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Cultura showcases antiques, automobiles

Classic automobiles are among the other antiques and works of art at Cultura Keystone Archive

Basel's international art and antiques fair - Cultura -is offering the chance to see and buy precious items collected over the past 5,000 years.

But not all of them are the kinds of things you might want to keep inside your home.

Among the paintings, antique furniture, jewellery and other artefacts on display at Cultura are four 20th century items whose combined value is well over a million Swiss francs. They are two Bentleys, a Bugatti and a Ferrari. Lukas Waldis, of the Zurich-based dealers Lukas Hüni which brought them to the Basle fair, says they are not just automobiles but works of art.

Beautiful engine

“You could put the engine of any one of these cars into your living-room as a sculpture,” he told swissinfo. “The only difference is that you can drive them around.”

The road to this year’s Cultura was not as smooth as a drive in a 1950s Bentley. There had been fears that American dealers and collectors would stay away in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

However Cultura president Bernhard Hammer is optimistic that the fair will still manage to generate sales totalling millions of dollars. “The solid, old-established collectors are coming here even if some people who have lost money on the stock markets aren’t,” he said.

Selecting quality

Strict criteria with the emphasis on quality determine which dealers can be represented at Cultura.

A further obstacle facing those from the United States is the current international situation.

New York dealer David Bernstein, who specialises in pre-Colombian art from South America, overcame his fears about crossing the Atlantic and has no regrets.

“I was at first a little apprehensive,” he said, “but then I thought it would be safer here than in the United States. “In any case I really wanted to come. I very much enjoyed this fair last year, and particularly like the way people in Europe – as opposed to America – are so interested in foreign cultures.”

by Richard Dawson

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR