After 18 months of postponements and cancellations, several art fairs are getting ready to welcome visitors in the flesh this month.
Here is a look at three of them. Be sure to check current pandemic-related restrictions and requirements if you’re planning a visit.
The world’s leading contemporary art fair, Art Basel, is hosting its first at-home event since June 2019 from Sept. 24 through 26 in Basel, Switzerland. A total of 272 galleries from around the globe are set to flaunt their wares inside the giant Messe Basel.
Beyond the usual roster of blue-chip and midsize galleries, there are 24 first-timers this year, including Ben Brown Fine Arts (based in London, Hong Kong and Palm Beach, Fla.). The gallery is presenting an exhibition of works by Lucio Fontana: not the slashed and perforated canvases he is known for, but his sculptures, notably “Concetto Spaziale, Natura” (1959-60). Inspired by the space race and the first rocket launches to the moon, it is a roughly sculpted and lacerated bronze sphere, from a series of 44 the artist produced. (A piece from the series sold at auction in 2019 for 2.5 million pounds, about $3.4 million.)
As ever, Art Basel’s Unlimited section will entertain visitors with outsize works, of which there will be 62 this year. Look out for Urs Fischer’s “Untitled (Bread House),” a life-size cabin of baked bread, and for Etel Adnan’s vast mural “Le Soleil Toujours,” a stunningly colorful representation of the sun.
Before Art Basel, Art Paris (Thursday through Sunday) will welcome visitors back for another fall edition. The fair — conceived predominantly as a showcase for French art — opened against all odds in September 2020, and the gamble paid off. Art Paris will host 149 galleries this year, including global heavyweights that have never exhibited there before. The first-timer Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is showing a striking series of self-portraits that the Chinese-born artist Yan Pei-Ming produced in lockdown. Also on display at the fair: paintings by Marjane Satrapi, the graphic novelist who wrote “Persepolis.”
The theme of this year’s fair is the cultural renaissance of Paris in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union. The French capital is experiencing a flurry of openings of international galleries and of private art foundations (such as the Bourse de Commerce, inaugurated by the billionaire art collector François Pinault). The site for Art Paris will not be the domed Grand Palais, which is being refurbished, but its temporary replacement, the Grand Palais Éphémère, a large modular construction at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
Photo London (Thursday through Sunday), billed as the first international photography fair to take place in 18 months, is reopening in its usual riverside home, Somerset House. A highlight of this year’s fair is a show of 50 photographs by the photojournalist Robert Capa, staged by the Messums gallery (which is starting a photography department). The vintage prints come from the collection of David Kogan, the former chief executive of Magnum Photos (the agency Capa helped found).
On view will be the Leica camera that Capa used to take his earliest shots, his portraits of Leon Trotsky and John Steinbeck, and one of the earliest prints of his “Falling Soldier” — long considered the greatest war photograph of all time, which some now believe to have been staged.
For more of Capa’s photographs, head over to the Magnum booth at Photo London, where you will also see a portrait of Malcolm X by Eve Arnold and portraits of Winston Churchill by Philippe Halsman.