Bratwurst at Art Basel.


BASEL - The art world descended on Basel last week, as did I, and from everything I heard, both the art and the sausages were selling like hotcakes. For me, the bratwurst stand is always the first stop, and indeed, my friend and I became so addicted that we brought aluminum foil from the hotel, and grabbed a half dozen “to go” for our flight home. 

The fair was vast and engaging, as always, with a lot of chatter about the Gerhard Richter painting at Pace, on offer for a reported $25 million dollars, and a “sister” painting to Gudrun sold at Sotheby’s last November.

A special moment was lunch in Gavin Brown’s booth, served atop an Urs Fischer designed table. We had a quiche, densely packed with spinach, a platter of Italian antipasti and cheese, some deliciously nutty breads, and I didn’t miss the bratwurst in the courtyard below for one second! We felt like celebrities, with every passerby stopping to take a snapshot of us dining. I’m sure they thought we were a performance, particularly from the gallerist who was cooking sausages with Mark Rufallo at Frieze New York (see my blog post).  Or maybe they weren’t photographing us at all, but rather the artwork on the wall behind us – a squad of partially deflated sex dolls in various positions by artist Elaine Sturtevant.

Elaine Sturtevant’s artwork made for an interesting backdrop for our lunch at Gavin Brown's booth.

Beyond the borders of the “Messe,” I loved the Jeff Koons show at the Fondation Beyeler. It consisted of three bodies of his work – The New, Banality, and Celebration  – each shown in great depth, and beautifully installed in the perfect spaces of Renzo Piano’s galleries. You immediately understand how these series are at the nucleus of Koons’ creative activity, and I especially loved the debut of the newest work – a Balloon Swan that extends the strong erotic impulse of Balloon Dog.

(left) Standing next to a Hanging Heart sculpture at the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler. (right) Maria Bell, Jeff Koons, Almine Rech, Eli Broad and Bill Bell in front of a Balloon Swan.

For my last dinner in Basel, I ventured deep into the Black Forest to Spielweg, to a dinner hosted by Maria Baibakova and Alexandra Chemla, who founded the enormously popular Art Binder, an iPad software designed to help galleries show artworks to clients when their on the road. The drive there was exquisite, with fields of white asparagus and strawberries, so my appetite was whetted and I was not disappointed.  Following a starter of many wonderful tastes – country pâté; vitello tonato; steak tartare with frites; black forest ham, cheese and a local honey; and a salad of sliced ox head (actually delicious), we were each presented with an enormous platter of white asparagus, served with lovely boiled potatoes, a crêpe, and a lemony hollandaise.

Salad of sliced ox head… Delicious!

As I happily started digging in, a waiter came around with a basket of hot and crispy wiener schnitzel to cap it all off. The strawberries made their appearance at dessert time, with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  An hour’s drive from Basel, it was definitely worth the trip, but I wish I had taken a room at the lovely adjacent inn and had a chance to walk through the woods the next day. Off to Finland – you’ll read about it soon!