The feuilleton coverage of Art Basel has affirmed one thing: Swiss art fairs seem to be spared from the looming financial crisis in Europe. With the millions being tossed around for Richters and Rothkos earlier this month, the ominous debt shadow creeping across the continent was easy to ignore. The Süddeutsche Zeitung pointed to the shift of sales toward Asia, which has surpassed the United States as the largest market for art and antiques. Catrin Lorch was more surprised by the lack of white male American artists being shown. She went on to point out how the fair, which was founded by four gallerists, now functions like an international corporation. Meanwhile, Le Monde applauded the sales but grew bored of the lack of spectacle, stating: “Art Basel: solid, not hysterical.”
Ai Weiwei, now released from house arrest, spoke to Mark Siemons for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “In this globalized world, Europe, China, and the US depend on each other, [as] ‘strategic partners,’” he said. “That’s very important, because it means that China will have to adapt to universal values. The West, at the same time, will see its morals challenged. The world is not driven by business alone.” Meanwhile, Alison Clayman, director of the documentary about the artist’s life leading up to his imprisonment, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, spoke with Monopol about working with the artist on her film. “The values of which [Ai] speaks and that he says motivate him, are incredibly sincere,” said Clayman, who went on to add, “He is one of the few artists who make headlines in the political section of the newspapers. Many believe that his fame is based on his political engagement and not on his art.”
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jeff Koons spoke about his latest pair of exhibitions at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung and the Schirn Kunsthalle. He discussed his philosophy behind his balloon sculptures, stating that they are a metaphor for human life. He also noted that his interest in sexuality has to do with self-confidence, and what it means to be a human being. Yet he rejected the notion that a narcissistic edge appears in his work, explaining that he has integrated images of himself into his works as a way to relate things in human life together. And he clarified that the mirrored surfaces appearing in his works are more about confirming an observer than reflecting the self.
Artist Daniel Richter is in the process of supporting a film about the history of Franco’s Spain and the 300 settlements he founded, reports Die Tageszeitung. Richter is selling four-part collage series in an edition of fifty, for $400 each, to raise money for the documentary film project Franco’s Settlers Los Colonos del Caudillo, by Lucia Palacios and Dietmar Post. The two directors argue that the post-Franco transition to democracy also ushered in a historical amnesia, in which Francoist former leaders were absorbed into a new system, their criminal histories forgotten.
Reviews are in for the thirteenth edition of Documenta, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and European critics’ impressions have been overwhelmingly positive. Kia Vahland, for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, was less interested in the posthumanist stance that Christov-Bakargiev adopted in interviews, and more focused on the exhibition’s success via its subtle political gestures. Vahland highlighted a work and lecture by theater director and artist Rabih Mroué (covered last week here in Artforum.com)which featured footage made by Syrian protestors using their cell phone videocameras to record government snipersas a successful example of Christov-Bakargiev’s politics influencing the show. Works by Emily Carr pleasantly surprised the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, while the absence of art’s “usual suspects” gratified Sebastian Preuss of Berliner Zeitung. Catrin Lorch, also in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, located the real success of Documenta 13 in its ability to propose a variety of perspectives rather than a counter world to our heavily mediated reality. Vahland summed up Kassel by stating: “It speaks of life beyond consumerism, shows the unpolished, evokes difficult emotions and rough conditions, the way people actually experience them. It goes all the way to the great questions of politics, war, and destruction, and the chances of better life conditions and having a say.”
Not so far away in Genk, Belgium, the ninth Manifesta has also elicited mostly positive reviews. Curators Cuauhtémoc Medina, Katerina Gregos, and Dawn Ades selected the town of Genk for its mining history, which can be endlessly exploited for the theme of the event and as an extended metaphor. Jörg Heiser, in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, explained that Manifesta may have stuck to its leitmotif of coal a bit too rigorously and thus didn’t produce many spectacular highlights. However, what it lacks in high notes, he suggested, it makes up for by having consistent intelligence and a dearth of the rancor usually associated with these events.
The city of Frankfurt has caused a kerfuffle for awarding the latest Theodor W. Adorno award to Judith Butler. Butler has come under fire for positions she established in her book Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, in which she both disputes Israel’s claim that it represents Jewish people and also supports––and borrowing from Arendt and Said––“the ethical position in which cohabitation is not derived from cultural sameness but the unchosen character of social plurality.” Perlentaucher quoted Micha Brumlik, who took issue with the thinker’s stance on Jihadist organizations: “To call Hezbollah, which is close to clerical-fascist Iran, and Hamas, which operates on the basis of an unambiguously antisemitic program . . . part of a global left, is either nonsense or an unwitting reactionary critique of everything that is ‘progressive.’” Lest we forget, Butler isn’t the first controversial figure to have been awarded this prize—Goddard and Derrida were also winners.
Liberation reports that Paris Photo, the French photography fair, has announced that it will start an American edition in Los Angeles’s Paramount Studios for its one-hundredth anniversary. The US edition will take place between April 24 to 28 of 2013 and will feature over eighty international galleries. The Paris Photo fair in 2011 had 135 exhibitors and attracted more than 50,000 visitors.