Tuesday, 15 June. Day 2 of the Art Crawl and my head is throbbing. Got to the preview of the Art Statements and Art Unlimited sections of Art Basel fresh off the plane on Monday afternoon. Visited NZ’s sole representative at Art Basel, Michael Lett, who has a stand at Art Statements for the 6th year running. He is presenting a video work by Sriwhana Spong. Art Statements  consists of smaller stands accommodating newer galleries and artists, Art Unlimited appears to be an opportunity for more established galleries to present less commercial or larger scale pieces that don’t fit well in the context of the more overtly commercial main section of Art Basel.

Michael Lett at Art Statements

Other works with a slight New Zealand connection were the recent Elam artists in residence Superflex, presenting a very slickly produced film of a meticulously reproduced Macdonalds restaurant being slowly flooded with water, and a piece by Canadian Andrew Dadson which seems to be the collaboration that Bill Culbert and Ralph Hotere should have made but didn’t, called Black Painted Light, an installation of a large bank of flourescent tubes painted with thick black paint, with only small specks of light visible through flakes in the paint. It was one of my favourite pieces in the Art Unlimited section, not just because it looked like a Culbert/Hotere, but because the way it was presented in a darkened, enclosed and unventilated space meant that the bank of flouros generated a tremendous amount of heat which became obvious only as one walked closer. It literally radiated energy.

Black Light by Andrew Dadson

On Tuesday I had the privilege, courtesy of a press pass, of attending the VIP  only preview day, where the seriously blinged out billionaires were on the hunt for new trophies. I have never seen so many seriously wealthy people all in one place, and never felt so conscious of the cheapness of my wardrobe. The slickness of the main galleries compared to the relative edginess of the Statements and Unlimited galleries was clear. This was serious art for serious money, and there was  a lot of it. I thought I had finally got around most of the booths when I realised there was a whole other floor upstairs, which became the project for Wednesday.

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