Xu Zhen’s In Just a Blink of an Eye. Courtesy of Jamie North/Kaldor Public Art Projects.
Xu Zhen’s In Just a Blink of an Eye. Courtesy of Jamie North/Kaldor Public Art Projects.

Imagine a gallery where the sculptures all go home at night, then return the next morning. Timed to coincide with Art Basel in Switzerland, 14 Rooms is Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach’s latest endeavor, which Obrist describes as “a suite of intimate encounters” between viewers and living works of art. Visitors can enter 14 separate structures to experience artists up close; the public becomes spectator, voyeur, and participant. Obrist, a codirector of the Serpentine Galleries in London; and Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1 in New York, met on a train going from Austria to Italy in the early ’90s, and first tried out the idea of what was initially 11 Rooms at the Manchester International Festival in 2011. Since then, they have added a room, an artist, and a new host city every year.

Damien Hirst, Ed Atkins, and Marina Abramovic are among the big names whose works will be included in the latest iteration, taking place at Art Basel in Switzerland in a space designed by starchitects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. In Hirst’s piece, Hans, Georg, rotating pairs of twins sit in front of two of Hirst’s identical spot paintings. Roman Ondák’s Swap invites viewers to exchange an object with a person waiting behind a table, and in Xu Zhen’s In Just a Blink of an Eye, a performer floats midair, seemingly defying the laws of physics. According to Obrist, 14 Rooms offers even the canniest collectors something they won’t find elsewhere at the fair. “This is a festival where you can’t buy anything,” he says. “What you get is a unique experience.”