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Renée Levi for Basel Social Club

Margot Samel’s 6 Best of Basel

The New York-based gallerist and co-founder of alternative Esther art fair took time out of a busy Basel schedule to impart her thrilling presentations and favorite city spots for shopping and dining.

The New York-based gallerist Margot Samel founded her namesake space in 2022 in TriBeCa, laying the profound groundwork for a meticulous, research-based gallery strengthened by a bevy of global emerging and established artists. With a robust background at premier galleries like Glasgow’s Kendall Koppe and New York’s GRIMM, the visionary fused a wealth of experience into co-founding the avant-garde art fair Esther at the New York Estonian House this year with fellow visionary Olga Temnikova of Temnikova & Kasela. Between presenting awe-inspiring works at Liste and Basel Social Club, as well as relishing in the best poke in town, Samel took the time to share with us her Basel favorites. 

Margot Samel at the New York Estonian House Margot Samel at the New York Estonian House, photo by Eva Sakellarides.

WHITEWALL: Tell us about the works you are presenting at Liste and Basel Social Club.

MARGOT SAMEL: At Liste, I am presenting a new body of work by the artist Melissa Joseph, whose practice involves translating archival and recent images into felt by layering and poking fibers into a wool base. Her latest work is largely inspired by the accordion, an instrument that she not only plays and has a personal relationship with, but also one that she is fascinated by for its use in so many different cultures, including her own. Working on a small scale and incorporating found objects including vintage first aid kits and parts of broken accordions, Melissa has created painterly vignettes that we’ve displayed mostly on the floor, hoping that viewers will take a moment to stop, crouch down, and have an intimate moment with the works in the otherwise bustling surroundings of Liste.

Only 30 minutes south of Liste but in what feels like an entirely different world, I am presenting four new parasols by the Brussels-based, Swiss artist Sarah Margnetti at Basel Social Club. Displayed in the outdoor area of Restaurant Predigerhof, Margnetti created her parasols by dyeing the fabric with native wildflowers and then painting it with various hand gestures inspired by her studio mates. These are only visible at certain times of the day depending on the angle of the light and strength of the sun, responding to the unique outdoor location of Basel Social Club.

WW: What do you have your eye on at the fair?

MS: I’ve been coming to Liste for 15 years and this is my favorite edition yet! Many presentations have caught my eye but here are a few I enjoyed the most: Nooshin Askari & Siyi Li at Cibrián, Peggy Chiang at Laurel Gitlen, Brian Dawn Chalkley at Lungley Gallery, and Nina Hartmann at Silke Lindner.

WW: What are the exhibitions on your must-see list—at other galleries in Basel?

MS: It’s been hard to see a lot of shows while working at the fair, but there are so many stunning presentations at Basel Social Club this year and I’m excited to see “Air Service Basel,” a collective exhibition that takes place at Basel’s private airport. Aside from art, the biggest highlight I’ve had in Basel so far is Haddaway’s concert at Basel Social Club earlier this week! 

“I’ve been coming to Liste for 15 years and this is my favorite edition yet!” — Margot Samel

WW: Where are your go-to places to grab a bite or drink after the fair/opening? Any favorite hotels or shops?

Restaurant Predigerhof at Basel Social Club for lunches and dinners, Cafe Charlotte for best poke in town, and home cooked dinners by my favorite housemates Laurel Gitlen, David Hoyland, and Kendall Koppe. I’ve literally never stayed at a hotel in Basel, but my favorite new store in Basel is Saalhof 1123.

WW: What else are you looking forward to experiencing this season in Basel?

MS: I’m very excited to see the “Echoes Unbound” group exhibition at Fondation Beyeler! And I’m still to have a Bratwurst!

The Best of Basel, According to Margot Samel: 

1. Journey through Liste Art Fair 

Astrit Ismaili, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024 Astrit Ismaili, Salzburg Summer Academy with Ismaili’s workshop participants, 2023; Image Courtesy of Anna Aicher.

A pioneering art fair that showcases young generations of galleries into the art scene, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024 opens its doors from June 11–June 16. Also accessible online, the fair extends its new gallery presentations into a global network. The fair marks Liste’s 29th year in action since its founding in 1996. 

2. Rejoice in Basel Social Club

Forest Cinema, Photo Gina Folly Forest Cinema at Basel Social Club, photo by Gina Folly, courtesy Basel Social Club.

Between June 9–16, visitors are invited to Basel Social Club, a nonprofit event formed by a collective of art professionals in 2022. The club’s third edition continues with its mission to include everyone intrigued by the contemporary art world, free of charge.

3. Revel in the Opulent Simplicity of Restaurant Predigerhof 

Courtesy of Restaurant Predigerhof, photo by Pati Grabowicz.

The culinary concept of the Predigerhof restaurant is based on changing lunch and dinner menus in the restaurant as well as a down-to-earth offer in the Buvette. Quality and simplicity are in the foreground, with products from our own farm and from selected regional partners. We look forward to welcoming you. — Source

4. Pop into the Vibrant Cafe Charlotte

Cafe Charlotte, Basel Courtesy of Cafe Charlotte.

Café Charlotte is a poké restaurant that works with the seasons, selecting the best ingredients from land and sea, serving them up Hawaii-style, as fresh and wholesome bowls, bursting with flavour. — Source

5. Immerse Yourself in Saalhof 1123

Saalhof 1123, basel Courtesy of Saalhof 1123.

SAALHOF 1123 offers a carefully selected portfolio of international designers, artists and producers, bringing together traditional handicrafts with contemporary art and design, or folk culture with fashion, books and music. SAALHOF 1123 emphasizes on contemporary interpretations of traditional and hand-made produce, inspired by the forms, materials and ornamentation of rural culture, architecture and by nature. — Source

6. Embark on the Mesmeric Group Exhibition at Fondation Beyeler

Installation View of Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, 2024, Koo Jeong A, “Boolgasaeu Boolgasali,” 2024 Installation View of Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, 2024, Koo Jeong A, “Boolgasaeu Boolgasali,” 2024, Cast in bronze, dark patina, unique edition + 1 AP © Koo Jeong A, Photo: Mark Niedermann.

For the first time in the Fondation Beyeler’s more than 25-year history, the entire museum and its surrounding park will be transformed into the site of an experimental presentation of contemporary art. With contributions by Michael Armitage, Anne Boyer, Federico Campagna, Ian Cheng, Chuquimamani-Condori and Joshua Chuquimia Crampton, Marlene Dumas, Frida Escobedo, Peter Fischli, Cyprien Gaillard with Victor Man, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Wade Guyton, Carsten Höller with Adam Haar, Pierre Huyghe, Arthur Jafa, Koo Jeong A, Dozie Kanu, Cildo Meireles, Jota Mombaça, Fujiko Nakaya, Alice Notley, Precious Okoyomon, Philippe Parreno, Rachel Rose, Tino Sehgal, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Adrián Villar Rojas. The Summer Show is conceived as a “living organism” that changes and transforms throughout its duration. Source

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On view at Gagosian is “Iconic Avedon: A Centennial Celebration of Richard Avedon” (January 22-March 4) connecting the artist to Paris.
This month, on view January 10-February 28, Stanley Whitney debuts his painting Dear Paris (2023) at Gagosian.

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