But exponential growth is creating a fissiparous art market
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Art Basel's Blessing and Curse
It’s been a tough year for Art Basel and its global director, Marc Spiegler. In the Spring, Spiegler got ambushed at a global art conference by some of his own best customers; in the late Summer, his expansion project Art Basel Cities launched in Buenos Aires without much impact and, more important, no apparent follow up customers; in the Fall, Art Basel’s parent company made an embarrassing about face on a much-promoted expansion into regional art fairs.
If it was a bad year, it comes at the end of a long cycle of unimagined success where art fairs expanded beyond what anyone believed was possible. Though Art Basel’s pre-eminent place in the global constellation of art fairs remains unchallenged, the fair’s parent company is facing obstacles that come more from Art Basel’s success than from any failures.
Indeed, Art Basel’s central challenge remains the broader question facing the entire art market: how to grow in a way that meets the demands of the expanding interest in art while recognizing that art does not scale like a mass-market product.
The Biggest Brand in Art
That conundrum can be best encapsulated in Art Basel’s brand which is bi-furcated into two very different parts. The core of Art Basel’s brand is the fair Ernst Beyeler created in his hometown. Held in June every year in Basel, Switzerland, Art Basel is the Modern and Contemporary art market’s biggest and most important event both for sales and for status. Collectors and dealers save up their energy, time, money, and inventory for Art Basel in June. The event is such a black hole of attention at the top end of the market that one auction house has tried to reshape the art-selling calendar by abandoning their June sales in London just to give Art Basel a wide enough berth.
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