BASEL, Switzerland – Art Basel, one of the world’s most acclaimed modern and contemporary art fairs, opened its doors on Thursday to the general public after two days devoted to selected patrons of the arts.
Art Basel 2017 confirms, once again, the European and United States primacy over the global art market with a scant presence from developing countries.
“Our Basel show brings the international art world together, with 291 of the world’s leading galleries showing the works of over 4,000 artists,” a statement said.
The overwhelming presence of British, German and French galleries, plus the US, shows the sturdiness of their respective art markets and the daunting challenges faced by developing world art galleries to break into this coveted global marketplace.
Just two Indian, one Chinese, three Brazilian and three Mexican galleries represented the rest of the world.
Nonetheless, Art Basel 2017 seeks to demonstrate the relevance of art in times of political and financial uncertainty, such as the current times we live in.
According to Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director: “Some may believe that art in times of uncertainty becomes irrelevant; however, art and culture are now more relevant than ever,” adding that “Artists have a role to play because they are capable of addressing vital issues faster and more sincerely than the rest.”
During a meeting with the press, the French-American, Chicago-born, global director stressed that “artists see the world with different eyes,” hinting that some of this year’s artworks show a reaction to the current situation.
Since 1970, art professionals and patrons have enjoyed Art Basel’s artistic range which back then attracted 16,300 art lovers.
In 2016, the fair was visited by 95,000 attendees.
Spiegler acknowledged the current volatility was present in the art market, complicating the galleries’ task of supporting their artists.
He dismissed rumors of a languishing global art market in 2017.
“An enormous number of people worldwide and 291 galleries (one thousand galleries requested exhibition space) responded to this spectacular meeting with artworks of an exceptional quality,” he said.
He also noted that, in the past year, art auctions have accrued over one billion dollars (895 million euros), which seemed back up his belief the fair will be a success.
Although total sales figures of top art fairs are hardly ever disclosed, the estimated value of the artworks at Art Basel 2017 has been appraised at around $3 billion (2.69 billion euros).
Galleries view Art Basel as a matter of prestige and a long-term investment due to the extremely high-level networking involved.
The fair’s leading corporate sponsor is the Swiss bank UBS, whose wealth management president, Jurg Zeltner, said that every day, more private investors sought art as an investment.
“Many private investors seek art as an investment,” he said. “This trend is here to stay,” he added.
The second most important exhibition space is “Unlimited,” housing 76 monumental installations, each one more fascinating and complex than the previous.
And finally, the Performance section featuring US-Peruvian artist, Donna Huanca, who presented body sculptures painted in natural pigments, a custom creation for Art Basel.