Art Basel’s intentions are clear. Founded by art dealers and fuelled by collectors, it certainly has no pretensions towards more altruistic attitudes adopted by other fairs and biennials.However, far from crass, this direction provides the event with clarity. Art Basel is innately Swiss – clean, well organised, and good with its money. Don’t get the wrong impression, this is no mere marketplace. A series of supporting events occurring throughout the fair provides depth, provocation, and information for established collectors and first-time buyers alike. ‘Art Basel Conversations’ is a forum that encourages the exchange of ideas through a series of platform discussions focusing on the collection and exhibition of art. Distinguished art collectors, museum directors, biennale curators, gallery owners, publishers, artists and architects present their current and upcoming projects, report on their experiences and comment on the challenges they face, providing an insider’s view, and according to the press releases an “opportunity for dynamic and inspiring dialogue.” Similarily, their ‘Artists in Dialogue’ project should prove to be an interesting affair. From 200 galleries, 16 have been selected to submit work resulting in a series of interesting juxtapositions that include the work of 83 year old Ian Hamilton alongside Cerith Wyn Evans.With an eye on future investment, a sector of the show titled ‘Art Statements: The Future of Art’ will show the work of 31 young artists, two of whom will receive a CHF 25,000 prize from the the Bâloise Insurance Group. Bâloise will also acquire works from the artists and donate them to the Kunsthalle Hamburg and the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation in Vienna, proving that investment in less represented artistic positions is a sound business proposition. So despite its businesslike demeanour, Art Basel represents a sustainable and encouraging voice from the art market. With traditional auction houses fracturing, and the rise of contemporary specialists such as Phillips de Pury and Company, the popularity of events like Art Basel and the Frieze Art Fair in London, buying important art is no longer restricted to shadowy telephone bidders and Old Masters. If this movement alone were not enough to convince you, take the involvement of most of the world’s major money organizations in formulating collections of seriously contemporary art as an example. Happy shopping.
17 Jun 08 / M.E.