Art Basel escapes turbulence

The rise of the extreme right in the European elections, the stalemate war in Gaza, the warning signs of a financial shock in the United States seemed to get through the small art world. Only the first element creates the appearance of excitement: “Do you think the National Rally will resell FRAC’s contemporary artwork? (regional contemporary art funds) if he comes to power? », asks the young businessman with visible interest. The revolutionary upheavals of 1789 allowed all English lords to set up in the style of Louis XVI at little expense, and some were already brazenly eyeing up opportunities, even as most feared a possible worsening of the economy.

On Tuesday, June 11, the first of two days reserved for professionals or equivalents, champagne corks popped as if nothing had happened in the inner courtyard of Art Basel, where the VIPs of globalized art meet you every year for soup. breakfast, before visiting 286 gallery stands (including 22 new entrants) from 40 countries. You will find the cream of modern and contemporary art there. “It feels like Germany in the 1930s: we’re having fun while the world is on the brink”, according to a regular attendee of this great meeting. In the evening, there were so many businessmen eager to enter the Trois Rois bar, the most luxurious hotel in Basel (Switzerland), and meet the probable great fortune there, that they formed a queue in the street, and that the management of the establishment had to create a skip-the-line card for their regulars…

Few American collectors

Not all collectors were at the party. Many Americans preferred to stay at home and sent their advisers, who came in large numbers. The Asian contingent (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and China) was also significant, where sellers increased and collectors decreased compared to the previous edition. However, the indicators were not the most favorable. The volume of auction sales in May in New York, where the very high end is traded, was down more than 20%. Christie’s and Sotheby’s have announced layoff plans, particularly in London.

Also Read (2024) | Article reserved for our subscribers Market of modern and contemporary art in a small form

In Manhattan, nearly a dozen galleries have closed in 2024, some as venerable as Marlborough, created almost eighty years ago, or the very high-end Cheim & Read, opened a quarter of a century ago, and more recent ones that did not survive their tenth anniversary. An experienced gallerist in Paris regrets the slow climate, “no or almost no visitors in recent months…”. And adds: “Now there are many people who would rather settle their rent arrears when they sell than have the artist pay his fees. »

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