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Five thousand years of art for sale at Cultura

One of the many rare pieces to be seen at the fair (Cultura)

(swissinfo.ch)

Basel's international art and antiques fair, Cultura, is this week offering the public a chance to see - and buy - artefacts from the past 5,000 years.

Objects for sale at the annual event include classical antiquities from ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt, along with a selection of Asian art.

All the items on display - which are expected to generate millions of francs in sales - underwent a strict vetting procedure by the organisers before the fair began.

"The procedure was changed for this year's fair," said the chairman of Cultura, Hans Löliger.

"We now have a committee of independent experts from all over the world, who look at every single object displayed at the fair," he told swissinfo.

Until this year, the vetting committee had included dealers, and organisers say the new procedure is in line with Cultura's policy of aiming for the highest quality.

"Inevitably, many dealers are disappointed at not being selected to attend," said co-chairman Ben Janssens.

"But quality always attracts quality, and we're confident that what you see here is of the highest quality."

Swiss dealers

Among the Swiss dealers present is Peter Bader of Lucerne, who started out as a collector, buying items throughout the world during a 25-year career as an airline pilot.

"My collection just grew and grew," he told swissinfo, "and 16 years ago I had to decide whether to stop buying or to become a dealer."

Bader, whose relatively small display space has pieces spanning five millennia, is one of the gems of this year's fair.

Not everything on display at Cultura, however, is up for sale.

Reflecting the fair's interest in 20th-century art and design, a special exhibition is entitled Hommage à Diego Giacometti (1902-1985).

Furniture exhibition

The exhibition, which marks the centenary of the birth of the younger brother of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, features a representative selection of his unconventional and original furniture as well as his decorative pieces.

The furniture is on loan from various private collections, and many of the pieces are being displayed in public for the first time.

Already last weekend, many dealers were reporting healthy sales, and by the time the fair closes on Sunday some 12,000 people - including representatives of major museums - will have passed through its doors.

Janssens, who is a London-based dealer, says one reason why business is brisk is the current state of global stock market trading.

"Quite a few people are so disillusioned with results on the stock market that they may prefer to buy quality works of art which will not lose their value."

swissinfo, Richard Dawson

In brief

The Cultura fair, which runs until Sunday, is expected to generate millions of francs in sales.

Objects for sale at the annual event include classical antiquities from ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt, along with a selection of Asian art.

The fair is also hosting an exhibition of works by the younger brother of Swiss sculptor, Alberto Giacometti.

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