A Critic’s Guide to Basel and Zurich

Krzysztof Kościuczuk picks the shows to see during Zurich Art Weekend and Art Basel

BY Krzysztof Kościuczuk in Critic's Guides | 10 JUN 22

Raphaela Vogel

Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich

May 20 – June 25, 2022

Raphaela Vogel, Vor den Toren der Sprache, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Gregor Staiger, Zurich/Milan

Two parallel presentations of Raphaela Vogel’s work offer an insight into her practice from the past year, bringing together works that merge sculpture and language. ‘My Appropriation of Her Holy Hollowness’, at the gallery’s main space in Limmatstrasse, centres around the eponymous installation from 2021. This piece combines large polyurethane casts of animal figures with a sound piece from Franz Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’, a series of mournful songs for piano composed in 1827 – here played by Vogel herself, who substitutes (and sings) the original lyrics for her own, based on letters to and from a former lover. The second exhibition, ‘Vor den Toren der Sprache’ (‘At the Gates of Language’) – in a temporary space that was formerly the IT office of a bank in Zollikerstrasse – features an array of new works, including paintings on leather, and stained-glass sculptures centered around a sprawling gate-like installation that comprises plastic casts and audio recordings of a baby (Vogel’s own child) babbling, and which refers to the human capacity, up to a certain age in infancy, to reproduce virtually all known phonemes.

Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme

Migros Museum, Zurich

21 May – 11 September, 2022

Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2022, ‘May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth’, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artists and Migros Museum, Zurich

Developed tirelessly for more than a decade, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s archive, consisting of found, sourced and self-made moving images, audio recordings and texts, offers shelter to memories from the regions that include Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s current exhibition, ‘May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth’, continues to explore how traumatic experiences are witnessed and recounted, consisting of two large installations on the first floor of the Migros Museum. Where the soil has been disturbed (2022), a piece composed of photographic prints, dried plants and concrete blocks and boards is coupled with the continuously evolving May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth: Only sounds that tremble through us (2020–22), a 30-minute, four-channel video projection that includes performances by artists based in Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. Together, the works demonstrate how identity can be recalled and projected, laying bare both the fragility and resilience of memory.

Bas Jan Ader

Verein by Association, Zurich

10 – 12 June, 2022

light vulnerable objects threatened by eight cement bricks bas jan ader
Bas Jan Ader, Light vulnerable objects threatened by eight cement bricks, 1970/2021, installation view. Courtesy: Meliksetian | Briggs, Los Angeles; photograph: © The Estate of Bas Jan Ader / Mary Sue Ader Andersen, 2022 / The Artist Rights Society (ARS) New York

A conceptual artist intent on exploring the boundary between the mundane and the impossible, Bas Jan Ader is thought to have died at sea, his capsized sailboat discovered on April 18, 1976 – one day before his birthday – following an attempt to singlehandedly cross the Atlantic from the US coast to England in the second ‘chapter’ of the project In Search of the Miraculous (a journey in three parts that began in 1973 with a series of photographs documenting Ader wandering in Los Angeles, and which was to have concluded in Amsterdam). ‘Light Vulnerable Objects Threatened by Eight Cement Bricks’ was an exhibition originally held at the Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles in 1970, and part of the artist’s exploration of the theme of ‘the fall’. Restaged here by Verein by Association (recently founded by curator Adam Szymczyk), the exhibition will culminate in a climactic performance with Raúl Itamar Lima on Sunday 12th June, at 6.00pm.

Elisabeth Wild

Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich

2 June – 11 September, 2022

Elizabeth Wild, Untitled, undated, collage on paper, 31 × 25 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: © Ed Mumford

This exhibition features a nebula of collages created over the last two decades of artist Elisabeth Wild’s life. Born in 1922 in Vienna, into a family of Jewish wine merchants, Wild fled to Argentina before World War Two, where she met and married the textile industrialist August Wild. During political turmoil in Argentina in the early 1960s, the artist, her husband and their daughter left for Basel in Switzerland, where Wild opened an antique shop; in 1996 she relocated back to Latin America to join her daughter, the artist Vivian Suter, who was based in Guatamela. In Panajachel, a town on the shore of Lake Atitlán, Wild devoted herself to working with cut-outs from glossy magazines, continuing to do so until shortly before her death in 2020, at the age of 98. On view in Haus Konstruktiv are approximately 180 of Wild’s small-scale works that feature vividly coloured landscapes and architectural structures, as well as compositions that at times seamlessly slide into abstraction.

Latifa Echakhch & Zineb Sedira

Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel

03 June – 17 July, 2022

Zineb Sedira & Latifa Echakhch, ‘For a Brief Moment [...] Several Times’, exhibition view, Kunsthaus Baselland. Courtesy: the artists and Kunsthaus Baselland

For a Brief Moment […] Several Times, an exhibition that takes its title from two earlier works by Latifa Echakhch and Zineb Sedira, feels like a casual meeting between the two artists that has gradually unfolded into a conversation. Echakhch’s series of wool carpets dotted with everyday objects including items of clothing, cigarette packs and music albums fits perfectly alongside Sedira’s photomontages and household items, many seemingly similar to what’s featured in Echakhch’s work: books, DVD and vinyl recordings displayed on the walls. One end of the exhibition space is outfitted with a handful of pieces of 1970s furniture, a reference to Sedira’s living room in Brixton, London. At the other, three cinema seats face a screening of her mise-en-scène (2019), which features pieced-together oneiric excerpts from films of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s that the artist found in Algeria. In ‘For a Brief Moment […] Several Times’ not only the individual works but also the practice of both artists echo each other in a seemingly casual yet revealing way.

Daniele Milvio

Weiss Falk, Basel

14 June – 23 July, 2022

Daniele Milvio, Per natale voglio solo delle scuse, 2022, oil on canvas, 265.6 x 430 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Weiss Falk, Basel/Zurich; Photo: Danilo Donzelli / Morra Greco, Naple

Having recently ended a self-proclaimed ‘painting strike’ – which the artist says stemmed from his general weariness with the medium – Daniele Milvio began to create geometrical compositions from dyed snakeskin, then moved on to paint his first works in oils. At Weiss Falk, works from these two recent series, in many cases landscapes reduced to minimal elements, are interspersed with a group of yet untitled figurative bronze sculptures of different sizes that play off the idea of egg holders, and reference objects charged with symbolic meanings – from a goblet to a globe.

Michael Armitage

Kunsthalle Basel

20 May – 4 September, 2022

Michael Armitage, ‘You, Who Are Still Alive’, 2022, Kunsthalle Basel, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Kunsthalle Basel; Photograph: Philipp Hänger / Kunsthalle Basel

‘You, Who Are Still Alive’ brings together over 20 works by Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage, the majority of which were created this year. These lushly coloured paintings, created on stitched or perforated cloth (a material made from a Ugandan tree bark called lubugo, a word that translates to ‘funeral cloth’ or ‘shroud’) fuse the natural and urban landscapes of East Africa into renderings of myths, historical events and everyday scenes. Tribal legends (Warigia, 2022) float along with colonial recollections (Head of Koitalel, 2022) and raw realities (Amongst the Living, 2022) in a pulsating stream of mesmerizing images.

Also not to be missed: Basel Social Club

Exhibiting work by more that 50 artists from around 40 galleries and art spaces, a 1930s villa in Basel’s Bruderholz district offers the opportunity to experience art in a different setting – one that features a restaurant, a café, a cocktail bar and a swimming pool.

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