Diary of an artist-in-residence: Report from Verbier #4

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

VERBIER, Switzerland – We are readying ourselves for the long drive to Basel. Our charming driver is the head of the local Rotary Club and has a calm manner that indicates that the journey will be a smooth one.

For those of you who have never been to an art fair a short introduction may be necessary. You need to wear comfortable shoes, carry a bottle of water and clear your mind of anything but art for the whole day. Getting round one is hard work.

The fair at Basel is composed of up to 300 exhibiting galleries all packed together showing an eye-watering range of works. The work generally ranges from the early 20th century to the present-day. The galleries are there to sell their wares so the work is not too experimental or difficult.

We were treated to an exceptional show of early Andy Warhol drawings at Daniel Blau, beautifully presented and startlingly deft and elegant. Equally beautiful were the large camera obscura prints of Richard Learoyd at the David McKee Gallery.

Nina Beier’s piece titled Tragedy was probably one of the more difficult works. It involved a spotlit Persian rug upon which at certain times a trained dog was asked to play dead. However, the real highlight was at the Galerie Hubert Winter. The works of the late Birgit Jürgenssen are exquisite. She is little-known outside Austria and died in 2003. The work is wonderful and a real favorite if you want to buy some great art that is going to prove extremely collectable now that she has made it to the mainstream.

Onyedika is working the galleries beautifully. He introduces himself with a calm assurance and talks to the gallerists, convincing them that they need to look at his works. This is the artist’s stock in trade. For us, the art fairs are a place of opportunity and every chance has to be seized with both hands. We go from gallery after gallery, talking until our throats are sore.

By closing time at 8 o’clock we are all exhausted. The minibus offers a welcome chance to sit down and we drink pea and mint soup from flasks as we make our way back to the mountains.

Refreshed the next morning I set about my task with relish. I have made a new discovery. I like curves! The aluminum I have been working with has taken on a gentle curve under its own weight. My piece already starts to have the look of the Eiffel Tower about it. I am really beginning to enjoy myself.

The work ethic of the artist is an interesting one. The public perception of artists lying in their studio gently studying their work or perhaps a nude model is an outmoded one. Artists have to work very hard, their life being a mixture of studio practice, application writing and ruthless networking. Art does not exist without an audience and the only way to get it into the public arena is through the process of convincing the galleries and museums that they need our work. Indeed, the public needs our work. An artist without a laptop and considerable writing skills will not go far. An average application form for arts funding expects a minimum of 2,000 words of text.

We await the prospect of the printmaking workshop with relish. The offer of a print edition to an artist is a rare thing.

Perhaps I will treat myself to a glass of wine this evening and stare at the mountains clearly visible from my balcony.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wright.