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Basel hosts world's largest "temporary art museum"

Some 50,000 art lovers are expected to flock to Art Basel

(Keystone)

For the next week, Basel is the world capital of art with works by over 1,000 leading artists on display at the city's annual art fair.

Until June 17, 50,000 visitors are expected to flock to "Art Basel" to admire a broad canvas ranging from classic modernism to the cutting edge of contemporary art created by the art world's stars of the future.

The fair, which describes itself as the world's largest "temporary art museum", is also a key event for collectors and dealers, who will fork out large sums of money for works by artists such as Degas, Picasso, Matisse and Miro.

This year, dealers will be paying particularly close attention to the volume of sales to see how well the market has recovered from the slump that followed the September 11 attacks.

Market recovering after September 11

"It's now getting back to normal," one of the Basel fair organisers, Peter Vetsch, told swissinfo. "Prices at the May auctions in New York were very high, so I think the market has recovered."

Not surprisingly the criteria for exhibiting at Art Basel are strict. "We received nearly 900 applications from galleries throughout the world to exhibit here," said Zurich dealer Gianfranco Verna, who is a member of the selection committee.

"Nearly all the galleries here last year wanted to come back, but obviously we couldn't accommodate them all, and this year 268 are represented."

Art Basel has this year become the first art fair to appoint an ombudsman, Swiss art expert Toni Stooss.

Authenticity

His job is to deal with questions regarding the authenticity and condition of paintings. "If a problem arises between a gallery and a potential buyer then I will mediate, either immediately or after consultation with an expert," Stooss told swissinfo.

"I will not be a judge of quality," he added. "My responsibility is not to say, for example, whether a Picasso is worth the price being asked. But if the condition of a picture doesn't correspond with what is said on the document, then I will call on the services of a specialist restorer."

The introduction two years ago of another innovation - "Art Unlimited" - is set to become a permanent part of the event. Its joint-curator, Martin Schwander, said the title is deliberately provocative because it features outsize works - installations - by mostly young artists.

"We have provided them with space which is simply not available at any other art fair so now they are no longer excluded from events of this kind.

by Richard Dawson


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