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All the Fun of the Fair

Artsy creative director Marina Cashdan debriefs us on Art Basel

All the Fun of the Fair

Marina Cashdan is the Creative Director and Head of Editorial at  Artsy, which houses the most-read online art publication. Also an accomplished journalist, Marina took some time out of her busy schedule to give us the lowdown on one of the art world's most exciting annual events.



Header: Marina Cashdan by Antony Crook // Credit: Ungestalt by Philipp Hänger


Art Basel is always a huge occasion with many composite and fringe events. What was top of your list this year?

Aside from the main fair (Art Basel), I went to Basel’s sister fair, Design Miami/, and to Liste — a smaller, edgier fair dedicated to younger galleries — in the former Warteck Brewery building. I typically like to finish Liste with a drink at a tiny bar at the end of an indeterminable number of stairs to the very top of the building’s tower, called Milk and Wodka. I believe it’s the highest point in Basel. I'd say only about 10 people can fit in it and there is an outdoor terrace where you get an incredible view of the city. Just outside of Art Basel, in the Messeplatz, I loved experiencing Claudia Comte’s installation “Now I Won” — the artist’s version of a fun fair with a dance-off, bowing, arm wrestling, and more. Unfortunately I didn't make it to much beyond that, as we had an intense week of filming for a video series we produced with UBS, "How to Basel with…," for our social media channels (I encourage you to watch the series here).


I was sorry to miss the Wolfgang Tillmans and Tino Sehgal shows at the Fondation Beyeler and a show entitled “Ungestalt” at Kunsthalle Basel featuring an eclectic, cross-generational group of artists (Marcel Duchamp to Tomo Savić-Gecan to Trisha Donnely to Eric N. Mack). I heard good things from colleagues, though.



Credit: Warteck Brewery Building by Daniel Spehr 


Which galleries and artists did impress you the most at Art Basel 2017?

The Unlimited sector tends to be my favorite sector in the fair. It’s split off from the main portion of the convention center in a space that can house monumental sized works. Curated for the sixth year by the very talented Gianni Jetzer — who is also a curator for the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. —  it’s organized more like an exhibition than an art fair; you can (literally) get lost amongst the works in Unlimited. A few of the artists/works that I was particularly drawn to in the section this year is Donna Huanca’s tableau-installation; a large-scale immersive installation by Sue Williamson; the last work made by Chris Burden before his passing, which is an operational airship; Mickalene Thomas's video work; and a historical work by filmmaker-artist Stan VanDerBeek, entitled “Movie Mural.”


In the main part of the fair, I enjoyed the Feature sector, which highlights the works of historical artists — often as solo booths or pairs — and on the other end of the spectrum, I also liked Statements, featuring more experimental galleries and emerging artists. And favorite booths included: 47 Canal, Jack Shainman gallery, The Box, David Nolan, Canada Gallery, Sadie Coles, and Antenna Space. Additionally, the works on display in the UBS Lounge — all selected from their collection — were a treat when taking a coffee or lunch break.



Credit: Chris Burden by Art Basel



Credit: Fondation Beyeler by Mark Niedermann


What are your favorite places in the city of Basel to start or end the day? 

If I have a breakfast meeting while in Basel, I enjoy La Fourchette. Someone took me there last year, as it was near a flat I rented, and I loved it. After the fair but before dinner, I recommend a cocktail at the Les Trois Rois hotel on the Rhine; they’re exquisite (and exquisitely priced) cocktails. You can also opt for cocktails and bar snacks in lieu of dinner, or jump to the brasserie for dinner. If I want an unfussy dinner with friends or colleagues, we tend to go to Volkshaus or Lily’s. There’s also Zum Isaak in the quiet, old town of Basel, which is tucked away and has a charming garden.



Credit: Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois



Credit: Lily's Original by Lily's 


How does Art Basel bring inspiration to you personally, and professionally as Editor in Chief of Artsy magazine?

What’s most inspiring to me about Basel week is the collection of people who come from all over the world — whether dealers, collectors, curators, artists, writers — to attend the fairs. Basel has been known to be the ‘serious’ fair but I don’t consider it serious at all. To me, it’s an opportunity to both see art and have meaningful meetings and experiences without all the hype or spectacle that you often get around the Miami edition. There’s a spirit during art fair weeks that you can’t replicate, even though there is an inevitable commercial undertone. It’s also a time when all the local museums put on their most ambitious exhibitions.


Parcours, the public art portion of Art Basel, is also an important part of this Basel spirit; they commission site-specific works to be integrated into the city — a great way to bring art outside of the white box and to an audience who may never enter the convention center. This year Parcours was curated by SALTS gallery director Samuel Leuenberger, and included works by Ai Weiwei, Reza Aramesh, Nathalie Djurberg, Cally Spooner, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and so many others. That combination has been very exciting!



Credit: Schaulager by Tom Bisig


Credit: Schaulager by Tom Bisig


Which other platforms are relevant for you year around? 

It has been hard to not get consumed by the news on a daily basis (and now my morning commutes are reserved for the  New York Times’s The Daily podcast). But for creative inspiration I look at  Magnum Photos  (they have a beautifully designed new site),  Le CiNéMa Club , Mousse, AIGA’s Eye on Design blog, the podcast  99 Percent Invisible , and Staff Pick recommendations on Vimeo. For the business side of my brain, I read media-related publications and blogs like  Digiday , Percolate, and I subscribe to the WSJ CMO newsletter.


I still love print, too, including Aperture’s magazine, which has some of the crispest design I’ve experienced and overall a beautiful brand expression. Despite having shed a majority of my personal magazine collection, Aperture is one publication I will not give up. In fact, most of my recent issues are on my desk at work and I flip through them frequently. I also love Gather Journal, for food and other inspiration. 


For in-person events, my fair and art event circuit is more limited since my son was born but I always go to Art Basel in Basel and Miami; Frieze in London and New York; and The Armory Show; and I try to make it to important biennials and triennials. I also try to plan art weekends once a month, whether in New York City or elsewhere. While I’m more limited to how much I can see with a toddler in tow, I also see art very differently now with a child’s perspective and wonderment. Our last art adventure was to the Whitney Biennial where my son was obsessed with Samara Golden’s trippy-beautiful installation. 

12 / 06 / 2017 // by LigaStudios Team

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