Six Exhibitions to Visit in Basel and Zurich

From Małgorzata Mirga-Tas’s textiles at Karma International to Roni Horn’s ‘outtakes’ at Hauser & Wirth, here is our guide to Art Basel and Zurich Art Weekend

BY Krzysztof Kościuczuk in Critic's Guides | 09 JUN 23

Christopher Kulendran Thomas

Kunsthalle Zürich

10 June – 10 September

Aṇaṅkuperuntinaivarkal Inkaaleneraam, Valimai, 2022. Courtesy: the artist and KW Institute for Contemporary Art; Photo: Frank Sperling

Reviewing Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s 2022 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, for The New York Times, writer Travis Diel asked: ‘Can art change the world? Has Guernica ever stopped a bomb?’ The answer may be an emphatic no, but it hasn’t stopped the British-Tamil artist from using the failed struggle for independence for the Tamil homeland in present-day Sri Lanka as a means of imagining other outcomes and other potential histories. Hosted across both floors of Kunsthalle Zurich, ‘Christopher Kulendran Thomas: FOR REAL’ features paintings, sculptures and film installations that speak to how history is mediated through artistic sensibility. The emancipating potential of new technologies is a thread throughout the exhibition: the artist created the paintings using algorithms fed with imagery of colonial art, which was brought to Sri Lanka by the British.

Pilvi Takala

Migros Museum, Zurich

10 June  – 17 September

Pilvi Takala, Close Watch, 2022, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Carlos/Ishikawa, London, Helsinki Contemporary and Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam

For her first solo exhibition in Switzerland, Pilvi Takala is presenting an expanded version of the video installation Close Watch (2022), which was first shown at the Finnish Pavilion during the 59th Venice Biennale. The work was born out of the artist’s first-hand experiences of working as a security guard for six months in a Finnish shopping centre and follows a series of workshops organized by Takala in which her former colleagues discuss the function of security guards vis-à-vis the violence embedded in the profession. Set in an architecture where visitors are invited not only to view the films but also to observe each other, Close Watch is a compelling comment on the surveillance industry unfolding in a highly developed European state.

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas

Karma International, Zurich

9 June – 15 July

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas, Romnijabasiawen/Rainen (Roma women playing cards), 2023, textile, acrylic paint, mixed media, 1.9 × 1.7 m. Courtesy: the artist and Karma International; photo: Nicolas Duc

Following a string of critically acclaimed international presentations, including representing Poland at last year’s Venice Biennale, Małgorzata Mirga-Tas showcases a set of new textile works for her first solo exhibition at Karma International. In ‘Some Roma Herstories’, Mirga-Tas brings together a collection of female-focused narratives of Roma activists, artists and members of her extended family who have guided her thus far. While reaching towards the past for inspiration, the artist also celebrates the present: her painstakingly crafted historical and everyday scenes are frequently made of materials sourced directly from the wardrobes of others, proudly displaying their traces of wear and tear. The three women in Romnija Basiawen/Rainen (Roma Women Playing Cards, 2023), for example, are depicted wearing flowery appliqued blouses and jewellery made from sequin trim and gold rope.

Roni Horn

Hauser & Wirth, Zurich

9 June – 16 September

Roni Horn, Skulls of the World Unite • Orange Hope (2022), inkjet prints, 35 × 54 cm. Courtesy: © the artist and Hauser & Wirth; photo: Tom Powel Imaging 

Roni Horn’s ‘An Elusive Red Figure …’ at Hauser & Wirth showcases 33 inkjet prints of new drawings alongside a selection of ‘outtakes’ from the artist’s imposing, 406-work project, LOG (March 22, 2019 – May 17, 2020), which premiered at the gallery’s New York outpost in 2021 before being collated and published as a book. The result of a daily commitment to drawing, the works are surprisingly intimate and full of text – as if written in a stream of consciousness. In Skulls of the World Unite • Orange Hope (2022), for instance, the smudged phrase ‘I am paralyzed with hope’ repeats as though Horn has been ordered to write lines on a blackboard for a school punishment. By focusing on material that wasn’t included in the book, the exhibition is an opportunity to witness this prolific artist’s practice in the making and have the privilege of observing her editing process.

P. Staff

Kunsthalle Basel

9 June – 10 September

P. Staff, Afferent Nerves, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; photo: Philipp Hänger / Kunsthalle Basel

Not to miss while in Basel is British poet, filmmaker and artist P. Staff’s solo exhibition, ‘In Ekstase’. Displayed across five rooms of Kunsthalle Basel, the artist’s newly created videos, etchings and sculptures – including an electrified net used for livestock installed on the gallery ceiling (Afferent Nerves, all works 2023) – stem from a reflection on the regulation of bodies of those individuals who do not conform to the conventional frameworks of Western society. Drawing on references ranging from necropolitics to transpoetics to mysticism, Staff’s practice conjures alternative universes, both dystopian and celebratory. What does it mean, the artist seems to ask, to exist in the liminal space between rapture and despair?

Gina Folly

Kunstmuseum Basel

6 May – 1 October

Gina Folly, Quasitutto I (José Clearing Out a Garage), 2023, C-type print, 80 × 60 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Swiss-born artist Gina Folly’s expansive photographic practice ranges from documenting the work of fellow artists to fulfilling portrait commissions to producing her own photographic series. In ‘Autofocus’, her solo show at Kunstmuseum Basel, the artist navigates these different modes with ease to explore themes of economy and exploitation, being useful and being used. For her most recent body of work, Folly collaborated with QuasiTutto, an association of small service providers who are described in the press materials as ‘retired women and men’ available for domestic duties such as gardening and household repairs. Folly’s portraits of the members of the collective, such as Quasitutto I (José Clearing Out a Garage) (all works 2023), are meticulously staged yet honest depictions of elder folk who, in the words of the press materials, ‘flout the unwritten rules of retirement’.

Main image: Christopher Kulendran Thomas, The Finesse, 2022, in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Krzysztof Kościuczuk is a writer and contributing editor of frieze. He lives between Poland and Switzerland.