As a throng of First Choice VIP cardholders jockeyed for position outside of Art Basel this morning, anticipation was high—and not just for the estimated $3 billion worth of art shown by 284 galleries on the other side of the doors. This year marks the largest reshuffle and repositioning the Swiss mega-fair has undergone in its last 10 editions, with 57 galleries that hold a coveted spot on its ground floor having changed locations from the year prior.
The shift reemphasizes dealers of classical Modern and postwar works. For the past pair of editions, a number of those dealers had complained of being continually pushed towards the back of the fair, and thus away from collectors’ attention—some even suggesting that it was a move to push them out entirely, in order to make way for more blue-chip and emerging contemporary dealers in this high-impact real estate.
Director Marc Spiegler has thoroughly rebuffed those suspicions this year, dedicating the entire right side of the ground floor to works primarily created from 1900–1970. “The new floor plan brings many galleries showing such work in closer proximity to each other,” said Spiegler. It’s an effort to create a far stronger focus on the historical works that are “becoming rarer and rarer yet remain an essential part of the Basel show.”
The move is a shrewd one—and not only in terms of retaining exhibitors. Despite Spiegler cautioning that the sky-high prices that have become the auction market’s new norm aren’t indicative of those in the art world at large, recent sales have shown
a clear tendency towards landmark works from the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, especially among new collectors from emerging markets.