VOLTA Basel 2024: A New Venue for an Increasingly International Fair

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Art Fair Coverage

Pauline Loeb in Wold & Nomad’s booth, featuring Alejandra Aristizabal at VOLTA Basel 2024. © artfairmag

Art Basel Week is an event I eagerly anticipate each year, though I also approach it with a hint of apprehension due to the overwhelming rush of art and people that awaits me. This year, I opted to start off gently with one of the satellite fairs that has a unique DNA: VOLTA. It was the first edition under the artistic direction of Lee Cavaliere, and the fair also debuted a new venue. All in all, a very promising edition!

Directly after stepping off my train, I headed to Klybeck 610, the new, airy venue nestled in the heart of Basel that hosted the fair. With 45 participating galleries, the fair maintained an intimate format, reminiscent of a “boutique art fair,” which contrasted sharply with the vast scale—and sometimes overwhelming atmosphere—of Art Basel. Nonetheless, there was impressive diversity with no fewer than 24 countries represented, including emerging markets like South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, and Lebanon, making this edition of VOLTA the most global yet. The introduction of the “Firsts” section—a platform for galleries making their Basel debut—was particularly thrilling. Positioned at the fair’s entrance in a dedicated wing, this section offered an interesting and varied proposition. I was truly moved by the vividly colorful patchworks of Erin Leann Mitchell, displayed by the Wunika Mukan Gallery from Lagos, Nigeria.

Wunika Mukan Gallery

Erin Leann Mitchell, Gimme the nee bone bent, 2024. Fabric, foam, buttons, glitter. 170.2 x 297.2 cm. Featured by Wunika Mukan Gallery at VOLTA Basel 2024 © artfairmag

The booth of the Miami-based gallery Wolf & Nomad, which specializes in contemporary Latin American artwork, also left a strong impression on me. Particularly striking were the vibrant, abstract paintings by Christian Abusaid. Even more remarkable were the wall hangings in fique fiber created by Alejandra Aristizabal, who employs dried fibers from this plant, native to the South American Andean region. Aristizabal’s process involves brushing, assembling, and knotting these fibers together with colorful ties or brass threads. What stood out to me was how Alejandra directly supports the indigenous communities in this region who help her in harvesting and drying the fibers, adding a layer of ethical engagement to her beautiful artworks.

Wold & Nomad Gallery

Pauline Loeb in Wold & Nomad’s booth, featuring Alejandra Aristizabal, Carla Freschi and Christian Abusaid at VOLTA Basel 2024. © artfairmag

Upstairs, the offerings were eclectic in style, yet with a predominance of paintings and sculptures. The booth you simply couldn’t miss, situated right at the top of the stairs, was that of Rademakers Gallery from the Netherlands. They showcased an intriguing array of mediums, notably with an astonishing sculpture of a mother gorilla with her two babies, crafted by Sebiha Demir from thousands of bullet shells collected from local police shooting ranges. This piece starkly contrasted with the delightful work of Joana Schneider, who literally made colored wool blossom in a poetic and graphic manner. Also working with wool, Thordur Hans displayed a bucolic mountain scene, while Bonnie Severien presented very graphic architectural views.

Rademakers Gallery

Rademakers Gallery, featuring Bonnie Severien, Thordur Hans, Joana Schneider and Sebiha Demir © artfairmag

I truly appreciated the emphasis on women at this edition of VOLTA, with many female gallery owners and galleries that represent exclusively female artists. A standout example is the Gillian Jason Gallery, based in London and led by the vibrant Millie Jason Foster. She presented notably the very pop canvases with simplified bodies by Georgia Dymock and the quasi-abstract compositions that revisit Ovid’s Metamorphosis by Eleanor Johnson. This focus not only highlights the significant contributions of women in the art world but also promotes a diverse and inclusive art community that celebrates female artistic expression.

Gillian Jason Gallery

Eleanor Johnson, ‘Play-Doh’ series, featured by Gillian Jason Gallery at VOLTA Basel © artfairmag

Art Dealers Interviews

I was delighted to interview Millie Jason Foster from the aforementioned Gillian Jason Gallery about the intriguing paintings of Eleanor Johnson. Her compositions are extremely dense, aesthetically strong, and even disturbing, drawing inspiration from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” to depict soft, intertwined bodies, which is why this series is aptly named ‘Play-Doh’. The scene shifted dramatically with the patinated bronze sculptures of Norwegian artist Kjell Erik Killi Olsen, arranged side by side on a large bench, presented to me by Stefan Andersson, director and owner of GSA Gallery. Of course, I was eager to learn more about Alejandra Aristizabal’s work with the incredible and completely natural “Fique” fiber. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing this with Nomad from the Miami-based gallery Wolf & Nomad. Finally, I couldn’t resist asking Pien Rademakers, founder of the eponymous gallery established in Amsterdam, about the small gorilla family made from bullet shells, surprisingly smooth despite the hardness of the material.

How Much Does It Cost?

This time around, I didn’t opt for any paintings but was drawn to three textile works. The “Fique” wall hangings by Alejandra Aristizabal, showcased by Wolf & Nomad, were striking and priced at nearly 13,000 CHF. Erin Leann Mitchell’s colorful patchwork, offered by Wunika Mukan Gallery, had a price tag close to 15,000 CHF. Joana Schneider’s ‘Rosebed’—whose creation process had captivated me in a video—was available from Rademakers Gallery at €11,500. Lastly, there was a wooden sculpture by Mario Dilitz, depicting a young boy with airplane wings, standing nearly a meter tall, priced at 23,500€.

To me, VOLTA Basel 2024 was seen as a pivotal edition that successfully fused local and international artistic narratives, providing a rich, immersive experience for attendees. This approach not only emphasized the fair’s commitment to diversity and innovation but also reinforced its role as a significant player in the contemporary art scene. Looking forward to visiting its next edition!

Sum it up, I'm in a rush!

  • When? | June 10-16, 2024
  • Where? | Basel, Switzerland
  • Atmosphere | Good-natured
  • Curator’s pick | Rademakers Gallery
  • Featured Gallery Gem | Gillian Jason Gallery
  • Spotlighted Artists | Eleanor Johnson, Aljandra Aristizabal
  • For Whom? | Art Basel visitors

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