As any art fair regular knows, the massed ranks of traditional booths, dull abstractions of the ‘white cube’ stretching endlessly in all directions, can bring on ennui (if not mild hysteria). The venerable Swiss gallery Gmurzynska, celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, decided it would do something different at this edition of Art Basel Miami Beach. And it bought in some serious assistance.
Germano Celant, author, super-curator and long-serving artistic and scientific superintendent of the Fondazione Prada, amongst other things, has collaborated with the gallery on this year’s stand. He's gone for maximum impact – cramming every available inch with work stretching across the 20th century and beyond; from Malevich, Miró, Moholy-Nagy, Picasso, Dubuffet, Bacon, Yves Klein and Roberts Motherwell and Indiana, as well as a new table and chair set from Zaha Hadid and – in a daring move – dedicating an entire exterior wall to the photography of Karl Lagerfeld.
Celant looked to past examples of successful Salon hangs for inspiration, including Leo and Gertrude Stein’s Paris Salon and 1915’s 'Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting' in St Petersburg, right up to this year’s 'Picasso Mania' show at the Grand Palais in Paris. 'We decided on an avalanche,' Celant says, admitting to his own ennui with the established art fair order.
Celant says he spent months selecting pieces and plotting their positions. And as much as the hang has been carefully orchestrated to create surprising alignments, he admits that the jigsaw puzzle nature of the display has added a certain randomness. 'Sometimes we just had to put something in a space it fitted.' And Celant sees the stand as something of a puzzle, leaving all the pieces unidentified. 'I like the idea that it is a test of people’s knowledge,' he says.