Interview with Sukanya Rajaratnam, Mnuchin Gallery, Art Basel 2015

The premier international art show, Art Basel, opens tomorrow with a wide selection of modern and contemporary works on display from 300 leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Mnuchin Gallery returns to Art Basel with a showcase of exceptional works by Pablo Picasso, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Agnes Martin and Anselm Kiefer alongside recent pieces by David Hammons and Tavares Strachan, whom they are exhibiting for the first time. We speak to Sukanya Rajaratnam, Partner at Mnuchin, about the gallery’s participation at Art Basel and its upcoming exhibition programme.

A: Mnuchin Gallery returns to Art Basel this week. In your opinion, why are art fairs important to contemporary galleries?
SR: As the market has become increasingly global and the number of galleries has mushroomed, art fairs have become an important venue to which clients come with the mindset of making acquisitions. While in the past we could expect to see our regular stable of collectors at our gallery, it has become more the case of seeing this stable grow along with the expectation of seeing them at art fairs.

A: This year’s presentation features major works by renowned artists such as Agnes Martin and Ed Ruscha. How does the gallery wish to shed new light on these widely exhibited practitioners?
SR: While these artists are of course widely exhibited, given their art historical significance, Art Basel gives us an opportunity to showcase superlative examples that have often not been seen by the public in many years, if ever. For example, the Agnes Martin you mention has been in the same private collection since it was gifted by the artist directly from her studio, and has never before been exhibited. Curating the relatively intimate spaces of an art fair booth also allows us to create interesting juxtapositions that one might not typically see in a gallery. For example, this Agnes Martin will be installed alongside a hanging Ruth Asawa sculpture, highlighting the shared aesthetic tendencies of two women contemporaries whose work was deeply engaged in their individual processes.

A: Which artworks are you particularly excited to showcase at Art Basel, and why have these been chosen for display?
SR: We are particularly excited to showcase Tuteins Grab, a classic, early-80s Anselm Kiefer painting with a very powerful presence that will be the focal point of our booth.

A: Both David Hammons and Tavares Strachan will be exhibited at Art Basel this year. What factors led you to select these artists in particular?
SR: The gallery has a long history exhibiting David Hammons: we have had two critically-acclaimed shows, one in 2007 and one in 2011. The new work that we will be exhibiting at Basel comes straight from the artist’s studio, and represents a new evolution in the “tarp paintings” series that we showed in 2011. We are excited to present Tavares Strachan’s work for the first time. He is a young conceptual artist whose work we find exceptionally compelling. He represented the Bahamas at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and is currently working on an exhibition at LACMA. We are also planning an exhibition at the gallery, for which this showcase at Basel will be an introduction.

A: What can audiences look forward to seeing at Mnuchin over the next few months?
SR: We are very much looking forward to our fall show, opening in September, entitled Carl Andre In His Time. It will present roughly 10 early Andre floor sculptures alongside key paintings and wall pieces by his contemporaries, capturing the mood of this critical 1960s Minimalist moment. In addition to surveying the breadth of Andre’s materials, the show will include a Donald Judd stack, a Sol LeWitt wall drawing, a Dan Flavin neon work, and a Frank Stella painting, among other works.

Mnuchin Gallery at Art Basel, 18 – 21 June, MCH Swiss Exhibition, Messeplatz, 4058 Basel, Switzerland.

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1. Tavares Strachan. Wag dog (from Histories, Libraries, and Mythlolgies), 2015. Courtesy Mnuchin Gallery. Artwork © Tavares Strachan.