Art Basel: Artist Sam Falls Is Anxious From Trams; '14 Rooms' Shows Nudity, Awkward Body Positions

2:33 PM PST 06/24/2014 by Christopher Wyrick
Courtesy of Fitz and Co

Among one of the standout pieces from this year's art fair, which ended last weekend in Switzerland, was a collection of performance art works from Marina Abramovic, Bruce Nauman and Tino Seghal for "14 Rooms."

If you haven’t been to Basel, Switzerland, you probably haven't experienced a tram jam. It involves bikes, tourists, expensive German automobiles and a few trams, which you must learn to negotiate if you're not zipping around in an Art Basel VIP BMW like L.A. artist Sam Falls and his wife Erin. Not that Falls was enjoying the whole ordeal.

Stepping into the VIP car service line, the art world rock star told The Hollywood Reporter that his first experience at Art Basel gave him "severe anxiety that I try not to show and trying to be away from this area as much as possible." He said he just wanted to get back to Los Angeles to go surfing.

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There were not many artists there at the fair, which is not unusual. What was surprising, according to several dealers from L.A., was the lack of heavy hitter collectors from the States. Los Angeles gallerists Tim Blum and Jeff Poe of Blum & Poe, David Kordansky of David Kordansky Gallery, Shaun Caley Regen of Regen Projects and Honor Fraser of Honor Fraser Gallery were among the few who made the trek to Basel this year.

Falls and L.A. mainstay Jim Shaw were featured in "Unlimited" — one of the most successful and least commercial sectors of the main Art Basel fair. Falls was the youngest artist included in this highlight section of the fair. His work — an enormous sun-faded orange swath of canvas — dominated the hall full of dense, serious sculptures and installation works. Speaking about the ethereal quality of his work, "Untitled (Pallet 9, Pomona)" (2013), Falls said succinctly: “It's nice to be able to maximize the volume without the weight, which is kind of what California does."

Among the art world luminaries present at the fair were artist Anish Kapoor; Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist; publisher Benedikt Taschen; hoteliers and collectors Jason and Michelle Rubell; curator Jeffery Deitch; architect Kulapat Yantrasast; artist Mark Bradford and new MOCA director Philippe Vergne.

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The 44th annual art fair's sales were reported to be robust already, as the VIP preview of the fair took place on June 18. Among the major sales reported, Skarstedt Gallery of New York sold a work by Andy Warhol, entitled "Self-Portrait (Fright Wig)" from 1986 for an unreported sum, though the asking price was around $35 million. David Zwirner (New York, London) sold a work by Jeff Koons for $5 million; a Bruce Nauman piece for $3.2 million; and a Gerhard Richter artwork for $2 million; and Annely Juda Fine Art (London) sold a painting in four parts by David Hockney for over $4 million.

An acclaimed new spectacle from this year's fair is a collection of performance art works called "14 Rooms," where viewers enter mirror door rooms off a central hall and are confronted with unimaginable things: a nude woman suspended and seemingly crucified on a wall blasted by a theater light directly across from her as she lifts her arms from her sides above her head in slow rotation (by artist Marina Abramovic); a man alternating awkward body positions in relation to the floor and the wall (artist Bruce Nauman); or two people completing a conversation by alternating speaking every other word (artist Tino Seghal).

According to curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, he says "14 Rooms" was conceived in collaboration with fellow curator Klaus Biesenbach. 'We thought it could be wonderful to do a sculpture show where the sculptures are there from 10 in the morning 'til 6 or 7 in the evening when the museum closes and then the sculptures go home. And in the night, it's all empty and then the next day it's a sculpture show again."

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