Last weekend’s New York Times story on the ArtBasel jury must have made everyone very happy. The Times was touting the story on social media as something of a cabal: “At Art Basel, six dealers have become among the most powerful gatekeepers — and tastemakers — in the art world.” But Times own story details the ways in which the jury is constituted and can be circumvented that counter the suggestion there is a seniority system by some other name.
No matter. The very suggestion the fair is hyper-exclusive will only increase the perception that ArtBasel remains at the apex of the art market:
Most galleries admitted for the first time, or after at least one year’s absence, end up in second-tier locations at the fair, according to six years of fair data. And most are not invited back the next year. More established dealers — the Gagosians, Paces and Zwirners, who derive power from their superstar clients and artists — dominate the inner aisles of the ground and second floors of the main hall, considered by many the most sought-after real estate in the art fair world.
On the ground floor, home to more than 100 galleries, typically about 90 percent were in the fair the prior year.
Mr. Spiegler said the fair had reconfigured the ground floor layout this year to place booths exhibiting similar art next to one another, a decision that meant lots of galleries had to switch places. And the lineup of roughly 220 dealers in the fair’s main section, known as the Galleries sector, will feature a host of faces not present five years ago, he said.
“We feel that a turnover of 60 galleries in five years in the Galleries sector is a reflection of the development and changes within the art market,” he said.
Newcomers do break into the elite ranks and stick around, sometimes replacing veteran galleries. Consider Mr. McCaffrey, the New York dealer, who first applied for the 2011 fair, was admitted in 2012 and has returned every year since. He described his selection as “one of the most memorable moments of my life.”
At Art Basel, a Powerful Jury Controls the Market (NYTimes.com)