like effects of flattening the picture
plane. Using specially treated panes of glass placed before each person being
photographed, the figures seem to emerge out of a strange atmosphere of fog or
from a block of ice. The mysterious spatial qualities of the image, coupled
with the intensity of the vocalization depicted, implies both a state of
anxiety in the subject, as well an imagined state or state of memory, evoked through the effort and strain of projecting the voice.
The notion of voice, the social limitations of language, silence and its
psychic value, gender, materiality and immateriality as well as visibility and
invisibility are among the main subjects of Claudia Matzko's artwork. In 1999,
for instance, she exhibited video stills of her vocal chords at Angles. By the way,
in Autumn 2002, Claudia Matzko will have her 20th solo exhibition,
her sixth at Angles. The gallery represents the artist together with Feigen
Contemporary, New York City.
The Matthew Marks Gallery, New York City, offers the silkscreen 1. Postkarte
(Chicago) by Katharina Fritsch. Born in 1956 in Essen, the German
installation artist who lives and works in Düsseldorf has studied at the
city's Art Academy, in particular with Fritz Schwegler. She created her
relation with the opening show of Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21 Ständehaus
in Düsseldorf where she
currently has a personal exhibition (get the Katharina Fritsch catalogue in German from
the English edition from Amazon.de,
Katharina Fritsch enhances the effect and impact of her art by the ambivalent
relation that her works maintain with the places of their showing. They are
often presented in a way that they seem misplaced. Her pieces of seemingly
apparent realism and banality refer to the symbolic and the unconscious.
Archetypes, cultural memory, mortality and the relation of man and woman are
among her main subjects. She plays with formal notions such as figure and
ground. Her use of scale, continuity and repetition often give her works an
eerie feeling, a touch of sarcastic humor.
Art Basel, although a stronghold of Western art, is open to artists and
galleries worldwide. Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, showcases works by
Ham Sup, among others. Born in Chuncheon in the eastern part of Korea in 1942, he graduated
from Hongik University's Department of Pictorial Art in 1966. Based on earlier
experimentation, his third private exhibition in 1985 marked a gradual move
from canvas to works on Korean paper, a direction he has persisted in ever
In the first part of his studies, Ham Sup was fascinated by European
Post-Impressionism. Later, he became deeply involved with Art Informel, in
particular with the work by French artist Pierre Soulages. Art Informel
artists abandoned geometrical and figurative forms in favor of the discovery
of a new artistic language created with freshly invented methods and using
improvised shapes. Ham Sup can see in the Korean War of the 1950s, in which
the country collapsed, a strong parallel to European Art Informel: create
something new out of the ashes.
In the 1970s, Ham Sup first experimented with Korean mulberry paper when his
work centered on the idea of destruction and re-construction, which he
expressed by tearing the paper, soaking it and applying it again. He did not
achieve the results he wanted and, therefore, returned to oil painting for
several years. In the 1980s however, he began to use Korean paper again, made
from the bark of the mulberry tree.
Korean paper is a traditional material, for artistic purposes used for
calligraphy and in daily life for doors, windows, hats, umbrellas, shoes,
dishes and more. Commercial paper, due to the use of chemicals, is 75% acid.
The paper hand-made in a very traditional way that Ham Sup employs is less than
35% acid and, therefore, can be preserved much longer.
The calligraphy Ham Sup uses in his art comes from only two old books: Chook
Ga (The Blessing) and Dong Mong Seon Seub, a children's schoolbook (based on the catalogue Ham Sup. Enthusiasm Day Dream 1995-2001, Galerie
BHAK, Seoul, 2001, 109 p.).
At Art 33 Basel, several galleries present fine solo exhibitions. The gallery Joan T. Washburn, New
York City, represents The Pollock-Krasner Foundation and, therefore, one can
find impressive fourteen early
works by Jackson Pollock from 1938 to 1944 at their stand, together with a few early
Galerie Thomas, Munich, focuses on Max Ernst (1891 Brühl - 1976 Paris).
Impressive twenty-nine paintings and one sculpture by the German artist are
for sale. Among them is Janus (1973,
43.7 x 21 x 22.5 cm),
a bronze with green patina, ca. 80,000 euros. The recourse to Greek and Roman
mythology was a formal principle of Surrealism. Janus is the Roman god of the
Beginning, symbolized by doors and gates. In art, Janus is represented by two
faces looking in opposite directions. Max Ernst enlarged the mythological
meaning of Janus with allusions to the double meaning of male and female by
using frog and turtle as sexual characteristics of the sculpture (see the
photograph on the right).
