As every year, the appointment with Art Basel is back, open to public from 13 to 16 June, with the most important contemporary art fair in the world, born in 1970 thanks to the intuition of gallery owners and collectors Trudl Bruckner, Balz Hilt and spouses Ernst and Hildy Beyeler.
The founders – eminent personalities and avant-garde figures, were looking far ahead and sensed the great potential for a new market destined to change the history of art.
Legendary personalities such as Trudl Bruckner, a Swiss gallerist who during her 44 years of activity made “Basel zuliebe” – “for the love of Basel” – her slogan, is one of the female figures standing at the origins of the fair’s conception.
Together with her on the way to transforming Basel into an international center of contemporary art, the spouses Beyeler, cultured and sophisticated “old style” collectors – both patrons and merchants – created a collection of over 200 absolute masterpieces by artists such as Rothko , Klee, Giacometti and Picasso, with whom the couple had developed relationships of friendship and mutual respect.
In 1997, the Beyelers established the Foundation named after them, which has become the most visited in all of Switzerland and the most international, with 52% of foreign visitors.
Created as an answer and alternative of the German Art Cologne, the Swiss fair was successful from the very beginning, with over 16,000 visitors to the inaugural exhibition, 90 participating galleries and 30 publishers from 10 different countries.
The numbers were destined to grow exponentially within very few editions, if we consider that to date the participating galleries have risen to 290 coming from 34 countries.
Basel, from a typical town on the Rhine, becomes an international meeting and exchange place for all art dealers, art lovers and collectors and after 49 years it continues to be the most important international event in the field of art, not only in terms of the market, but also research.
The exhibition includes all forms of artistic expression such as painting, graphics, installation, photography, performance and video art, developed especially since the late 90s with “Video Forum”, a section dedicated to the interaction of art with technological media and first of all with the video art, then “Art Unlimited” was launched, giving space to large-scale installations created through the use of a wide variety of means of expression.
Demonstrating its international character, since 2002 the Basel fair has expanded overseas for the winter edition that takes place in Miami under the name of Art Basel Miami Beach (scheduled this year from 5 to 8 December). It was also in those years that Art Basel Conversations appeared, discussions with the main representatives of the art world – among the art collectors, museum directors, curators, artists, art critics and architects – providing access to information first hand on various aspects of the art world.
If prior to the Art Basel fair all the fairs were of a national character, then since its foundation the meaning of artistic manifestation has changed, and all the directors who have followed one another over the years have wanted to impress that seal of internationality and of superlative quality that is still maintained intact in its primacy. The commission carefully considers the candidates – galleries, artists and related works proposed for the exhibition – and this selection guarantees and protects the requirements necessary to participate in the prestigious fair.
The international character of the event is once again is emphasized by Art Basel Hong Kong, launched in 2013, allowing for a privileged observation point of the dynamics of the Eastern market. The next appointment is from 19 to 21 March 2020.
The turnover of millions of dollars for each edition and the huge capitals that revolve around Art Basel are amazing, with astounding numbers that reflect the economic impact the big fairs have on the global art market.
The main actors are mainly three: Art Basel – which belongs to the MCH group – Frieze London and Tefaf Maastricht: continuous expansion across continents and support from financial institutions (UBS in the case of Art Basel) are just some of the factors that determine the constant increase in growth.
Among other things, it became known these days that MCH Group, the company owning Art Basel and Masterpiece London, has decided to sell the Art Düsseldorf fair in order to focus more on the two “flagship horses” of their team.
So, what role do non-commercial events play in the art market?
The question could be answered with the statement: “See in Venice, buy in Basel”, this is the collectors’ motto that can serve as an example suggesting of the close link between the non-profit Biennale and the most famous commercial fair.
Venice, with its prestige, provides good visibility to the participating artists and gives an overview of the news and new interesting names.
There is no doubt that sales are made earlier in the Serenissima (Serene Republic), a fact that is confirmed by over one hundred exhibitions held in addition to the official Biennale program of this year.
For example, the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery supports artists such as Lee Bul, Baselitz, Vedova and Ghenie present in Venice, and three of them are offered for sale in Basel.
Just as the Carpenters Workshop Gallery offers to buy the work of Maarten Baas, an artist presented at the Biennale. Equally the White Cube offers the artist Ibrahim Mahama, who represents the Ghana Pavilion.
At the exhibition we also find other artists participating in the 58th Biennale, such as Zanele Muholi, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Mawande Ka Zenzile, Frida Orupabo, Kris Lemsalu, Tamás Waliczky, Cathy Wilkes, Arshile Gorky, Günter Förg, Martin Puryear, Christoph Büchel.
“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”