This year’s Art Basel 14 – 17 June 2018, the world’s leading art fair, it opened to VIPs on Tuesday and to the public on Thursday, was spectacular. Prices have gone up again during the 59th edition of the show, it seems, Hauser and Wirth immediately sold a painting by Joan Mitchell for $ 14 million on day one. The pressure is on the collectors because there are so many of them present. This is what makes Art Basel unique. The atmosphere is closer to that of a high profile auction than to most other art fairs.
This may be due to two reasons, there is more money around and art per se has become a larger topic. More people than ever before seem to be interested in modern and contemporary art. This also means that many galleries cannot afford to come to Basel anymore. A booth is priced at 100,000 Swiss francs or more.
Switzerland is among the five most important countries in the art world as far as sales are concerned, topped only by giants like the US, China, and France and the UK. Swiss galleries have moved 1,611 billion Swiss francs in 2017 alone, and yet galleries die by the dozen. The Swiss association of galleries reported that almost 30% of the existing galleries are in financial danger. Art Basel, founded in 1970, has seen fewer and fewer Swiss galleries over the years and the trend is going to continue. American and Asian participation is on the rise.