Art Basel returns with galleries and collectors eager for art …

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) The prestigious art fair returns this week after a Covid-induced break, and despite the limitations, a good turnout is expected.

This content was published on September 20, 2021 – 9:55 AM September 20, 2021 – 9:55 AM Melanie Gerlis, Financial Times

“The era of IRL [In Real Life]-only the art fair is over, ”says Iwan Wirth, co-founder of the Hauser & Wirth global gallery. But cancel events in person at your own risk. Against all expectations, Art Basel opens this week in Switzerland with 272 expected galleries – including Wirth’s – and collectors ready to flock from all over the world.

Conditions are not ideal for the postponed 51st edition of the world’s most prestigious art fair. The Covid-19 pandemic has by no means gone away, with travel warnings for Switzerland from the United States, difficult or nearly banned trips outside Asia, and strict testing requirements to enter theaters from Art Basel. Before the pandemic, art professionals and buyers complained about “fairtigue” – the exhaustion of too many fairs, at too fast a rate. But today, it seems exhibitors and fairgoers prefer the energy – and high costs – of real events to none at all, regardless of the logistics.

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London-based Ben Brown, new to the main venue at Art Basel this year, says: “Maybe the juggernaut

brands can exist without [physical] fairs, but people like me need it. So good fairs will survive. Brown has previously exhibited at The Armory Show in New York and signed up for Frieze London, Frieze Masters, the West Bund Art & Design Show in Shanghai, and Art Basel Miami Beach, all before the end of the year.

For the Swiss Fair, his gallery brings ceramics from 1936-66 by the Italian modernist Lucio Fontana (100,000-4 million euros [CHF109,150-CHF4.37 million]). These include four pieces that were featured in the Guggenheim Bilbao retrospective in 2019, but even those items are more difficult to sell digitally than a new work by a sought-after artist, according to Brown.

New artists benefit from improved sales rates at an actual fair, suggests Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel: “Even if galleries were successful in cutting costs [by not attending art fairs], they experienced a larger drop in sales. Without fairs, you cannot fund your artists as you would under normal conditions. This is why the galleries need to come back.

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Berlin-based dealer and collector Robert Morat, at Photo Basel this week, says it’s all about the “serendipity” of such events. “Online you find what you are looking for; in person, you find things you didn’t know you were looking for.

Art Basel won’t have the crowded aisles of previous years but, at the time of writing, collectors were still planning to come from afar, check in and watch each other. essential part of our ecosystem of the art world and I think it is important to support it in such an unusual and difficult year, ”says collector Catherine Petitgas. She will come from New York and host a dinner for the Tate International Council, which she chairs. “It’s always a pleasure to attend,” she says.

Simon Castets, director of the nonprofit Swiss Institute for Contemporary Art in New York City, is traveling to Basel in part because of the impact of the pandemic. “Our relationships with Swiss foundations and individuals are essential to our very existence … We must be present to engage our supporters, who have supported us even though they have not been able to travel to the United States for 18 months”, he said.

Valerie Carberry, associated with the Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago, said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the number of American collectors planning to come to the fair, plus one client finding a way to come from Hong Kong. people physically. I have felt invigorated every time I saw a client in the gallery since the lockdown, ”she says. His gallery brings together a mix of artists, including the lavish “Arriving in Africa” by Helen Frankenthaler (1970) and a 2019 wood and fire hose work by Theaster Gates.

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The prediction is that the fair will have a more local vibe this time around, but it is in an area with a rich selection. “The very success of Art Basel is due to the powerful Swiss, French and German collectors,” notes Stefan Ratibor, director of Gagosian Galerie. “In addition, the show now has its digital presence, which protects us from an international audience. His gallery is pulling out all the stops with works like “Im Gestein” by Glenn Brown (2019-21), “ubB 6” (2020) by Albert Oehlen and “Better Halves Bitter Ends” (2020) measuring 3.65 meters high. top of Urs Fischer (the three jobs range from $ 900,000 to $ 3 million [CHF838,960-CHF2.8 million).

There is a sense too that it is time for a shake-up of the old ways. Fairs that have gone down well already this season include The Armory Show and Independent in New York, both in new venues, and London’s Eye of the Collector, an entirely new fair that dotted a range of works in a landmark building rather than in restrictive booths.

Meanwhile, Hauser & Wirth has boosted its digital offering, including a more interactive viewing tool on its own website, a daily Art Basel Diaries vlog and a live chat function so that its sales directors can speak to anyone, anywhere, during the fair. Its works for Art Basel include Zeng Fanzhi’s“Untitled (Yellow)” (2021, $1.8m), Jack Whitten’s late sculpture“Shark Bait” (2016, $3m) and Maria Lassnig’s“Schweinderln (Piggies)” (2007, €550,000).“We’ve created a next-generation, ‘phygital’ [physical-digital] experience using invisible, intuitive and human technology, including interactive photo-real 3D, ”says Wirth.

The expectations of gallery owners and collectors are that while it will not be business as usual in Basel this week, there will be business. people, ”says Brown. As Gagosian’s Ratibor puts it, “It won’t be the same as in 2019, but it won’t go to the supermarket either. We all want Art Basel to work, so we have to keep going. “

Art Basel 2021 runs from Monday September 20 to Sunday September 26; public days are September 24, 25 and 26. More information hereExternal link.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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