ART BASEL, DAY 1, June 11

Jorge Pardo lamp installation, at Neugerreimschneidger, Art Basel

Leon Golub, painting, at Anthony Reynolds, Art Basel

Despite the proliferation of fairs around the globe, Art Basel in Switzerland remains the best and brightest. The top galleries in the field are all present with their highest quality artworks. The audience is the most sophisticated and discerning. The surrounding venues are world-class with the Kunstmuseum, the Beyeler Foundation and over two dozen other museums in Basel and the Kunsthaus in Zurich one hour away.

Valentin Carron, sculpture, at Eva Presenhuber

As a visitor, one can spend hours in a visual delirium of wonder and awe at what is on view and can be purchased. But purchasing is not just a matter of funds. It is now routine for galleries to email to their special clients or to their entire client base the images of what they will be exhibiting. Consequently, many works are presold or on hold when the fair opens. If there was no preannouncement and the work is significant, a feeding frenzy ensues. In either case, time is of the essence so there is no possibility for measured deliberation. If a hold is granted at the fair, it is often for an hour or two. Commit or move on.

Kai Altoff, installation, at Gladstone Gallery, Art Basel

Increasingly the fair is becoming a locus of research and exposure as much as a buying format for me. Meeting new colleagues, learning about artists, gathering information, seeing friends and clients all provide powerful fuel for future dealings. If I haven’t prearranged a viewing or know the artist and see exactly the right piece, I don’t want to make a snap decision. If I find a new young artist at an attractive price, I might go for it. And of course, one must necessarily remain flexible if the correct opportunity arises. But mainly I prefer to enjoy the experience of buying in a more thoughtful manner away from the crowd. This stance requires major discipline as the seduction of buying amidst the hyper energy of the fair, surrounded by other people making purchases, is a siren call indeed.

Roy LIchtenstein, paintings & sculpture, at Edward Nahem, Art Basel

It would not be an exaggeration to say that every booth has work of merit. In some booths, every wall is a knockout. The fair is on two floors and one cannot get through them both in an entire day. Today I managed to see just over half the fair and I was moving quickly. In addition to the work on view, the galleries each have closets with additional pieces and images of all the work that is available in their resident galleries. The fair is as dense an experience as the time one has to devote to it.


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