The 10 Best Booths of Art Basel 2012

Helly Nahmad's booth at Art Basel 2012
(Courtesy Art Basel)

BASEL, Switzerland — Art Basel never fails to dazzle, and this year has been no exception. As I noted in my report yesterday, many of the big dealers seemed to amp up their game as if to compensate for concerns about the European economy. Some particularly stood out. Here, then, is our list of the ten best booths of the fair (and check back for Judd Tully's sale report from the fair later today):

1) Washburn Gallery (C-12): Simple, stately, and forceful in a smooth, quiet way, this booth presents a selection of older European and American artists, including several small but terrific Jackson Pollock drawings and paintings and a little Georgia O’Keeffe.

2) Galerie Lelong (E-12): Wonderfully restrained use of the space, granting ample room to view solid new and old works by Jannis Kounellis, Sean Scully, Luciano Fabro, and a knockout Jaume Plensa wall sculpture that is one of the best 3-D works here. 

3) Thomas Ammann Fine Art (F-13): This booth stands out partly for the great artwork by Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, and Emil Nolde, and partly for the unusual wood veneer flooring that gives the space a warm, domestic feeling. It resembles a savvy collector’s home.

4) Hauser & Wirth (B-19): This big, roomy, inviting booth presents an invigorating mix of fresh, lively work by Pipilotti Rist, Isa Genzken, Bharti Kher, Paul McCarthy, and other gallery artists. Everything here is very beautifully hung and presented.

5) Helly Nahmad (E-6): The sheer purity and drama of this space — with sections of pure white carpet and earthy black — immediately make it stand out from the crowd, but so too does the careful choice of early- and mid-20th century modern works by Burri, Fontana, Dali, and Picasso.

6) Matthew Marks (A-12): For simple, minimal elegance you can’t beat this booth with a stunning selection of works by Katharina Fritsch, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, and Gary Hume. The works are all nicely spaced, giving them room to shine.

7) Cheim & Read (A-11): Half of this booth, with grey walls and a lighter grey floor, is devoted to a clean, memorable display of just two Joan Mitchell abstract paintings. This is the most elegant and restful display in the entire fair. It is perfectly lovely.  

8) Lehmann Maupin (J-9): This booth makes the list because of a consistently strong selection of works by gallery artists, especially Teresita Fernandez, who has two great works here, and Ashley Bickerton, who is having a mid-career resurgence.

9) Sean Kelly (N-2): The installation of Marina Abramovic’s performance of two naked people facing one another was a masterstroke of publicity — the booth was mobbed. It also happily drew attention to a selection of other great minimal-conceptual works.

10) Galerie Daniel Blau (D-8): Several magnificently energetic Andy Warhol drawings from the 1950s that came directly from the Warhol foundation are so gorgeous I wanted to take a few of them home. This is one of the smartest, most focused booths at the fair.

To see images from our 10 Best Booths of Art Basel 2012, click on the slide show.