The end of January opens the season of big art fairs worldwide. Such art fairs became significant players on the art market with cities like Brussels, Geneva, Cologne, Basel, New York, Hong Kong and others, hosting thousands of art lovers every year. Art bazaars are no longer for professional circles only, but a new mainstream which attracts tourists, students and even pupils.
Let’s start our review of the world’s largest art fairs with Basel. Having more than 45 years of history, “Art Basel” remains the premier art show of its kind, presenting contemporary art within a cultural brand perspective around the globe, with representative offices in Miami Beach, New York and Hong Kong. During the show week, leading galleries display the many dimensions of modern art offered by the show’s sectors: the gallery sector, the Unlimited programme and Parcours.
Despite the Miami art fair, for example, being a total success and a cultural phenomenon, the central platform to gather art enthusiasts remains in Switzerland.
Dealers keep their best products for the expo and collectors come to buy: the requirements are so high that potential buyers have only 10-15 minutes during elite VIP reviews either to make a decision or to give way to another collector.
Having more than 60 000 visitors and 245 galleries that participate in art shows, Basel has already transformed from a cosy city in Switzerland into a well-known brand that brings the international art world together.
We gathered some extracts from an interview with Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer, co-directors of Art Basel:
- The first thing to clarify is that we have no turnover from the sales of fairs. People tend to make a mythological mistake, considering that there are three different types of sales: gallery sales, sales of auction houses and sales on fairs. In fact, transactions that take place in projects similar to ours and gallery sales are tightly linked. They belong to the same group, and we usually do not distinguish them. Naturally, you can easily define the number of works sold during the evening opening, but it’s impossible to determine the number of pieces sold through our fair.
- I think, many collectors buy in galleries and bid on auctions as well. Experienced collectors know the art world and realise the fundamental difference between purchasing in a studio (whether it participates in a fair, like ours, or a usual one) and at auctions. When you buy at an auction, the only people to receive a reward are the auction house and the dealer. But when it comes to a gallery, you support the artist and the gallery itself along with other studio artists; galleries use their sales to develop and promote other artists with whom they work. Therefore, even if people buy from both, this is not the same thing.
- In fact, one of the most critical success factors of “Art Basel” was a continuous innovation. We noticed that the art world needed theatrical performances, so we added “Art on Stage”. We can experiment, we have time, energy and resources to “play” with shapes.
- If you look at the list of galleries in the “Art Galleries” sector, which is the main one, you’ll notice only a few of them on a permanent basis from year to year. There is a constant process of new galleries emerging and entering the fair, while others lose their strength and the potential to stay on the list.