Basel Dispatch: Nuts and Bolts and Sawdust

Ibiayi Briggs
Jun 11, 2013 9:43AM

Before all the collector jostling at an art fair is the less glamorous behind the scenes preparations. After months of  planning by the fair organizers, exhibitors and their construction crews arrive. Within days tents are transformed into art wonderlands and tiny cities spring up inside formerly drab exhibition halls. It's my first time in Basel, and although I've caught glimpses of the installation of past fairs, I was extremely excited to see what all the hustle and bustle would be like to construct the grandfather of all art fairs. 

Artsy has a booth at Design Miami/ Basel this year, a demo and charging station designed by ROLU, so my colleague Alex and I arrived in Basel on Thursday afternoon to help with the installation. After a day of attempting to get our bearings in the Swiss city we made our first trip to the Messeplatz and the new Herzog de Mueron-designed home of Design Miami/ Basel. There we were welcomed to the huge space by a maze of walls and the din of power tools. 

Getting work to a fair is no small feat. Galleries from around the world ship objects ranging from delicate ceramics to huge metal pieces sometimes weeks in advance. Fortunately, the Artsy booth was able to bypass that hassle. Via emails and phone calls we worked with Matt Olson in his studio in Minneapolis, and he worked with Sebastian Marbacher who fabricated the pieces in Basel. Although I don't know the feeling of holding your breath as you unpack a crate hoping everything made the trip in one piece—literally—I had only seen our booth in sketches and Instagrams of prototypes, so the big reveal was still breath-taking. 

As I watched booths morph from empty shells to fully curated mini-exhibitions, I gained a new sense of appreciation for all the hard work that goes into launching a fair. Especially watching our neighbors, the three W Hotels Designers of the Future, painstakingly assemble every element of their booths, questioning the placement of every object and the position of each beam of light, I was reminded of the extraordinary wealth of talent and impeciable craftsmanship that will be view over the next week. Although sales are a fundamental part of fairs, at the core is a strong love for art and design and the a desire to present it at its best. I'm excited to dust off a layer of sawdust, discover some new artists, fall in love again with some of my favorites, and explore a new city this week!

Images: Artsy's booth as a blank canvas

Galerie Patrick Seguin contructs Jean Prouvé's Maison des Jours Meilleurs.

The installation of one of Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta's dandelion chandeliers in a beautiful juxtaposition of the contemporary and baroque.

Designer of the Future Award winner, Jon Stam (left) and team deliberate.

Ibiayi Briggs