In its 48th year of success, Art Basel opens its doors to some of the wealthiest art collectors on the planet for three days. The discussion panels are noteworthy, the installations are immersive, and the sales are momentous. With all of this activity packed into a three day event, Art Basel is considered the top art fair and offers a one stop shop for all things contemporary on a international level.
This year saw 291 galleries from 34 countries exhibiting works from the 20th century to contemporary all from renowned institutions. Some galleries this year were boasting pieces worth millions of dollars such as David Zwirner, an international mega gallery whose entire booth totaled $100 million. Hosting this expensive of an inventory, galleries are expecting a receptive audience, and that they received this year. Following a rather large auction week in New York City, collectors were apparently in a jubilant mood, ready to buy. Amidst political turmoil, sales can be unpredictable and with the market not in the best shape, it was a definite unknown this year. With that said, VIP's are offered a two day preview before the general admission and galleries actually send their clients a roster of work offered weeks before the event begins, so really who knows?
While some galleries hit a record year for sales, not all participants are there to buy. Art Basel curates other aspects to the overall show for any art enthusiast such as the "Feature" section that showcases established and historical artists, while "Statements" highlights chosen emerging artists. "Unlimited" exhibits all encompassing installation pieces that exceed the booth walls, usually an interactive space that all viewers can enjoy. This year's "Unlimited" featured Subodh Gupta's Cooking The World, a piece that discusses the familial bond centered around the table and eating, and included a meal prepared by the artist in which viewers could sit and eat together.
The overwhelming trends seen throughout the fair were focused on concepts of humanity such as inclusion, immigration, and LGBTQ rights. All current material from a worldwide perspective. makes for intriguing and important contemporary work. As for established work, and the recent telling sale of a Basquiat for a record holding $110.5 million, the market is continuing its major shift away from classical material towards the 20th century fanfare. Being hailed as the best Art Basel season seen in the past couple of years, it might also be an indication of a successful art season.