Now that the 19th edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach is officially over, it’s time to get rid of the hangover, sift the sand at the bottom of that Rimowa suitcase, and see if we can learn any meaningful lessons from the craziest week in the art world. calendar.

This year’s show attracted an overall attendance of 60,000 visitors throughout its VIP and general public days. This is about a 25% drop from 2019, when the fair was last held and saw 81,000 visitors walk through the doors of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Yes, that’s a pretty amazing drop in foot traffic from one edition to the next. However, with the organizers choosing to shift this year’s dates to close a full day earlier (winning a VIP day on Tuesday but losing a full day on Sunday when thousands of other Miami audiences would normally have attended), and with travel from Europe and Asia still significantly plagued by the pandemic, it’s not too bad of a slump all things considered.

In a sentiment widely shared by many dealers we spoke to throughout the three days we spent perusing the aisles of the show, veteran gallery owner Casey Kaplan said, “The pace of the show this year lends itself to changes. longer conversations and at a more focused time. with collectors and curators, which is positive for our entire team and our artists. Samia Saouma of the Max Hetzler Gallery agrees: brought. ”
Of course, this year these two Basel veterans were joined by 44 colleagues who were taking part in the fair for the first time. In recent years, fairs like Art Basel and TEFAF have come under increasing criticism for not doing enough to shake up their exhibitor bases and bring new blood with new perspectives to show at their fairs. And regardless of the fact that the decision to relax previous requirements that galleries had to be in operation for three years and maintain a permanent brick-and-mortar space before they could apply to participate, was driven by a desire to diversify the composition. exhibitors or out of necessity to ensure the participation of a sufficient number of galleries in order to make the fair profitable for the MCH Group, the organizers rightly deserve to be congratulated on this decision.
However, while galleries such as Kendra Jayne Patrick, Broadway, Nicola Vassell, and Fridman Gallery (as well as many galleries from Africa) have met with positive reactions from most of the collectors and dealers we spoke to. it was clear that other first-time exhibitors would hardly have succeeded in joining Art Basel’s notoriously hardworking selection committee over the past few years.

Between the relaxed standards for first-time exhibitors and the NFT mania that ran throughout the fair (Art Basel partnered with the Tezos blockchain network to present an interactive NFT exhibit titled “Humans + Machines: NFTs and the Ever-Evolving World of Art “), it’s hard to deny that this year’s fair lacked some of the noblest qualities collectors have been conditioned to expect when attending an Art Basel fair.

After all, being an exhibitor in Basel means giving collectors a certain cachet. This meant that a gallery had the kind of permanence, expertise and commitment to its artists that would last for the long haul and not be at the mercy of the ever changing market winds. After a long day at the fair, collectors could rest quietly by resting their heads on their Frette sheets at night, confident in the knowledge that the roughly $ 200,000 they had just spent to acquire a work would not be wasted because the gallery they bought it from was not an amateur on the fly. As a longtime exhibitor of Art Basel, who requested to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, we remembered it memorably when asked what he thought of this year’s many new exhibitors: “ The doors opened on the fly. Let’s just drop the pretense and invite Eden Fine Art to exhibit at this point. ”

And yet, it is difficult to dispute the results. Many galleries reported gangbuster sales, and collectors, both of the traditional and new variety, were clearly ready to buy. “We had a drastic increase in new loan requests during the Miami fairs, with almost all of the requests being used to fuel new purchases,” said Joe Charalambous, president of TPC Art Finance, which specializes in back-to-back loans. from works of art to collectors looking to leverage their pre-existing collections in order to access additional cash. “Between the auctions in November and now the fairs of last week, it’s clear that collectors in this market environment are becoming more and more sophisticated in the way they acquire works. ”

Marc Spiegler, who currently holds the dual role of Global Director of Art Basel and Interim Director of Art Basel in Miami Beach until a replacement for Noah Horowitz is found, and the rest of the team at ‘Art Basel deserve immense credit for achieving an extremely successful Salon in a difficult logistical environment for large-scale in-person events. There were no major issues with the timed entry system, the vast majority of visitors complied with the fair’s mask policy, and the overall vibe and atmosphere throughout the week was overwhelming. was dynamic as deals were made and work found new homes.

So maybe, in the end, it doesn’t really matter to most collectors which individual galleries are exhibiting or not exhibiting at a given fair. In today’s art market, the connoisseur often counts for less than access. And we would say that no entity has done more to open the once cloistered doors of the art world than the premier Swiss fair that has become a household name.

After all, ask any of your unaffiliated art world friends what they know about the art world, and we guarantee that even if 99% couldn’t tell you the difference between Gagosian or Hauser & Wirth if Larry or Iwan themselves came and tried to sell them one, almost anyone would tell you that Art Basel in Miami Beach is the biggest and most important art fair of the year in the United States. . Now to make them understand as well that no, does not exhibit at Art Basel itself, well, that’s a whole other matter. And just hope that will continue to be true in the future, because if the street performer decides to hit one or two NFTs in the future, then all bets are off.
That’s all for today, folks. Be sure to be on the lookout for our second annual “Collectors Issue” this week featuring in-depth, high-profile interviews with ICA Miami Administrator John Marquez; billionaire-American Argentinian collector and philanthropist Jorge M. Pérez; and Komal Shah, director of SFMOMA and the Tate Americas Foundation. We invite you to subscribe here or by clicking on the link below.

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