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At Art Basel, art cannot be contained to the exhibition booth

Agnes Denes' Honoring Wheatfield - A Confrontation
Agnes Denes' Honoring Wheatfield - A Confrontation Copyright Courtesy of Art Basel
Copyright Courtesy of Art Basel
By Theo Farrant and Elise Morton with AP
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June in Switzerland can only mean one thing: Art Basel. The world’s most prestigious art fair opens to the public on Thursday (13 June) – expect fields of wheat, unusual venues, and even an animatronic gorilla.

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The 54th in-person edition of Art Basel sees 285 exhibitors from across the globe gather at the mammoth Messe convention centre, with over 4,000 artists represented at the event.

In addition to the main gallery section – showcasing modern masters alongside contemporary talents, with big names such as Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth among those exhibiting their standout materials – Art Basel welcomes large-scale works to its ‘Unlimited’ sector.

Here visitors can make the acquaintance of Ryan Gander’s animatronic gorilla ('School of languages', 2023, Lisson Gallery), immerse themselves in the serenity of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s 'Mt. Fuji' (2022, Fraenkel Gallery, in collaboration with Lisson Gallery), check out Christo’s 'Wrapped 1961 Volkswagen Beetle Saloon' (1961) at Gagosian, and be both thrilled and challenged during performance activations of Swedish artist Anna Uddenberg’s sculptural installation 'Premium Economy' (2023, Meredith Rosen Gallery and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler).

Christo’s 'Wrapped 1961 Volkswagen Beetle Saloon' (1961) at Gagosian.
Christo’s 'Wrapped 1961 Volkswagen Beetle Saloon' (1961) at Gagosian. Photo courtesy of Art Basel.

Beyond these core sectors, Art Basel’s ‘Feature’ section dedicates space to 20th-century artists, ‘Statements’ showcases emerging talents, and further sections still centre on film, editioned works and magazines.

Loath to be constrained within the walls of Messe, however (as gargantuan as it may feel), Art Basel’s Parcours section is bringing artistic flavour to the city itself.

When not enjoying a beer beside the Rhine (or even an invigorating dip), art lovers can wander down Clarastrasse to discover the works of 23 artists, who explore trade, globalisation, and ecology under the curatorial vision of Stefanie Hessler. This year, Parcours includes venues as diverse as shops, restaurants and a brewery.

Meanwhile, conceptual environmental artist Agnes Denes has installed a new edition of her iconic wheatfield, first presented in Lower Manhattan in 1982, on Messeplatz, and Petrit Halilaj’s installation 'When the sun goes away' has taken over the facade of the Hotel Merian.

Petrit Halilaj’s  installation 'When the sun goes away' on the Hotel Merian
Petrit Halilaj’s installation 'When the sun goes away' on the Hotel MerianCourtesy of Art Basel

Want to take home a memento? Enter the Art Basel Shop: a new concept store marking the brand's first foray into retail.

Art Baselis open to the public 13 – 16 June 2024.

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