The leading dealer for 19th century photographs, Hans P. Kraus, Jr. features Gustave Le Gray
(1820-1884) and his circle. The French photographer was ignored by the large
public until the auction of the collection André
et Marie-Thérèse Jammes in 1999, where his Grande Vague (1857)
fetched a record auction price. Gustave Le Gray was a painter first, and as
such a pupil of Paul Delaroche, whom he followed to Rome in 1843. There, he
married the daughter of his landlady. His wife gave birth to several children.
It was only after his return to Paris in 1847 that the artist turned to
photography. His work awakened the curiosity of the intellectual and artistic
elite of the French capital. The photographer was also active in the forest of
Fontainebleau, where he worked in the company of the first painters of Barbizon.
In 1855, Gustave Le
Gray installed himself in a luxury atelier at boulevard des Capucines where he
realized his masterpieces from 1856 to 1859. Among the people who commissioned
works from him was Napoléon III. For instance, he asked Le Gray to
photograph the inauguration of the military camp of Châlons-sur-Marne. The
aristocracy and leading politicians commissioned portraits. In 1860, the
photographer embarked together with French writer Alexandre Dumas on a ship which
sailed to Palermo. The city was in the midst of an insurrection. Dumas met
Garibaldi and Gustave Le Gray photographed the ruins and barricades. The
photographer traveled on to, among other cities, Malta and Alexandria and
ended up in Cairo where he became drawing teacher a the military school. He died in 1884 in poverty, at his side
was a young Greek woman who had just given birth to his son.
At Art Basel, Hans P. Kraus, Jr. offers over twenty recently acquired
photographs by Gustave Le Gray and his circle, along with other seminal 19th
century photographers such as Roger Fenton and Henry Fox Talbot. Among Gustave
Le Gray's most celebrated Fontainebleau photographs is Beech Tree, Forest
of Fontainebleau (ca. 1855-1857, 32 x 41.3 cm, albumen print from a wet
collodion negative). Currently, only six copies of the Beech Tree are
known. You can get yours from Hans P. Kraus, Jr. for $400,000. By the way, an important
retrospective of the French photographer takes currently place at the
Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris (get the catalogue Gustave Le Gray in English from
or the original French edition from Amazon.fr).
Afterwards, The Getty in Los Angeles will show an important Gustave Le Gray
exhibition from July 9 to September 29, 2002.
Claudia Matzko: Voice #6, 2002. The last of the six cibachrome prints
mounted on cintra (35.56 x 27.94 cm), made in an edition of four. The
series of six prints sells for $5,500, a single print for $1,200.
Photograph: courtesy Angles Gallery, Santa Monica.
Lynn Zelevanski: Sense and Sensibility: Women Artists and Minimalism in the
Nineties. The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, 64 p. In this paperback
accompanying the 1994 MoMA exhibition organized by Lynn Zelevanski you can
find information on Claudia Matzko and other female artists.
Katharina Fritsch: 1. Postkarte (Chicago), 2001/2002. Silkscreen
printed on cintra, 200 x 258 cm, edition of three, ca. $36,000. Photograph:
courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York City.
Iwona Ed Blazwick, ed.: Katharina Fritsch. Kunstsammlung
Nordrhein-Westfalen K21 Ständehaus, April 20 - September 8, 2002 (in
collaboration with Tate Modern, London). Catalogue: German edition by Hatje Cantz, 2002, 128 p. Get
it from Amazon.de.
English edition by Tate Gallery Publishing. Get it from Amazon.de,
Ham Sup: Day Dream 1074, 2001. Korean paper, 113 x 162.5 cm,
[correction June 26, 2002: ca. $15,000]. Photograph: courtesy Gallery Hyundai, Seoul.
Galerie Thomas, Munich offered e.g.:
Max Ernst: Janus, 1973. Bronze,
green patina, 43.7 x 21 x 22.5 cm. Signed; Epreuve d'Essai. Edition of
18 + 0 in three patina (black, green, brown). Stamp Cire Perdue Valsuani,
Paris; ca. 80,000 euros.
Gustave Le Gray, 1820-1884. Sous la direction de Sylvie Aubenas.
Gallimard, 2002, 398 p. ISBN: 2070117189. Get it from Amazon.fr.
Get the English edition from Amazon.com.
After the current exhibition at Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, The
Getty in Los Angeles will show an important Gustave Le Gray exhibition from
July 9 to September 29, 2002.