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Tens of thousands throng to “Mecca of art”

This year's Art Basel show featured works by more than 2,000 artists Keystone

Around 60,000 visitors and 2,300 journalists made the pilgrimage this year to Art Basel – billed as the world's leading fair for contemporary art.

The show, which ended on Sunday, was also a commercial success. Many gallery owners said sales were the best ever, and hotels in the city were fully booked.

Three hundred galleries displayed the work of around 2,000 artists over the five days which, according to the organisers, transformed Basel into “a world Mecca of art”.

The organisers declared triumphantly on their website that “Art 38 Basel impressively confirmed the robust health of the international art market”. The fair was attended by artists, collectors, curators and art lovers from near and far.

“It was a record year and a festival for the international art world. Rarely have there been so many important and interesting art works in one place at the same time,” said Samuel Keller, director of Art Basel.

Key side attractions were the Artists Records exhibition, with recordings by Jack Goldstein, Christian Marclay, Genesis P-Orridge, and others.

New this year were performances at the city theatre under the title Art on Stage which included the world premiere of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s An Untitled Concert and a lecture on art and architecture by Japan’s Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando.

Art Basel’s promotion of young talent found expression this year in many galleries presenting videos and large installations. Photography was also well represented.

Young artists

“This year’s fair was very good for everyone,” Lausanne gallery owner Alice Pauli told swissinfo.

“All of the artists I represent were very pleased with their sales. And my customers used the occasion to add to their collections and buy works of young artists.”

Pauli said there are many new art fans due in part to the booming world economy. “There’s more money around because people are making profits on the stock market,” she said. Some experts valued the last year’s global art market at up to $35 billion (SFr43.4 billion).

Greater in numbers this year were illustrious names from the Chinese, Indian and Russian art scenes.

The organisers also said most of the world’s big museums sent representatives to the show. That was one reason all of the exhibiting galleries were able to sell works or at least make contact with interested buyers.

The fair’s popularity and promise of sales means the waiting list for exhibitors is very long, and the selection process tough. An 80-square-metre stand starts at SFr50,000.

The next show – the 39th edition – will take place from June 4 to 8 in 2008.

swissinfo with agencies

3,000 galleries presenting 2,000 artists exhibited at the 2007 fair, Art 38 Basel.
Next year’s show will take place from June 4-8.
The fair was founded by a group of gallery owners in 1970, associated with art dealer Ernst Beyeler.
Spin-off Art Basel Miami Beach was launched in 2001 in Florida, and will be held this year from December 6-9.

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