It is great that in these times – when the world seems to filled with politcal, human and moral crises – a fair like Art Basel exists.
Founded in 1970, Art Basel is the biggest fair for modern art in the world. The concept has proven to be so successful that events organised by the Art Basel organisation are now taking place in Hong Kong and Miami Beach as well. Confusingly enough, they are labelled Art Basel Hong Kong and Art Basel Miami Beach.
The original Art Basel is an annual event taking place in Basel, a Swiss city which borders on France and Germany. Around 200 galleries set up shop in small booths, where they expose works of the artists they represent and works they want to sell.
It is a great place to see not only great art, but also to observe “the scene”.
Apple devices and Moleskine notebooks form the vast majority of electronic and physical communication and recording tools of art dealers. For male dealers, the dresscode consists of (light) blue suits with relatively short cut trousers; pochets, cufflinks and socks are apparently considered as optional. If glasses are necessary: big frames. For female dealers the dress code seems to be more liberal, but by all appearances you can never go wrong with black.
The booths tend to be minimalistic in terms of colour (predominantly white) and furniture. Barcelona and Eames chairs can be spotted incidentally, but design does not seem to be a must as far as furniture is concerned. Space is apparently very expensive: some galleries have to make do with a couple of square meters on the inside of the outer walls of the building, sometimes near the entry to the restrooms.
In terms of trading, apparently most of the deals are conducted before or in the first hours of the fair. However occasionally you can spot champagne carts being pushed on other days across the halls to a booth where a successful deal has been completed.
Part of the tradition for non-VIP visitors is trying to have lunch in the foodcourt in the open air. Here price elasticity is taken to a new (higher) level and obtaining a place to seat requires good eyesight, excellent physical condition and an overdose of assertiveness.
However people do not go to Art Basel to observe the scene or lunch, they come to see art. And there is a lot of art to see and admire. Quite often great pieces can be seen that move from collector to collector, without ever having been inside a museum. A couple of my personal favourites are shown below.
Alex Katz – Red Hat (Renee)
Wayne Thiebaud – Woman in Tub
Joan Mitchell – Untitled (1951)
Jean-Michel Basquiat – Hoax
David Hockey – Untitled (From the Yosemite series)
Marc Chagall – Le cheval à la lune
Excuses for the high number of paintings from Roy Lichtenstein. I really like his works for their playfulness, relativism and technique. They never fail to invoke a smile in me.