Jac on Art: The Sweetest Hangover

Jacqueline ‘Jac’ Forbes, co-owner of CANVAS.MALIBU, brings a snapshot of the global art market back to Malibu after a whirlwind trip to Art Basel Hong Kong and Switzerland.

Paradise of Eyes, 2018, by Keiichi Tanaami.

Paradise of Eyes, 2018, by Keiichi Tanaami.

Jet- lagged and dragging from Basel Switzerland, safely sliding into my familiar West Coast home base, I feel exhausted but grateful to be relishing an ‘Art Hangover’, after attending both Art Basel Fairs, on opposite sides of the globe with my Hubby.  Experiencing the World’s most important contemporary Art fairs back to back was the ultimate goal, the mission… to better service clients and our Gallery - CANVAS.MALIBU, with Fresh Art and a Global perspective. I knew that by witnessing Art Basel Hong Kong followed quickly by Art Basel in Basel I would have the opportunity to gain a snapshot of the current Global Art Market. It was time to take my show on the road, first stop Hong Kong then, Basel Switzerland. 

Just a bit of backstory on the Art Basel Fairs - Established in 1970 I have to say Art Basel has proven to be the undisputed champion of Art Fairs, with annual fairs held in Miami, Hong Kong and Basel. Thousands of Artists and Galleries from around the Globe come primed and ready to deliver a stellar showing of their proven winners. I was in great anticipation of seeing the elite performers and their newest presentations of not only paintings but massive installations, including ‘Art-tech’ the fresh flavor virtual reality Art experience… which turned out be quite bizarre! Anything you may deem Art, is there.  Stretching across exhibition spaces the size of several football fields and with multiple floors, art shines under these bright lights in these massively curated spaces, vibrating with excitement color and texture. Though Art may in its purist form be altruistic in nature, there is a strange mix in these places, the Artist’s passion mixed with the ‘Art hustle’ of this bustling marketplace. A marketplace where work is being introduced, art stars are being made and artwork is being sold en masse. 

Arlington and Jac Forbes.

Arlington and Jac Forbes.

Hong Kong is the center of Asia’s international Art Scene and most suitably its Convention & Exhibition Center hosts Art Basel in the district of Wan Chai. At Art Basel Hong Kong the energy is palatable. It was an art fair, like I had never experienced.  This was like a Rock Concert with long lines wrapped around the convention center for ticket holders to be ushered into a sold out four day event. Hearing murmurs of desperation of how to get a ticket created urgency – weird for an Art fair, but patrons were wiling to line up at 5 am in hopes of purchasing a ticket.  This unique Art fair experience started to make sense. Hong Kong is comparable to NYC on steroids, with over seven million people on the island of alone. This city pioneered the contemporary Art Market in the region and is experiencing an innovative time, with the World’s best Galleries and Artist to match with buyers ready to consume. This fair was special. There was heightened excitement due to the fairs commitment to insure that half of its exhibitors were based in the Asian Pacific Region- historically, this is a region where Artist have been censored and even criminalized. The moment you step into the exhibition hall your eyes trace up to impressively large installations perfectly curated and integrated among smaller installations and gallery spaces. Galleries present a diverse overview highlighting “Modern Day Masters’ such as Yoshitomo Nara, Qiu Zhijie and Henry Taylor and cutting-edge artist such as Shinro Ohtake and Yang Fudong. In this Fair there is a notable freshness that is tangible and visually impressive.  My mind opened with opportunities to meet with and engage new artists and friends, see new works and engage in new conversations. A conversation starter was the large-scale sculptural Installations, ‘Encounters’ curated by Alexis Glass- Kantor, fittingly titled ‘Still We Rise. These gigantic installations set the stage for Artists to express their voice during this time of social, cultural and political change around the world.  A highlight of the week was American artist ‘KAWS’s Hong Kong take-over, with an off-site exhibit titled ‘Along the Way’. This exhibit came with a giant inflatable sculpture “Companion” floating in Victoria Harbor.  My husband was convinced that the giant inflatable sculpture was eluding him daily, but we became aware that it was pulled due to weather conditions! Nevertheless weather could not dampen Kaw’s weekend - ending with a record-shattering sale of The Kaws Album (2005) by Sotheby’s Hong Kong for 14.7 million dollars. 

With 60 days between the two fairs, I was excited to make the journey to the city of Basel, which hosts The Mecca of art fairs, Basel ‘s Art lineage is the backdrop of the entire event.  With roughly 200,000 residents, but boasting over 40 galleries and museums, art is not taken lightly in this town. The Gem of the city center is the oldest art museum in the World, The Kunst Museum - origins dating back to 1661. Viewing Basel’s hillsides it feels like stepping on to the canvas of a Monet masterpiece. Outside of the fair there are no lines and the energy is oddly calm in contrast to Hong Kong. I quickly noted the Patrons and Collectors most fashionably attired in the regalia of the ‘Basel Blue Blazer’ uniform (once only navy, now in a myriad of blue hues). Stepping into Messe Basel, you simply look up into the breath taking view of the sky. This Architectural structure by famed Architect Jacques Hertzog is an art installation, housing over 290 premiere galleries from 34 countries attracting over 90,000 visitors. There is business happening – rather big business. Don’t blink you may miss something like the ca-ching of 20 million being rung up for Gerard Richter’s Versammlung (1996), followed by California’s own Mark Bradford (My top 10) garnering just shy of 8 million for his Rat Catcher of Hamelin II(2011).

Where Are We Going , 2017-2018 by Chiharu Shioto.

Where Are We Going, 2017-2018 by Chiharu Shioto.

Similarly at both Art Basel’s  - Artists had much to do about BIG things in the World. At Basel Hong Kong the message rang loud and clear - ‘We are not China’ - claims of autonomy and independence were pervasive through out. In the Unlimited Section of Art Basel Switzerland a towering structure of red by Andrea Bowers ‘Open Secret’ told the stories of men and women accused of sexual misconduct, highlighting the #MeToo movement. Artist Hugo Mc Cloud took a turn from the abstract with his new figurative work ‘The Burdened Man Series’, a bold expression of the immense loads carried on the backs of laborers. You could not miss commentaries on Brexit, and textual warnings of the global environmental crisis. Art Basel artists used their work to continue a bold and needed discussion in our world today.

Mission Accomplished, I took my show on the road and after many miles (trains planes and automobiles) with the help of a great pair of common projects and more than enough espressos, I was pleased.  I wanted to see the international art market at it highest levels through some of the strongest venues and I did. Friends and colleagues were made, my repertoire as an art curator and consultant was enhanced I feel refreshed and find the state of the art market exciting. Socially, culturally and creatively I was moved... but I am glad to be back in the Malibu as I nurse my sweet sweet Art Hangover! MM

Meet Jac Forbes

For Jacqueline ‘Jac’ Forbes, Art is major part of her life. As the co-owner of CANVAS . MALIBU – A Gallery of Art and Fashion in the Malibu Country Mart, Forbes has curated over 50 Artist exhibitions featuring local, national and international artists. She enjoys working closely in the development of future gallerist and emerging artists, sharing her eye, experience and expertise. Forbes has travelled the world to view great works participating in various art markets. She recently expanded the Art component of her business by adding an Art Consultancy - Canvas Art Dept. Inc.- specializing in Art Curation, Acquisition and Project Management for both Private and Corporate Clientele. “Bringing people to art they love and supporting today’s artists is my joy”.

Holly Bieler