14 June 2016

Olaf Metzel
Alexander Forbes: At Art Basel, the Most Relevant Art Today Is from Decades Ago


The presentations best poised to address the particular troubles we’re facing at the moment can be found in Art Basel in Basel’s Feature section of gallery-led curatorial projects. Olaf Metzel’s Sammelstelle (1992), presented by Berlin’s Wentrup, was initially conceived as a response to the influx of migrants Germany received in the early ’90s from Yugoslavia. “It was a hot issue in Germany at the time, but it also has topical relevancy to the current migration crisis in Europe,” said the gallery’s Colin Huerter of the piece. Passing through a giant metal turnstile, visitors enter a holding chamber that feels more fit for cattle than human occupants. In its current context this could be Lampedusa, Lesbos, or even Berlin. In a possible future context, depending on the outcome of the American presidential election this November, it could be the newest series of Trump Towers, erected alongside airport tarmacs countrywide. “It’s a great time to show artists whose work is more politically minded,” said Huerter of Metzel, who was standing like a sentry outside his piece’s gate. “It’s a good time to talk about real issues that need to be contended with.”


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