The Romanian Invasion at Art Basel

The Romanian Invasion at Art Basel on Artslant
by Olga Stefan

“I know that Basel in June is the most exciting place to be if you are from the art scene. I am sure that everybody will be here, collectors, curators, artists and I am looking forward to starting the ‘celebration’ on Monday,” says gallerist Andreiana Mihail from her headquarters in Romania.

As the Art Basel frenzy begins, we decided to focus our attention on the Romanian galleries participating in the main and satellite fairs. This year is somewhat special because there is a total of four galleries – not a negligible amount – representing Romania, a country bogged down by serious economic and social difficulties. But even as the 10th on Credit Suisse’s list of the 50 most risky countries in the world for investments, Romania is able to export its artists and galleries, if not invest in its art scene internally. Of course it helps that the Romanian galleries’ participation in the fairs is supported by government funds as non-profits, but this confusion in policy seems to be working to their and their artists’ benefit.

And on this backdrop we have Plan B at Art Feature for the first time, a huge coup. Until now a staple at LISTE, this year Plan B is moving into the big league with a solo exhibition of Navid Nuur displayed alongside the heavy-hitters of the art world. And taking their place at LISTE is Sabot Gallery, Plan B’s next door neighbour from the Paint Factory building in Cluj. This is their first participation in the brouhaha that is Basel.

Anca Muresan, Untitled, 2007, Oil on canvas, 230 x 190 cm; Courtesy of the artist and H’art Gallery.

From Bucharest we have two galleries: H’Art Gallery and Andreiana Mihail Gallery, the latter having exhibited at LISTE for the last four years, while H’Art returns to VOLTA after a two year hiatus. It will be showing work by Gili Mocanu, Anca Muresan, Raul Cio and Arantxa Etcheverria in what is described as the “dictatorship of the gallerist’s taste”, which this time is dark and funereal. Andreiana Mihail will be exhibiting Philip Patkowitsch, Pavel Braila (a new addition to the gallery’s program), Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor, Ciprian Muresan and Razvan Botis.

Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor, Die Erde, 2010-2011, Drawing on Paper; Courtesy of the artists and Andreiana Mihail.

But what can they expect to find here at the mother of all art gatherings? Somehow it seems that the worldwide economic troubles do not affect the public of Art Basel — it is, after all, these members of the 1% that all the participants in the Basel fairs are serenading. Navid Nuur is already a lauded artist internationally with a few important prizes under his belt, but this Art Feature presentation promises to launch him into the market, which might have been difficult considering his exceptionally conceptual practice. So sales and connections are of course a must and all gallerists are seeking financial and critical success. But can something else — more idealistic, more refined — also be achieved from this super market of art? “I would like to come out of this with some interesting discussions about art”, states Dan Popescu of H’Art Gallery modestly if not overly optimistically.


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