Descend Into the Bunker at June Art Fair, Where Cool Alternative Vibes Abound

Less than 200 meters (or about 650 feet) away from Art Basel is the June Art Fair, an alternative, intergenerational, independent platform that is nestled in a concrete bunker. Founded in 2019 by dealers Esperanza Rosales (of the VI, VII in Oslo) and Christian Andersen (of his namesake space in Copenhagen), the fair, which runs through June 16, aims to revive the magic the two felt when they first participated in Liste, Art Basel’s more established satellite fair.

“The idea emerged from the feeling that we needed to try to do something different to grow as galleries,” Rosales told ARTnews. “We thought, instead of saying that a fair does not work for us, we should try to do something else ourselves.”

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Even the fair’s name fits that spirit, taking its name from the common art world adage of “See you in June,” a reference to Art Basel, as well as being a play on Death in June, the name of a neofolk band led by English musician Douglas. Upon the suggestion of a “well-placed” colleague, they add “Art Fair” to their project’s title.

The fair’s bunker was recently has transformed into an exhibition space by Pritzker Prize–winning firm Herzog & de Meuron, and that is reason enough to visit this fair. The elevator ride down three levels builds the suspense of the wares that the 12 participating galleries have brought. Nearly half are participating for the first time: Cento (Glasgow), Lagune Ouest (Copenhagen), Magician Space (Beijing), PALAS (Sydney), and Property Holdings Development Group (Hong Kong).

“It’s actually our first fair ever, and we could not be more excited,” Cento co-founder Grace Johnson said. The Glasgow-based gallery is presenting a solo show of British artist Rhett Leinster, whose work incorporates paper he makes himself and pigment that he often grinds himself. These pieces draw inspiration from images found online that Leinster transforms into something else, like a bird that now looks like a landscape.

This year’s fair also decreased in size, having four exhibitors fewer than in 2023. “We could decide to cut the program in half, give each other more space, and just do the project with five galleries,” Rosales said, noting that the fair has a cost-sharing model that prioritizes the needs of the exhibitors.

Tokyo-based dealer Yugari Hagiwara (of Hagiwara Projects) is showing small works by British artist Gabriel Hartley, whose layered and textured paintings and ceramics call for slow contemplation. “I did well last year, so I am happy to be back,” Hagiwara said.

Three abstract paintings with large dots on a white background.
Paintings by Benjamin Echeverria in the booth of Parisa Kina, at June Art Fair, 2024.

In her VI, VII booth, Rosales is showing Yu Shuk Pui Bobby video’s Genetic Salon I & II (2021–22), which questions perceptions around gender, the body, and identity, as well as a series of digital prints on porcelain inspired by Hong Kong memorial placards (ceramic tiles with portraits of the dead loved ones left at their graves). Rosales has also brought three abstract compositions by Norwegian painter Jorunn Hancke Øgstad, who uses fabric dye, resin, and plastics to mimic watercolor, spray paint, and print processes.

Frankfurt-based gallery Parisa Kind has returned to the fair, with a presentation that includes figurative ink-on-canvas works by German artist Isabelle Fein and a new series of abstract paintings by Benjamin Echeverria, who has recently begun depicting large dots, using the lids of paint cans to determine the shape of his patterns. 

What explains the loyalty of returning exhibitors? There is a certain sense of intimacy that pervades the fair. “It is a pretty cool fair,” said Frankfurt dealer Jacky Strenz, who has curated her booth as an homage to artist Lin May Saeed, who died 2023. In her practice, which spanned various mediums, Saeed dedicated her work to advocating for the respect of animals. 

“We are a great group of galleries,” Kind said. “We hang out all the time. There is no competition between us. We help each other out. It does not feel like old friends getting together—we are old friends getting together.”

Source: artnews.com

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