Art Basel Riot Police Raids Tadashi Kawamata Favela Cafe

Posted June 17th, 2013 under Contemporary Art, Discussions, News, Shows, Switzerland

Favela Cafe
Maybe this was only a misunderstanding, but the organizers of Art Basel should think twice before calling the riot police next time, especially if they show a controversial artwork like the ‘Favela Cafe’ which is destined to cause some sort of reaction from the public. Not cool!

On Friday night the Swiss police fired rubber bullets and teargas at an artist-activist group who had taken over Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata and architect Christophe Scheidegger’s politically sort of uncomfortable ‘favela cafe’ at Art Basel, a fully working eatery in the guise of Brasil’s ad-hoc urban areas. Art Basel had allowed the group to protest for a limited time, but then the police showed up and attacked what they considered an outlaw party occupying Kawamata’s Favela cafe, starting to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

Greg reports that “it appears that an event organizer had erected a favela DJ booth of their own, and were protesting Kawamata’s use of favelas to serve luxury falafel to visitors at Art Basel. ” So all of this because of loud music.

Art Info writes that “according to the local newspaper Basellandschaftliche Zeitung, the raid escalated to something of a street fight with protesters tossing debris at the police officers who in turn applied excessive amounts of tear gas in order to gain control over the situation. By Saturday morning the scene was cleared and most Art Basel visitors would only have noticed scattered remnants from the tumultuous scenes the night before.

In the local press, however, questions remained about who to hold responsible for the incident’s relatively violent end. In an interview with the Basler Zeitung newspaper, Baschi Dürr, director of the Basel police, pointed out that the police had been called by the art fairs organizers after the protestors — who had also added impromptu huts of their own to Kawamata’s favela — had refused to leave the premises or turn down the music blasting out of their large PA system. Asked whether the use of tear gas was an appropriate measure, Dürr stated that though he personally felt “a certain sympathy for the artificial favela,” the police officers had to defend themselves, after having been attacked with chairs. Dürr also pointed out that previous attempts to end the situation via negotiations had failed.”