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Art lovers, rejoice! My visit to Art Basel

Art Basel 2014 Official

Last week, Basel was offering the perfect alternative for anyone who did not want to watch soccer: Art Basel. Over 300 galleries from all over the world presented paintings, sculptures, installations, videos, prints, photography, and performance. Around 70’000 visitors were surrounded by art worth three to four billion dollars.

That is a lot of art and a lot of people. Art Basel is serious business and at times, the halls around Exhibition Square were as busy as a beehive. With thousands of art loving bees wandering through a maze of booths trying not to miss anything. On Saturday, I bravely tried to find a balance between everyone's FOMO (fear of missing out) and the ever so present sensory overload that usually happens after a few hours of art watching.

Now, a day later, I wonder how I could put my experience into words.

Should I ponder questions such as if there is an art bubble and when it will burst? Or should I choose another angle and just use all of the fancy words I can think of to write things like "What's immediately striking – and what was hinted at in the artist's early works - is the contrasting depth of its distorted use of negative space and therefore the organic, sometimes even mythical, representation of the painting's pure essence.”

No, I shouldn’t choose any of those approaches. Writing about art and Art is tricky – it seems that both need to be experienced in real life. But how are we going to do that?

We can try with a little journey: A journey that shows a tiny fraction of Art Basel 2014 in 25 random pictures, accompanied by some of the thousands of random thoughts that went through my head while I was surrounded by billions of dollars' worth of modern and contemporary art.

I would like to point out that I am neither a photojournalist, nor did I have special permission to take pictures. I only had my iPhone and my enthusiasm (which is trying to make up for the lack of professionalism).

Let's art, shall we?


I've mentioned it before, 300 galleries means a lot of art. All kinds of art... Shiny art:

Art Basel - Julio_le_Parc

Art where you immediately wonder how many vehicles were used for its transportation:

Art Basel - Richard_Nonas

Or how it was transported at all:

Art Basel - Giuseppe_Penone

Art that’s thought-provoking. And at the same time, makes you grateful that you’re not here on a field trip and therefore won’t have to write an essay on the decay of our society’s values:

Art Basel - Jim_Shaw

Art that lets you participate:

Art Basel - Paper Leaves

Of course, there’s art that looks like a familiar face. A familiar face that just sold for 35 million dollars:

Art Basel - Andy Warhol

And pieces that pleasantly surprise you because you realize that said (pink) face wasn't just a pop art artist but also made beautiful drawings:

Art Basel - Andy Warhol Boy Seated

There's art that makes you smile:

Art Basel - Gallery_Blondeau_Cie

And laugh:

Art Basel - Rob_Pruitt

Art that inspires long conversations with friends and the beverage of your choice:

Art Basel - Jeppe_Hein

After a while however, you're not sure who's looking at whom:

Art Basel - Hanne_Darboven

So much art. Your thoughts are echoing in your head:

Art Basel - Kay_Rosen

And sound a lot like this:

Art Basel - Mel_Bochner_Blah

Things become blurry:

Art Basel - Mads_Gamdrup

Food would probably help:

Art Basel - Robert_Indiana

But sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish what’s art and what’s a snack:

Art Basel - Table

Eventually, you realize that – even though you are at an art exhibition - not everything in a frame is considered art:

Art Basel - Emergency

But then again, a lot is:

Art Basel - Inaki_Bonillas

Art apparently needs a name tag (and a price tag):

Art Basel - not art

Every now and then, you see a painting where none of that matters. Because it’s simply breathtaking and no photo in this world could do its beauty justice. You look at it and you somehow connect with it.  Even though this is one of those you had to be there moments, this is my favorite piece from Art Basel:

Art Basel - Makoto_Saito

So what we learned is that art touches something inside of you, usually has a name (and a price) tag but also lies in the eyes of the beholder:

Art Basel - Nandipha_Mntambo

Some of it also costs a lot of money. Some of it gives the buyer money in return:

Art Basel - Scott_Campbell

Nevertheless, sometimes you can’t help but think that "Gee, I could do this!"

Art Basel - Gardar_Eide_Einarsson

"Or that!"

Art Basel - Michael_Krebber

The answer: What is holding you back?


So here's my conclusion about Art Basel:

Art Basel is intense - in the best possible way. You never get to see so much international art and so many interesting people in one place. It is best enjoyed by someone who has a bit of experience looking at art because the exhibit gets crowded at times.

If you want to tilt your head while stroking your chin and truly spend time and thoughts in front of a piece, I recommend a museum. In Basel, it's the more, the merrier.

And somehow, that's exactly what makes the experience...

Art Basel - Mel_Bochner_Amazing(Feature image copyright by Art Basel 2014, Metro Pictures, New York, MCH Messe Schweiz/Basel AG)


Isabelle is a copywriter intern at EF Education First in Zurich and an online student at Penn State Word Campus. After living abroad for almost a decade, she took her two (US) cats and moved back to her Swiss roots in 2013. Isabelle suffers from chronic Wanderlust and loves coffee.

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