By Socratis Santik Oglou,
Art Basel is the world’s largest for-profit international contemporary art fair with a collection of world-leading shows that take place once a year in Basel in Switzerland, Miami Beach in Florida, and Hong Kong in China. Its mission is to bring collectors, galleries, and artists together, as well as to function as a driving force in the support of galleries by providing a distinguished platform for upcoming artists to display and sell their work. It is often referred to as “the Olympics of the Art World” because as the Olympics is the greatest fair for sports, so is the Art Basel for the art world. There you can find all kinds of artworks — from paintings to sculptures to photography, video art, and installations.
Basel gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner, and Balz Hilt launched Art Basel in 1970 to compete with Art Cologne. In the postwar consumer society, which had lots of leisure, money, and new ways to interact globally, the goal was to attract a new generation of collectors and art enthusiasts. In its first year, Art Basel drew over 16,000 visitors who saw work from 90 galleries from ten countries. After 5 years, it has grown to about 300 exhibitors from 21 nations, attracting 37,000 people. In 1980, the fair commemorated 150 years of photography with an exhibition co-organized by galleries and the International Association of Photography Art Dealers that showcased the medium’s entire history, making it one of the most prominent platforms for promoting photography. In the 1990s, Art Basel establishes the Art Film sector at the Stadtkino Basel, a collection of films by and about artists. In the early 2000s, Art Basel launches the Art Unlimited platform, which replaces the traditional exhibition booth with an open-plan setting that offers a diverse range of ambitious contemporary media, and the same year, Art Basel opens its doors in Miami Beach. Art Basel announces Art Basel Conversations, a series of panel conversations with notable art collectors, museum directors, biennale curators, artists, art critics, and architects, providing access to first-hand information on a variety of topics related to purchasing and displaying art. In 2015, Art Basel opens in Hong Kong, China, attracting over 60,000 visitors, while the show in Basel received 98,000 visitors over six days in the same year, under the leadership of Art Basel’s Global Director, Marc Spiegler.
Art Basel is currently one of the most major art events of the year, with a growing reach and influence. Art Basel has grown into a cultural incubator for some of the most groundbreaking and memorable events in contemporary art history. Some of the most iconic moments include Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian in 2019, Klaus Biesenbach’s and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 14 Rooms in 2014, Antony Gormley’s Breathing Room II virtual reality in 2010, Kader Attia’s Arab Spring installation in 2015, and Alexandra Pirici’s Aggregate in Messeplatz performance in 2019
Nowadays there are year-round events and programs. Art Basel Cities is a new project that began in 2016 intending to create year-round cultural events. During a multi-year relationship, the project engages with selected towns to curate an engaging program that allows the art world to discover places from around the globe and participate in long-term cultural development goals.
In the exhibition, you can find every kind of artwork from all types of mediums: paintings, sculptures, architecture, prints, video art, photography, installations, performances, and many more — from various artists from all around the world.
Because Art Basel is a for-profit event, its scope can have a significant impact on artists and galleries. It’s a vital location for selected artists to exhibit and sell their work to a worldwide audience of collectors, making it a really important place for artists to sell their work.
Moreover, Art Basel has a charitable side too despite that is mainly a for-profit fair. Art Basel and BMW offer the first incarnation of the BMW Art Journey during the 2015 Art Basel in Hong Kong show, a combined project to recognize and promote rising artists around the world. The BMW Art Journey Award, sponsored by BMW, is an award that encourages young creatives by allowing them to go on their own, individually designed artistic journey. The winners, who are chosen twice a year, are allowed to travel to a location of their choice to explore new ideas, themes, and create new work. The selected artists are picked from a shortlist of three finalists chosen during the Hong Kong and Miami Art Basel events.
Also, Art Basel has a nonprofit crowdfunding initiative called the Crowdfunding Initiative, which works with Kickstarter to provide attention and assistance for projects from across the world. Artist residencies, public installations, education initiatives, and other art and education-related programs are among the projects. In addition to that, the program provides a forum for young and experienced artists to learn, grow, and create.
The Art Basel publications, which include an annual, independently conducted “Art Market” survey as well as other works such as the Art Market Principles and Best Practices, contribute to the art world and the market’s transparency and accountability. These extensive insights and the platform’s worldwide network promote the platform’s active commitment to and support of these objectives, making Art Basel is committed to transparency.
Since 1994, UBS has been the lead partner of Art Basel in Basel, as well as the lead partner of Art Basel in Miami Beach since 2002 and the lead partner of Art Basel in Hong Kong since 2013.
The physical edition of Art Basel 2021, which was postponed owing to the pandemic, will finally take place at Messe Basel from September 24 to 26, 2021, with Art Basel Miami Beach from December 2 to 5, 2021.
Art Basel. Available here.
Dundon, A., 2018, 10 Things to Know About Art Basel, The Culture Trip. Available here.
Lloyd-Smith, H., 2021, Art Basel: a history of the fair’s most sensational art moments, Wallpaper. Available here.
Richman-Abdou, K., 2018, What is Art Basel? A Guide to the World’s Biggest International Art Fair, My Modern Met. Available here.