A stone's throw from Urs Fischer's Untitled (Bread House) (2004–2005), a monumental house constructed from decaying loaves of bread at Art Basel's Unlimited, or the fresh-to-market $40 million Basquiat (Hardware Store, 1983) at Van de Weghe, there were gems by emerging and overlooked artists to be found at the city's well-respected satellite fairs.
Despite an expected abundance of collector-friendly painting, many galleries utilised this opportunity to deliver ambitious presentations, from sculpture to film and immersive installations. Positive energy radiated around both Liste and June Art Fair at the end of the week, with many dealers reporting strong sales and serious curatorial attendance.
Ernst Yohji Jäger (b. 1990) at Galerie Crèvecœur, Liste
Ernst Yohji Jäger's ethereal and timeless paintings captured the attention of visitors at Crèvecœur's Liste booth. Works such as Untitled 3 (Bat) (2021) feature solitary and androgynous figures distracted by thought in seemingly pre-modern settings.
The artist is inspired by artists like Helene Schjerfbeck, Miljenko Stančić, and Yoshitaka Amano. Perhaps explaining the attraction of his works in our contemporary moment, Philip Hinge once described how 'Jäger's painted world emanates the feeling of being lonely despite being surrounded by people.'
Jäger's work is already gaining international attention with recent shows at Croy Nielsen, Vienna and 15 Orient, New York. Prices ranged between USD 7,000–16,000.
Zadie Xa (b.1983) at Galeria Agustina Ferreyra, Liste
Korean-Canadian artist Zadie Xa's research-led practice includes painting, installation and performance, traversing ecology, indigenous human histories, and the notion of self-representation itself.
As Xa recently explained to Ocula Magazine, 'I'm interested in representation and how I'm represented, or how people of colour, or women, are represented.'
Xa has recently received solo exhibitions at Remai Modern, Saskatoon; De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill-on-Sea; and Yarat Contemporary Art Space, Baku.
Edward Thomasson (b. 1985) at Southard Reid, Liste
Southard Reid presented watercolours on paper by Edward Thomasson, whose distinctive practice also encompasses performance and video-based work, which has been shown at institutions such as Studio Voltaire and the Roberts Institute of Art, often in collaboration with Lucy Beech.
In these mesmerising new works, textual phrases with poetic and personal meanings are constructed from nimble and contorted figures, undoubtedly asking questions about the future of social interaction in a post-pandemic world.
Thomasson describes how the works 'originate from the idea of people muddling through an idea together, thoughts collectively shared, like song lyrics, dances, plays.' The gallery's associate director, Jessica Ramsay, added that Thomasson's paintings themselves are 'choreographed like a performance'. Works on view were priced between USD 4,300–14,800.
Amanda del Valle (b. 1998) at Weiss Falk, Liste
Weiss Falk presented an immersive installation by Amanda del Valle titled Digitalbath.
The translucent structure contained the strewn remains of a teenager's bedroom, with drawings on the walls that combine the aesthetics of the Japanese 'magical girl' subculture with Tom of Finland's eroticism.
'They are equally cute, sexy, brutal, rude and innocent', noted Mitchell Anderson in the accompanying text. Prices for the encompassing drawings ranged between USD 1,500–1,700, and many of them had been sold by the end of the fair.
Kiarash Khazaei (b.1983) at Lungley, Liste
Kiarash Khazaei's transfixing neo-surrealist works synthesise fantastical dreamscapes with tacit and overtly queer references.
Impeccably rendered and sometimes alienating, paintings such as Full Moon (2021)—laden with symbolist imagery—recall the coded intentions of artists such as David Wojnarowicz and Martin Wong.
Born in Iran and now based in Paris, Khazaei studied at Frankfurt's reputable Städelschule under Amy Sillman and Monika Baer, graduating in 2019.
Gallery Founder Mark Lungley sold both of the larger-scale works in the early days of the fair and looks forward to presenting the artist's first U.K. solo exhibition in his soon-to-open West End gallery space next year.
Atiéna R. Kilfa (b. 1990) at Neu Alte Brücke, Liste
Atiena R Kilfa's transfixing, slow-moving film Primitive Tales (Mother, Daughter) (2021)—presented as a monumental, nine-part installation—invites viewers to consider the perception of female and Black bodies in a post-digital world.
Curator Justin Polera dubbed the gallery's presentation the 'most talked-about booth at LISTE' on Instagram. Gallery founder Mark Dickenson was happy to report strong sales and curatorial interest throughout the fair. Also producing photographic work and digital prints, Kilfa is one to watch.
Li Ran (b. 1986) at Christian Andersen, June Art Fair
Although primarily known as a subversive video artist, Christian Andersen showed Li Ran's recent paintings in dialogue with sculptures by Sidsel Meineche Hansen.
Rendered immaculately in oil on canvas, Ran's figurative works capture the characteristic and compelling sense of ennui found in those of market stars Kai Althoff, Julien Nguyen, and Sanya Kantarovsky.
Part of a series oriented around the modern Chinese intellectual, Ran explained the works shown with Christian Andersen speak 'to a context of an intellectual rupture, discussions on the singularity of historical narratives, and the dichotomy of critical thought in modern China.'
Arnold J. Kemp (b. 1968) at Martos Gallery, June Art Fair
Arnold J. Kemp's layered and conceptual practice investigates the relationship between language and Black, colonial, and queer histories.
Martos Gallery's June presentation highlighted Kemp's ongoing interest in absent bodies. A group of unworn and hand-crafted belts allude to the social stigma of being Black and queer in post-AIDS America, while a group of books by a different 'Arnold J. Kemp' are part of a labour-intensive project to discover the history of figures with the same name as the artist.
Writing on his work earlier this year, painter Mary Weatherford noted, 'Kemp is an incredible artist whose own work has been overlooked because of his incredible career as an educator... Kemp is also a creator of fictions, and his work is so meta and brilliant.'
Martos Gallery's presentation follows an acclaimed solo exhibition at their New York location earlier this year.
Dominique Knowles (b.1996) at The Green Gallery, June Art Fair
Rising-star painter Dominique Knowles has recently shown with Andrew Kreps Gallery and Galerie Emanuel Layr.
At June, The Green Gallery showed a group of new works that mark the sad loss of the artist's long-loved horse, Tazz. Writing on similar works in Frieze, Francesca Gavin said, 'these paintings exude a sense of the collective grief of our current moment—an era of climate crisis, pandemic death and profound loss.' Medium-sized paintings on display in the booth were priced at USD 9,000.
Marliz Frencken (b.1955), Althuis Hofland Fine Arts, June Art Fair
A standout work showing with Amsterdam-based Althuis Hofland Fine Arts, priced at USD 27,900, depicted a twisting group of flowers alongside carefully rendered text reading 'Beautiful Roses' (Beautiful Roses, 1987).
A seemingly unusual choice at a fair with a youthful focus, Hofland explained that although Frencken found success early—with the Rubell Museum acquiring one work—due to motherhood and lack of exposure in the pre-internet era, her innovative contributions to painting are only just starting to be rediscovered. —[O]
Main image: Paintings by Ernst Yohji Jäger on view at Galerie Crèvecœur, Liste, Basel (20–26 September 2021). Courtesy Galerie Crèvecœur.