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Art | Basel 45: The Incomprehensible Art Works

Art | Basel 45: The Incomprehensible Art Works

ART | BASEL has now reached its 45th year. For me, it is my 1st attendance. My passion is in art, contemporary art. However, my fascination for contemporary art was only limited to the exposure I had on Malaysian contemporary art. I did once attended Art Dubai in 2013 but it was only to conclude, in the hindsight, that Malaysian contemporary art has matured to an international level. My personal opinion of contemporary art is that it manifests 50% story telling and 50% aesthetics. Some artists disagreed with me and some do agree. Anyhow, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

There was also a debate on Facebook amongst artists, collectors and gallerists on whether contemporary art is the work of conmen. Things got heated and some were upset. I wish that that question was discussed in a civilised manner just like how I observed in Art | Basel 45 in Basel, Switzerland, yesterday. They discussed whether contemporary is a garbage bag of things we do not know or a significant contributor to the development of approach in addressing societal issues. It was a fantastic session that concludes, if read between the lines, that contemporary art is not garbage but knowledge. The Director of Tate Modern, London, closed off the discussion by saying, "I fear that the current lack of knowledge in contemporary art amongst artists, gallerists, auctioners, academicians and collectors might just kill contemporary art and with that, something else, something we do not know what yet, will emerge."

Well back to my definition of 50% : 50% split between story telling and aesthetic, in my opiniom, if you sway too much on the story telling and significantly ignore the aesthetics, the knowledge quest in contemporary art may just render it non-art in the visual sense. In fact, what is thought to radiate knowledge may just have the opposite effect making contemporary are an incomprehensible subject matter. So far, Malaysian contemporary art has not yet reached that level and personally, for the sake of the industry in Malaysia, I do hope that it maintains the fair split between story telling and aesthetic values. It cannot evolve too fast when society (in Malaysia) had just only started to learn about contemporary art (the Malaysian way) since around 2008/2009 when the first art auctioning activities started in Malaysia. The Europeans started contemporary way back in the 70's when Malaysia was just about to enter the pre-contemporary stage, i.e. modernist abstract.

To demonstrate my confusion of the incomprehensible art works that I had observed at Art | Basel 45 for the past 3 days (17 - 19 June 2015), please find below a selection of my favourite pieces befitting my incomprehensible state of mind. Enjoy!

About Author

Johan Ishak
Chief Executive Officer

Born in the year of Wooden Rabbit in Penang. Art is at Heart but Numbers keep me going,.. and I think Led Zeppelin rocks!