Art Basel Launches Online Movie Section

Vivienne Chow
·2-min read

Swiss art fair giant Art Basel is venturing into online streaming with a new digital film program featuring artist-made films. The section will launch ahead of its annual Hong Kong fair which has been postponed to May.

The program began with a showcase of three works by Asian artists on the art fair’s website that can be viewed free-of-charge and it is expected to go on, according to Li Zhenhua, the film sector curator of Art Basel.

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The current selection features two shorts, “The Ways of Folding Space & Flying” (2015) by Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, and “Muted Situation #5: Muted Chorus” (2016) by Samson Young. They are joined by He Xianyu’s “The Swim” (2017), which is feature length.

Li, who has been curating the film program of the Hong Kong fair since 2014, said unlike the usual film sector which was programmed based on submissions from galleries exhibiting at the fair, the online program is a free-standing initiative that came out of his previous curation off-line.

“It has been inspired by artists I have encountered … and it comes with a chronological idea emphasizing film, sound and performance,” Li told Variety.

“I am always concerned about the ongoing media and production for art and film. Yes, the program will go on. I am interested in shifting the theater film experience online to cater for more diverse audiences … whilst still being a home experience. It is like a little whispering project for people willing to listen to the artists.”

Art Basel has been presenting films and artworks in moving image format at its fairs across its three locations in Hong Kong, Basel in Switzerland and Miami Beach in the U.S. Following the cancellation of all three fairs last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Art Basel has taken the fair online with a series of online viewing rooms. The digital film program is its first initiative to put films and moving image works online.

Li said the fair’s online platform was strong enough to support streaming but his intention for the program is to explore how digital devices such as smartphones and computers “have mobilized and controlled us in our time.”

Film as a form of artistic creation has been reincarnated in different formats over the past century through technological innovation, Li said. Digital platforms have offered a new avenue for artists and filmmakers. Figuring out a way to better support their work via these new platforms would be key to the future, he added.

“Online experience is one added layer to the presence and future of how art can be,” he said. “The deeper we understand the digital media and platform, the more it grows in value.”

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