Art Basel ‘OVR:2020’ is ‘the’ Virtual Art Event of This Otherwise Awful Year

Simon Fujiwara, A Year of Magic, Esther Schipper Gallery 



Considering it’s a business that relies much more on “knowing” handshakes than technological innovation, the art world’s deft shift to digital since March has been one of this terrible pandemic’s truly impressive stories.

Of course, the art far cancellations continue apace, with the word being handed down in early September that the Holy Grail of them all, Art Basel in Miami Beach, will also not be happening this December (meaning you might want to sell off your Champagne stocks, considering the hit the major houses will be taking). But launching today, minus the glamorous parties, will be the distinctly futuristic sounding Art Basel ‘OVR:2020’—which in fact is merely an acronym for “Online Viewing Rooms.”


Marilyn Minter, Overcast, Salon 94


And oh what viewing it will be. 100 galleries from 28 countries/territories are participating, and all featured works have to have been created in 2020—giving the project an incredible sense of, well…zeitgeistyness (consider that just coined). Each gallery will present a tightly curated collection of six images, which can all be viewed on a single page; and, for those with less-then-exceptional math skills, that means 600 works in total will be showing at ‘OVR:2020’. Mediums and disciplines extend across painting, sculpture, drawings, video, installation, photography, and even digital works—so OVR:2020 will be very much tipping into the “meta,” via the digital viewing of digital art.

There will also be efforts to make it a bit more of a visceral experience, with Berlin gallery neugerriemschneider’s presentation of two new works by Rirkrit Tiravanija, whose production will be perpetually live-streamed over the course of the four day viewing. Another significant highlight will be new photographs by the exalted Marilyn Minter at Salon 94 which, as might be expected of her, confront matters of feminine body image and contemporary notions of beauty. (Minter is also featured in the new BlackBook book title A Woman’s Right to Pleasure.)


Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Anthem, Anat Egbi Gallery 


No surprise, in this year of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Anat Ebgi gallery will show video and digital collages by Jibade-Khalil Huffman, which address America’s escalating levels of racial divisiveness. And at Jessica Silverman, Sadie Barnette’s work references a family history that includes her father Rodney’s founding membership in the Black Panther Party.

Naturally, the coronavirus crisis will also be confronted forthwith in the works of several participating artists. Lynn Hershman Leeson most notably explores the PPE mask as an identity construct—which has perhaps been the defining socio-political issue of 2020.

‘The viewing rooms that comprise Art Basel’s ‘OVR:2020’ represent an incredible force and variety of artistic perspectives,” observes Marc Spiegler, Global Director, Art Basel. “Together they offer our audiences across the globe the opportunity to experience artists’ most recent works—both conveying and contending with the lived experiences of our time.’

And what a time it is.

Art Basel ‘OVR:2020’ will be on view at through September 26.


Sadie Barnette, Untitled, Jessica Silverman Gallery


Rirkrit Tiravanija, TOMORROW, neugerriemschneider gallery 

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