Paris+ par Art Basel 2023

October 26th 2023 – by Séfora Camazano
Miguel Arce and Séfora Camazano

Our recent visit to Paris+ par Art Basel was an interesting and enriching experience, albeit challenging at times. As a figurative artist, my artistic focus centers on representing reality in a way that invites understanding and connection with the viewer. However, our visit to the art fair exposed us to a significant number of abstract and conceptual artworks that, for the most part, I struggled to comprehend or appreciate.

During our tour, some galleries stood out for their kindness and willingness to share information about the artworks and artists, which was a very positive experience. However, there were other galleries that appeared disinterested in engaging in dialogue or explaining their exhibitions. This became a significant obstacle, as the lack of information about many of the artworks, particularly the abstract and conceptually challenging ones, made it impossible to understand or connect with these creations. This sense of bewilderment was shared by other attendees, leading me to ponder a fundamental question about the role of information and communication in contemporary art. Is it necessary to fully understand an artwork to appreciate it, or is mystery and ambiguity part of its allure?

At Paris+ par Art Basel, I encountered a variety of artistic styles, and I must admit that a significant percentage of them did not resonate with me at all. I came across artworks that, from my perspective, seemed as if they had been rescued from a garbage dump. It was challenging for me to comprehend and accept that someone could consider these works as art, and how some individuals would spend thousands of euros on something that, besides being aesthetically unappealing, seemed to convey very little unless one was repeatedly guided through the artist’s concept, which was not immediately evident.

This experience led me to question the very nature of contemporary art and its relationship with subjectivity. I often wondered if the glorification of the ugly, the horrifying, or the apparent lack of technical skill was a way to challenge traditional standards of beauty and artistic proficiency. I experienced a sense of bewilderment and, at times, felt as if we, the viewers and visitors, were being regarded as “fools.” The feeling that the art intentionally aimed to be aggressive, to repel, or even belittle those who did not understand it, was a recurring theme. It seemed to pose a dilemma: Is it necessary to understand art to appreciate it, or is contemporary art entering hostile territory for those not familiar with its language?

I also reflected on the notion of value in contemporary art. Some works made me wonder if it was simply a matter of using everyday objects or even trash and labeling them as art. The question of whether anyone could do the same arose, and if so, what distinguishes an artist from someone who merely collects objects and calls them art. This question raises fundamental issues about authenticity and value in the world of contemporary art.

This visit also prompted me to consider the recognition and protection that some artists receive, often based on reputation or provocation, while other exceptionally talented artists may go unnoticed. Contemporary art appears to be a field where rules are constantly questioned, and success and notoriety can sometimes depend on surprise, controversy, or concept, rather than technical skill or traditional ability.

In summary, our visit to Paris+ par Art Basel was an enriching experience that allowed me to question and broaden my perspective on contemporary art. While some artworks left me perplexed or even uncomfortable, I recognize the importance of diversity in artistic expression and the freedom to explore new aesthetic territories. Nevertheless, my commitment to figurative art remains steadfast, as I believe it is a genuine response to what the world needs and demands at this moment.

Here are some photos of artworks that I did indeed like!

Ai Weiwei – Galerie Neugerriemschneider
Elladj Lincy – Galerie Cecile Fakhoury
Jenny Holzer – Sprüth Magers

More information about Paris+ par Art Basel is available in this link.

© Séfora Camazano