Reports from Unlimited 2023

The much-anticipated and appreciated area of ​​the Swiss fair dedicated this year to large-scale works has generated differing and conflicting opinions

Art Basel Unlimited 2022 Fiona Tan

From commitment to letting go. For several years, the themes have gone out of fashion SocialThe racism, #Me too And LGBT. Not to mention gender equality with the triumph of women. But the output of Unlimited 2023, the ready-to-wear for wealthy collectors, has changed tack and relies largely on large toys, creating an even slightly disgusting amusement park that embraces the concept of ludus it was expressed in a generally trivial way with an excess of useless gigantism, despite the support of the majors and a planetary exploration stretching from Ghana to Korea.

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Nothing deviant or really provocative, but a hymn to entertainment based on a result that would not have displeased the student spirit of Silvio Berlusconi and his legends retract. But even Donald Trump would appreciate it Ciurlionis gym of the 33-year-old Lithuanian Augustas Serapinas (he was the youngest artist invited to the 2019 Biennale), a sort of gym with tools adorned with plaster casts of ancient statues. In short, you sweat to bear the burden of the story. Between Wanna Marchi and ok the price is right one could lie down in the mattress shop proposed by the Belgian veteran Guillaum Bijl, useful stop for those suffering from back pain. Even if the gimmick might have been transgressive in 2003, the year of its creation, today it doesn’t arouse the slightest surprise compared to a sleepwalking audience indifferently wandering from one room to another.

Unlimited at Art Basel 2023.Serge Attukwei Clottey
Unlimited at Art Basel 2023.Serge Attukwei Clottey

The performative effect of the flesh-and-blood German cleaning ladies is extremely poor Olaf Nicolai which appear as tableaux vivants in the middle of the room and simplify the work Duane Hanson And Ron Muck. It was enough to take a few more steps to find yourself immersed in the atmosphere of Gardaland, with the installation by the Dominican and adopted American Firelei Báez, where it was fun to enter the reconstructed ruins of the legendary Sans Souci Palace in Haiti and to leave. Of course, the desire to narrate the role of the Caribbean island through an alternative narrative is commendable, but the wow factor outweighs it. Another variation of the game is the inevitable hybridization of the New Zealander Francis Upritchard which seduces adults and children with another amusement park gimmick by crossing an unlikely four meter tall dinosaur with a turtle. In the dystopian (another must-see) contemporary reality, the Japanese insectoid cyborg couldn’t be missing Hiroki Tsukuda who created a giant over twenty feet tall by merging elements inspired by science fiction cinema, video games, animation and manga. From the amusement park to the riding circus with the American bear Alex Da Corte who runs away with the monochrome paintings to take them to the cave along with the honey. Then there is the triumph of kitsch in the Frenchman’s boat Jean Marie Appriouone of the most popular ads ArtBasel with a Parterre de Roi consisting of Massimo De Carlo, Jan Kaps, Perrotin and Eva Pressenhuber. He creates extraterrestrial characters with strong symbolic traits, a bit astronauts, a bit Argonauts, who refer not so much to Medardo Rosso as the educated popularizers of his works write, but to the less noble Floriano Bodini, whom no one would ever dare reproduce .

Unlimited at Art Basel 2023.Francis Upritchard
Unlimited at Art Basel 2023.Francis Upritchard


Unlimited, This year there were 76 projects, the highest number in the past six years (there was no shortage of exceptional work like the video by Christian Marcley or the vicinity of Carlos Cruz Diezoutside of Joseph Penone And John Anselm), deleted the copy. Sure, imitation is certainly nothing new, and winks are a constant of confused and forgetful art. But in this case we went a step further by juxtaposing two virtually identical works and forcing the visitor to find the differences, like in Puzzle Week. The original was English Yinka Shonibare with its African library of cloth books, while copying was represented by Ghanaian Ibrahim Mahama Twenty-seven years younger, who proposed another installation of books made from ethnic fabrics, of course using post-colonial culture as a reference. Even the most intrusive work by Unlimited, which stretched for tens of meters, was another replica easily found in the mess hall’s interiors. It’s about The sea never dries from Ghanaians Serge Attukwei Clotteyborn in 1985, who created a floating structure from recycled yellow plastic materials that reached from ceiling to floor. The effect appears pleasant, even if Gustav Klimt and the Byzantine mosaics do not need to be disturbed, as is the case in the commentary on the work shown in the expensive catalogue, for sale for a good 60 euros. It’s a shame that El Anatsui, another Ghanaian 41 years his senior who was Clottey’s teacher and apparently the inspirational muse, had fared much better. In unsuspecting times he had created large installations (the West discovered him at the 2007 Venice Biennale) out of aluminum cans, clay, fabric, wood, colorful bottle caps and other materials. Why return to the crime scene with a completely similar job? It’s simple: El Anatsui has cost up to 2 million euros, while its clone is still available for less than 50,000 euros. And for lazy collectors, the message is already largely metabolized. Because originality is no guarantee of success. It’s better to avoid it.

Alberto Fiz

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