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Exterior of Messeplatz during Art Basel 49 with the Creative Time project “Basilea”—conceived by artists LARA ALMARCEGUI, ISABEL LEWIS, and architecture studio Recetas Urbanas, led by SANTIAGO CIRUGEDA, and curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose. The structure plays host to conversations and performances throughout the week. All photos by HG Masters for ArtAsiaPacific.

The more the world changes, the more Art Basel tries to keep things the same—endlessly tinkering with its layouts, schedules and creative programs around this weeklong art fair to further refine the inner workings of the 49 year-old event. 

But the art on view in the world’s foremost modern and contemporary art fair, in the oversized Unlimited section or in the booths of more than 290 galleries from around the world, evinces shifts and shockwaves rippling through society, whether it is political upheavals or consciousness-changing conversations happening around race, gender and sexuality. But that too is part of the institution’s design. For instance, Creative Time, the New York-based nonprofit that has provoked countless conversations about the relationship between art and various publics in the United States and beyond, partnered with Art Basel on a massive outreach project in Messeplatz, in front of the fair—to mixed reviews and questions about the place of institutions in relation to the corporate behemoth that is Art Basel and its trade-fair parent company MCH

What’s noticeable this year is the comparative lack of fervor compared to the year before, when Basel was a stop on a grand tour from Kassel and Münster to Venice for many international curators, artists and patrons. But sales in the evergreen Swiss hills remained ever good—in a fair with a scale ranging from good to great—even while grumbles about sky-high prices from collectors are mirrored by concerns about the survival of galleries not competing for the highest echelon of the market’s investment-ready art. Certain trends were evident at both Art Basel and Liste—ceramic sculptures were everywhere, and there were more shades of pink, varieties of Joan Mitchell and Kerry James Marshall, and a wider spectrum of gender-sexuality than a San Francisco anti-Trump rally. Yet tried-and-true and aspiring blue chippers remain this fair’s whole-grain bread and alpine butter, as it closes out its first half century. Here’s a look around Basel in 2018. 

In the Unlimited section of Art Basel, YU HONG’s five-by-nine-meter, four-part painting, Old Man Yu Gong Is Still Moving Away Mountains (2017), is a modern version of the Taoist tale (“Yugong Yishan”) of an old man who tries to move two tall mountains and enlists the help of the gods.
In the Unlimited section of Art Basel, YU HONG’s five-by-nine-meter, four-part painting, Old Man Yu Gong Is Still Moving Away Mountains (2017), is a modern version of the Taoist tale (“Yugong Yishan”) of an old man who tries to move two tall mountains and enlists the help of the gods.
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HG Masters is editor-at-large at ArtAsiaPacific. 

Art Basel in Basel runs through June 17, 2018. 

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