Piotr Uklanski Art Basel

Piotr Uklanski's sculpture

Each summer, the art world descends on the small Swiss city notable for its museums, theaters, and, arguably the world's most prestigious art fair. Here are some highlights from 2013's program.

MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

Art Basel Unlimited: Elsewhere in the Unlimited section, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe's "Artichoke Underground (2012/13)," is a wonderfully immersive large-scale installation that takes visitors behind the scenes of an empty clothes store, into a screen-printing workshop, and through a brash fast food take-out. Polish artist Piotr Uklanski has installed a theatrical fabric sculpture colorfully depicting the anatomy of the human mouth. And Chiharu Shiota has constructed a complicated web of black wool that contains an out-of-reach piano and rows of chairs within its mesh.

MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

Free Store: Outside the fair, the American artist Jonathan Horowitz has set up Free Store, a high profile swap shop where visitors are invited to exchange unwanted clothes, books, house wares and works of art for other items they might find more valuable. The aim, so we're told, is to "organically generate an alternate economy parallel to that of the art fair."

MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

Art Basel Parcours: In the nearby Klingental neighborhood, large-scale sculptures by Marina Abramovic, Olaf Breuning and Michael Craig-Martin, among others, stand in public spaces as part of the fair's Parcours program, which also incorporates site-specific performances of works by Merce Cunningham and Benjamin Millepied.

Better Days: And a short walk away, at Volkshaus, the New York artist Mickalene Thomas has collaborated with Absolut Art Bureau to create "Better Days," a multi-room art bar named for and inspired by her mother's 1970s theater group. "[My mother] was trying to find ways of bringing different creative minds together," said Thomas, whose work regularly borrows from the aesthetic vernacular of the '70s. "The concept here is about bringing together different artists, different musicians, different DJs, the art on the wall. All of those things liberate and activate the space." Thomas's mother would be proud -- the bar has been heaving all week, particularly on Wednesday night, when the artist's friend and collaborator Solange Knowles played a lively set.

Photo 1-4 courtesy of Art Basel; photo of "Better Days" by Roberto Chamorro, courtesy of Absolut Art Bureau