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How to describe the biggest and oldest art fair and its 47th edition that took place in Basel from June 13-19?
As with every year at Art Basel, we saw some clear winners setting new trends for the year to come, within a mature market during a time of caution and potential crisis. The heavy hitters like Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Sprüth Magers, and Dominique Levy had a “sans faute,” selling almost everything and thus creating the impression that the market is as bullish as last year and that the worries over Brexit and the mini stock and oil crash have had no impact on our sheltered art world.
And Art Basel was not the only fair taking place last week. Unlimited once again made a strong and powerful impression of monumental work usually reserved for museum exhibitions. Worth noting early in the week is what felt like a coming of age for Design Miami/ Basel and LISTE showing how emerging artists are truly the new rock stars (but ultimately did not translate into sizable sales as in the past). SCOPE and VOLTA managed to bring together an interesting roster of emerging galleries from around the world creating a compelling alternative for art enthusiasts in search of affordable pieces.
As for the cultural life in Basel, the Fondation Beyeler continues to be at the week’s epicenter. It put Basel at the center of the map of the international art scene in the first place, and it created once again a unique artistic experience with its “Calder & Fischli/Weiss” show. Not to mention the foundation’s Mondrians and Picassos to remind us of the incredible taste and vision of Beyeler as a collector. The Kunstmuseum’s new building is a gem that shines as much from the outside as from the inside. The building is a true masterpiece and offers an impressive, even spectacular addition to an already vibrant cultural scene.
The events were too numerous to list here, but included the great auction gala organized on Monday night at Design Miami/ Basel to benefit UNAIDS under Simon de Pury’s stewardship, nights at Les Trois Rois and the Kunsthalle’s Ruinart champagne bar.
In the end, the collector-driven week brought together the best and richest from around the globe, despite non-European collectors’ wariness of recent terrorist attacks in French-speaking countries and apprehension over the English vote on Brexit and its impact on currencies.
This year’s Art Basel offers a potential forecast of what’s to come for 2017. Collectors are becoming more conservative and risk-averse. Galleries are focusing on what is selling and embracing a new reality. This is a mature market in search of innovation and new ways to grow but definitely not ready to reform.