Year on year contemporary art fairs around the world are gaining in following and success, but there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest: Art Basel. If you are travelling around Alsace in June, make sure to stop for a visit. It’s jaw-dropping gorgeous.
Held at the point of convergence between France, Germany and Switzerland, the event attracts the main pros from around the world, 291 galleries from 35 countries at the last count, and an affluent public of 95,000 collectors, celebrities, art enthusiasts and curious visitors. As the 48th edition of Art Basel wrapped up, we take stock of a few favourites. The fair is mainly a place to buy and sell art, unapologetically merchant, and according to Bloomberg, the art works on show add up to a whopping US$ 3,4 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’.
Our pick for the most intriguing goes to the mystical ‘Large Composition in Red’ by Mark Manders, scooped up by a collector on preview day for over half a million dollars.
Galleries unanimously told us that this had been a very good year, exceeding expectations. According to Blouartinfo sales rocketed to US$ 60 million already on preview day, before the official opening. But it’s not all about business. Besides the gallery booths, there are gripping and beautiful works featured in Unlimited, for the larger scale pieces, and Statements, for solo works. Our pick for most thought-provoking goes to Carlos Garacoa’s ‘Saving the Safe’, presented by Continua, an upside-down world where real-life safe boxes protect little gold replicas of well-known banks themselves.
There is so much astonishing and visually arresting art, that it can become a challenge to really focus on any singular piece. One of the toughest things for an artist to capture is simplicity, and the plain figures by Stephan Balkenhol, brought by Gallery Lorh, whittled out of a single block of wood, were right on target. It’s as if you could start up a conversation with this average little everyman.
Art Basel is a great place to visit if you are starting a collection. No need to be intimidated by the big names and eye-watering prices. The giants of the art world are all there, from Manet to Warhol, and contemporary darlings like Ai WeiWei or Damien Hirst. But there are awesome, amazing, exciting treasures to be discovered, emerging artists and limited editions – there is something for every preference and budget.
Next up: Art Basel Miami Beach from December 7-10, 2017, Hong Kong March 29-31, 2018 and Art Basel on June 14-17, 2018.