It’s mid-June, our email and Twitter feeds are exploding, and all the private jets are gone. It’s Art Basel. What do you need to know about the world’s most significant contemporary art event?
It is the world’s most significant contemporary art event. Art Cologne is older, TEFAF Maastricht is bigger, and Art Basel editions in Miami Beach and Hong Kong are incredibly ascendant. But Art Basel in Basel, in its 45th edition in 2014, is the epicenter of the global contemporary art world. (It is officially called “Art Basel in Basel” since last year).
Attendance at this year’s fair is expected to reach 86,000, and the airport near Basel is receiving over 300 private jets each day. Some 300 of the world’s most important galleries have arrived in Switzerland and are prepared to sell as much as $4 billion worth of modern and contemporary art. The fair began with an opening for “first-choice” VIPs at 11am on Tuesday. Another set of VIPs entered on Wednesday, and the fair opened to the general public on Thursday. Inside, top galleries and dealers met with elite collectors. Artspace provides a clever guide to the sorts of collectors one may expect: Art Collectors of Our Time: A Field Guide
Sales happened quickly after Tuesday’s opening. Dominique Levy Gallery sold a Gerhard Richter painting, Abstraktes Bild, for more than $6 million. Skarstedt Gallery sold a Georg Baselitz painting, Edvard in Front of the Mirror (Munch), for $3 million and an Andy Warhol self-portrait for $32 million. White Cube sold Nothing is a Problem for Me, a Damien Hirst medicine cabinet vitrine, for $6 million. David Zwirner Gallery sold a Jeff Koons sculpture, Dolphin, for $5 million and an Ad Reinhardt canvas entitled Blue Painting for over $10 million.
Beyond the mega-sales in the Art Ba$el Galleries section, the fair also includes a Features section with 24 curated installations, a Statements section for exhibitions from emerging artists and galleries, an Unlimited section for works that are generally large-scale installations, and a Parcours section for site-specific works throughout the city. Artsy is providing excellent editorial coverage: Artsy Covers Art Basel Week 2014
Art Basel is hosted in the Messeplatz exhibition halls, which gained a notable renovation and expansion in 2013 by the Basel-based global architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. Designboom covered the project here: http://www.designboom.com/architecture/herzog-de-meuron-mch-messe-basel-hall/