In addition to paying top dollar for the largest possible swaths of the floorplan inside the fair, the world’s biggest galleries are looking for exhibition spaces nearby and private viewing rooms within the convention center. On several occasions during Tuesday’s VIP preview, I was told a gallery director was showing a work to a client, but that director was nowhere to be seen in the booth. On another occasion, a publicist informed me of the sale of a million-dollar painting that was not in the booth—it had been offered somewhere else, location undisclosed.
Gagosian and David Zwirner
both have online viewing rooms timed to Art Basel, with pricey paintings on offer. Hauser & Wirth sent out a thick two-part book advertising a suite of works that wouldn’t even be at the fair, but were available. The fair’s Unlimited sector offers the opportunity to sell large-scale works to private museums, and there’s always the option of putting an unsold work up for auction—Sotheby’s sent 15 people from its London office alone, according to an auction house staffer, and they were searching for consignments for the Frieze sales in October.
Even with this proliferation of places to drop a fortune on a work, Iwan Wirth maintained that the expanding offerings—the opening celebrations for the publishing house, the multiple gallery shows, the catalogue full of available art not on-site—were all in the service of collectors.
“It’s all about creating context, and we have different ways of doing that,” Wirth said. “The shows we’ve been doing in Zürich for 20 years, we’ve been welcoming people the weekend before. And you have a totally different quality of conversations—with museums, with institutions. I spent nearly a third of my time speaking to museums in Zürich.”