Art Market

Art Basel’s parent company will focus on fairs over its event-marketing division.

Christy Kuesel
Oct 7, 2019 4:24PM, via artnet News

Art Basel in Basel 2019. Photo © Art Basel.

MCH Group, Art Basel’s parent company, has announced a new business strategy in the wake of falling profits and issues with restructuring: It will primarily focus on its own exhibitions, including its signature art fair franchise, Art Basel, while considering possibly selling its Live Marketing Solutions division.

The company noted the importance of focusing on live events as a method for acquiring and inspiring customers. Bernd Stadlwieser, CEO of the MCH Group, said in a statement:

New ideas will be required, however, since customers’ needs are undergoing a fundamental change. We must therefore invest in innovations, digitisation and internationalisation and will be expanding our competence in these areas by hiring additional specialists. Our aim is to build communities that go beyond the physical event, to create unique values for them and to generate clear added value for our customers in this way.

MCH Group’s Live Marketing Solutions division currently offers a range of services, including consulting and constructing exhibition stands and pavilions. According to artnet News, it employs roughly 500 people worldwide.

The new business strategy comes as the latest upheaval for the company. René Kamm, the longtime chief executive of MCH Group, resigned in August of 2018. In November, MCH Group abandoned its two-and-a-half-year-old initiative to acquire regional art fairs around the globe. Its Baselworld Watch Trade Fair has also been facing financial difficulty, with half of its exhibitors—including its largest exhibitor, Swatch—leaving the fair.

MCH Group also hopes to increase the occupancy of its substantial real estate holdings in Zürich and Basel, the latter of which extends far beyond Messe Basel, home of Art Basel in Basel. Artnet News estimates the company holds 182,000 square meters (or nearly two million square feet) of space in the two Swiss cities. Although the fate of these venues will be decided over the “medium term,” selling some of the venues is on the table.

Christy Kuesel