Art Basel 2018 Preview: What’s New?

Nil Yalter, "Le Chevalier d’Eon," 2018, at Galerist, Istanbul.

by Nancy Nesvet

Artscope Magazine is again represented in the Publications Section at the 49th edition of Art Basel, taking place from June 12 through 17 in Basel, Switzerland. As the art market shifts from physical galleries to increasing online and art fair sales, 290 galleries from 35 countries will exhibit in Halls 1 and 2 on the Messe Basel as Art Basel stages the world’s biggest art fair.

Sixteen mid-size and emerging galleries will exhibit here for the first time, with three more leaping from the proposal-driven Statements and Features sector into Galleries. Unlimited, Statements and Galleries will show photography, painting, drawing. sculpture, video and installations, with outdoor installations and sculpture at Parcours at the Cathedral Square. Films and Conversations, including informative talks by artists and the arts community, round out the program. Visitors will be able to purchase anything from Mirós, Picassos and Boteros to contemporary art at varying price points, with techie installations probably going to museums and foundations able to exhibit them. Most come to see what is new; that is what an art fair is about.

With dealers making 46 percent of sales at 260 major art fairs worldwide in 2017, and online sales next in volume, physical galleries are devoting more funds to art fairs. Art Basel in Switzerland largely attracts Europeans, many loyal to this fair. Contemporary art shown by mid-price galleries, as the supply of pre-2000 art dwindles, is attracting new clients to buy and browse. Opposed to online sales and auctions, art fairs — especially Art Basel — provide up-close connections with art and allow personal conversations with gallerists (perceived as experts) and artists, all in a party atmosphere and enthusiastic gathering of art lovers that auctions attract. Gallerists list their priorities: finding new buyers, upping the public’s demand for art, and participating at art fairs. With the middle art market now comprising 62 percent of sales in the $5,000-$250,000 range, Art Basel has it all, keeping old buyers and galleries while attracting the new.

As museums worldwide become multi-media circuses, incorporating science, technology, sound and video, Art Basel 2018 follows suit. There is an evolution going on, and it is coming fast. With global wealth propelling art into a growing industry, and Art Basel branding art fairs internationally, Art Basel increasingly mirrors the changing world, presenting art for all income levels and engaging all ages. Although we are threatened by technology, lack of privacy and surveillance, artists reveal reality in our world, and inform us of danger and truth.

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