Saturday, June 13, 2009

Interview: Art Basel

Chris Perez runs Ratio 3 gallery in San Francisco. Ratio 3 has a booth at Art Basel this year. Art Basel and the Venice Biennale are the must see events in the art world.

If you want to know the latest in the art world — the buzz from Art Basel and the Venice Biennale — you'll want to hear from someone at ground zero. Here is my interview with Chris after a week showing at Art Basel:


Steven Damron: Is this the first time Ratio 3 has shown at Art Basel?

Chris Perez: Yes. This is our first time participating at Art Basel in Switzerland.

SD: How did you get invited?

CP: You have to apply, and then if the selection committee approves your application, you are invited, but you have to pay. All galleries that are admitted into the fair can also apply to Art Unlimited.

SD: What is Art Unlimited?

CP: It is a curated section, and hosts some of the largest installation and works. It's really quite amazing and it is only up for seven days. They must pour hundreds of thousands into producing it.

SD: Did Ratio 3 apply to Art Unlimited?

CP: No. Since it was our first year, I thought I should just focus on our booth.

SD: What was in Art Unlimited that you liked?

CP: I liked the Mel Bochner piece. And there was a piece by a Chinese artists about the people starving in Africa that was quite moving.

SD: You're showing work by an artist you represent, Jordan Kantor, right?

CP: Correct. We are participating in the Statements section of the fair. Statements is for younger galleries presenting a solo project by an artist that has not had a solo museum show.

SD: But Kantor has had museum shows, right?

CP: Yes, his work has been included in two museum group exhibitions, SFMoMA and the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

SD: Why did you decide to show at Art Basel? How is it important for Ratio 3?

CP: It is extremely important in terms of context and exposure. There are lots of art fairs, but Art Basel is the most important and the most selective. Galleries have to wait years before they can get in, if they ever do.

SD: What have you seen that excites you at Art Basel this year?

CP: At the fair?

SD: We can start there.

CP: Moriceau & Myrzk drawings at Air de Paris. Doug Aitken video at 303.

SD: Are these from younger galleries like Ratio 3?

CP: No! These are established galleries. I liked the Seb Patane video at Fonti who are also in Statements.

SD: Since the last Art Basel, Lehman Brothers went out of business and the economic markets melted down. Is there any talk about that at the fair?

CP: Of course! Sales are much much lower than in the past. It took a while for the economic meltdown to touch the art market but it has certainly bit it hard. But some galleries are surprised by how much they have sold. Of course they are offering good discounts on work

SD: Has this translated into lower attendance? Who have you spotted at the show?

CP: Fewer American collectors, but the fair is always packed with people just looking.

SD: Do all the art stars show up at Art Basel?

CP: Of course! It follows on the heels of the Venice Biennale opening, so everyone is here. John Baldessari, Maurizio Cattelan.

SD: I was going to ask you about the Venice Biennale. Was there any buzz from people traveling from Venice to Basel?

CP: Yes. People seemed to like Bruce Nauman and the Elmgreen and Dragset installation the most.

SD: Any trends you're picking up from your trip to Basel? Any emerging concepts, materials, artists?

CP: Young artists drawing on found photos, lots of modernist looking abstract geometric work.

SD: I read one commentator raving about Gerhard Richter's new photo-based work. Did you get to see that?

CP: Nope. There is so much to see. It's quite overwhelming. I also need to spend as much time in my booth as I can.

SD: What events did you like outside the fair?

CP: There are lots of parties and openings, but I wasn't up to going. Liste, the young art fair is good, but the Il Tempo del Postino was amazing!!!

SD: What was it?

CP: It is an exhibition organized and conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist. But it is an exhibition that occupies time instead of space. It was essentially a three hour art opera. Doug Aitken's piece for Il Tempo del Postino was phenomenal. It was essentially an a capella piece sung by southern auctioneers. Really good!

SD: The fair has one more day. Anything I should see if I'm there?

CP: The Beyler and Schaulager. I heard they are amazing spaces.

SD: And can you say what's next at Ratio 3 when you return?

CP: Safe Word!!! It's a group show inspired by our neighbors, kink.com.

SD: I plan to be at the opening! Anything else you want to tell the readers?

CP: If you care about contemporary art, now is really a good time to support your local galleries. People love to visit galleries and art fairs, but none of it can exist if people don't participate and buy.

SD: Thanks for your time, Chris!

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