Art Art Basel Unlimited 2018

6 Highlights from the Unlimited fair including works by Matthew Barney, Mark Leckey and Fred Sandback.

He Xiangyu, Untitled, 2018, White Space Beijing

In this sculpture the Chinese artist placed a single white egg on a huge egg carton coated with 99.9% pure gold. The work is a comment on China’s controversial one-child policy where a couple was allowed only one offspring.

On the wall hangs a small and sweet picture of the artist himself as a child on Tiananmen square. He was born in the period of the one-child policy (1979-2015). Standing in front of the work the lone egg looks lonely and could be read as a comment on loneliness as the child grows up without any siblings. To He Xiangyu’s parents and for many other parents in China, their only child must have felt like their golden child.

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Seven-part Triangular Construction), 1982/2011, David Zwirner

The majority of works on display at Unlimited are shown in a closed space so the artist can create a mini-universe within the space.

My favourite mini-universes were created by artists using a simple material: thread. For this elegant sculpture Fred Sandback used black acrylic yarn to form seven freestanding triangles. With minimal intervention a big, but elegant tent has been installed in the room. The strange thing is that the room feels empty and filled at the same time. I could see the other side of the room, but I felt I could not reach it. The threads acted like a demarcation tape telling you: DO NOT CROSS.

Lygia Pape, Ttéia, B, 2000/2018, Hauser & Wirth

With golden thread and nails the Brazilian artist created seven transparant tubes in various lengths floating in the air. This magical work was installed in the top right corner of a large, dramatically lit space with only a few spots shining on the threads that were catching hightlights. It looked like a delicate, wondrous spider web had been woven on the walls.

Mark Leckey, Pearl Vision, 2016, Gavin Brown Enterprise

I entered the room showing Mark Leckey’s video projected on a curved wall at the moment when a snare drum was floating and rotating just like the spaceships in the magnificent opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odessey’. We can clearly see the brand name of the chrome snare drum, Pearl Vision, which insiders consider to be the pinnacle of drum kits. As the snare drum is filmed in extreme close-up it highlights what a beautiful object it actually is. A wet dream for drum fetishists.

The instrument is played by a faceless drummer with the snare drum positioned between his alternately red-panted and naked legs. The video becomes suggestive when a female voice announces; “I’m ready”. We see the drummer playing the drums in a birthday suit and a drumstick tries to penetrate a hole in the snare drum.

In the context of a rock band instruments can have erotic associations. Sometimes when a solo guitarist plays a solo a blissful, facial expression during orgasm appears on his face. Showing the face of the drummer in this suggestive video would have been an anti-climax.

Matthew Barney, Partition, 2002/2018, Sadie Coles HQ, Gladstone Gallery, Regen Projects

The full-scale bar cast in plastic is a reinterpretation of an installation sculpted from petroleum jelly that featured in Barney’s film ‘Cremaster 3’. The film is set in the 1930s during the time of the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York that was built by laborers of which many were Irish immigrants and Freemasons. The fascinating bar features some Masonic symbols like a pair of compasses underneath the bar stools.

Another highlight from Unlimited is ‘Death Star’ (II) an impressive and haunting work by Robert Longo that we already included in our first report on the fair.

Art Basel 2018

Written by Thierry Somers