At Art Basel’s Latest Virtual Edition, Timely Works Abound

Ryan Waddups, Surface Magazine, September 25, 2020

Art Basel seems to have learned that when it comes to virtual viewing rooms, less is more. That mantra defines the fair’s third virtual edition this year, which launched shortly after the fair’s marquee Swiss edition would have occurred had it not been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Titled OVR: 2020, the virtual showcase restricts the 100 participating galleries, which include such blue-chip mainstays as White Cube, Lévy Gorvy, and Lehmann Maupin, to present six works at a time; all must have been created in 2020. 


The more focused format follows “feedback we received from our audiences in the past months and weeks,” Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler explains to ARTnews, referring to the fair’s virtual Hong Kong edition that launched when the pandemic first broke out. “The viewing rooms that comprise Art Basel’s OVR:2020 represent an incredible force and variety of artistic perspectives, which together offer our audiences the opportunity to experience artists’ more recent works, conveying and contending with the lived experiences of our time.” They touch upon today’s vital themes of social justice, racial inequality, the coronavirus pandemic, and environmental crises. We round up our favorite presentations.


“Stand Up, Speak Up, Speak Out” at Jenkins Johnson Gallery

These five African Diaspora artists—Lisa Corinne Davis, Rashaad Newsome, Blessing Ngobeni, Amani Lewis, and Raelis Vasquez—dismantle inaccurate stereotypes, condemn elitism, and pay homage to queer culture and intersectionality. Pictured above, Mornings (2020) by Vasquez embodies the Dominican emigrant’s signature approach to portraiture, which often juxtaposes scenes of family life with the traumatic experience of immigration. In doing so, the Columbia MFA student confronts inaccurate stereotypes surrounding Afro-Latino ancestry and presses against traditional concepts of American identity.