What Art Basel is hiding from you

Art Basel, one of the oldest and most profitable art fairs, has yet again demonstrated in its 50th Edition to be the hotspot for some of the top art sales of the year, although this might not be visible to the general public…

Tucked away above the aisles and open exclusively to VIP guests, the real treasures at Art Basel are found in private viewing rooms. “I call it an off-the-floor trade,” Larry Wasser, a Toronto collector and former wealth manager has discussed. These trades are usually happening every day during the fair, but during the preview of the show is when the real collectors come to shop. “It’s all about putting buyers and sellers together during the Super Bowl week of the art business,” Wasser continues.[1] However VIP collectors don’t want others peering over their shoulder when buying a piece of art, so these rooms provide the discretion and a bit of peace and quiet that a million-dollar sale might need.

Installation view of Gagosian’s booth at Art Basel, 2019. Courtesy of Art Basel.

This year’s Art Basel has an estimated 3.5 billion euros ($4 billion) of art on display, according to insurer AXA SA. Although most galleries will only bring cherry-picked pieces in their booth -representing a small fraction of their usual inventory-; they will still be willing to pay a fortune in the shipment of the works to the tiny remote town of Basel with the hope of big sales and even bigger expansion of their client base. Despite the hours invested in carefully curating their booths to create the right ambience, these private viewing rooms -charged for an additional fee-, usually bring in the biggest sales. The cost of these rooms is not to be ignored, since they are available on a first-come-first-served basis, for as much as $3,000 for a two-hour slot.[2] The demand for private rooms is high and there only 12 of them, according to Art Basel, with an increase of 100,000 people visiting the fair last year.

So whilst you may be in awe of the eye-catching art on the ground floor, make sure you look out for the sale reports at the end of the fair, because here at Artemundi that is what we will be keeping an eye on.

 


[1] Kazakina, Katya. “Ultra-Rich Shop in Secret Showrooms at Super Bowl of Art World.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 7 June 2019, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-07/ultra-rich-shop-in-secret-showrooms-at-super-bowl-of-art-world.
[2] Kazakina, Katya. “Ultra-Rich Shop in Secret Showrooms at Super Bowl of Art World.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 7 June 2019, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-07/ultra-rich-shop-in-secret-showrooms-at-super-bowl-of-art-world.

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