Art Basel 40 – strong results for 2009

The sentiment reflected throughout the art world has been that of the recession, cut backs and closures. It has been a tumultuous time for all; however, as Wayne Hemingway said to Aesthetica in the last issue a recession can create serendipity and variation.

Now then, how’s the art fair industry holding up? At Aesthetica we work with numerous fairs from Art Beijing, India Art Summit, Art Chicago, Glasgow Art Fair, Zoo Art Fair, Newcastle Gateshead. We know how these events work, and with Basel being 40 years old, it has already been through a recession or two, so how did it go this year?

The 40th edition of Art Basel closed yesterday having attracted 61,000 artists, collectors, curators, and art lovers from around the globe, slightly more than last year and the highest number ever. The participating galleries, art connoisseurs, and the media were unanimous in pronouncing this a strong year for the show. Art 40 Basel demonstrated the health of the high-quality segment within the art market: Collectors rewarded excellent material and strong booth presentations with unexpectedly strong sales throughout the week.

With more than 300 galleries from 29 countries exhibiting works by over 2,500 artists, Art 40 Basel was a triumph. Many artists also attended the event: Stefan Balkenhol, Matthew Barney, Elmgreen and Dragset, Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Dan Graham, Subodh Gupta, Joan Jonas, Jeff Koons, Mark Leckey, Sigmar Polke, Ed Ruscha, Nedko Solakov, Not Vital and Franz Erhard Walther. And over 50 museum groups visited, as did major private collectors from North and South America, Europe and the emerging markets of the art world.

Participating galleries displayed their most interesting pieces and presented them in carefully curated booths. Many of the stands featured thematic exhibitions and one-person shows, while many galleries presented video works, installations and large sculptures. Paintings, works on paper, and photography continued to be strongly represented. Private collectors came from all continents, as did representatives of almost all the world’s major museums. Many exhibitors reported excellent results given the current conditions, adding that they also made valuable new contacts for the future of their program, and look forward to Art 41 Basel, which takes place June 16- 20 June 2010.

Discussing their experience at Art 40 Basel, gallerists offered this:

“The overall quality of the fair really creates an energy that makes collectors excited about buying art, which has resulted in us doing solid business – not just on the opening but every day of the show.” Mark Payot, Hauser and Wirth, Zurich/London

“We came with no expectations, but it went really well for us. There were many pleasant surprises and we connected with many new people.” Tim Blum, Blum and Poe, Los Angeles

“Business was surprisingly good, which was unexpected. Art Basel still remains the best place to see clients who return for many years, and to meet new ones as well.” Monika Sprüth, Sprüth Magers, Berlin/London

“Art 40 Basel witnesses a return to the roots of the artmarket. Knowledge, sustainability and seriousness move back to the foreground and the program-driven galleries especially benefit from this phenomenon.” Mathias Rastorfer, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich/St. Moritz/Zug

“Art Basel was a huge success against sober expectations. Business was very good, and the quality of the art and all the exhibitor booths was superb.” Roland Augustine, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York

“Art Basel has exceeded all our expectations. Not just in terms of sales, which were strong, but also in terms of the joy and excitement for our artists, who were exhibiting both in our booth and in Art Unlimited. This is an unparalleled venue to expose the greater world to African art, and to introduce our artists to the most prestigious collectors and institutions in the world.” Liza Essers, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

“We are very happy and sold works by almost all the artists from our program. We could even place the large installation by Hans op de Beck at Art Unlimited with a private foundation.” Lorenzo Fiaschi, Continua, San Gimignano/Beijing/Le Moulin

“At Art 40 Basel we met the highest level of curators and collectors, and many important museum opportunities will arise from this. We feel really honoured that our artist Nina Canell was selected as a winner of the Baloise Art Prize.” Finola Jones, Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin

One of the most spectacular events at this year’s Art Basel was the presentation of “Il Tempo del Postino” at Theater Basel. All three nights were completely sold out and many art lovers extended their stay to experience this unique presentation, which many viewers aftewards described as a “historical art world event”. Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno as a group exhibition that would occupy time rather than space, “Il Tempo del Postino” (Postman Time) presented a sequential display of time based art on the theatre stage. The Basel edition of “Il Tempo del Postino” was directed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala and Rirkrit Tiravanija; each of the twenty artists – Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney & Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, and Pierre Huyghe.

See for more info on “Il Tempo del Postino”

The recession is in full swing, but the show must go on. It’s that type of determination that keeps the art world alive and well. We know that we can’t return to the way it was before, in fact, I wouldn’t want to. I feel it’s given me a positive outlook for the future, and mended some of my careless ways. It’s a highly creative time, energized and full of opportunity – you just have to be open to it.

Aesthetica will be working with several fairs and festivals this summer, check our website for further details.

Image credit: Bruno Bischofberger