Art Basel continues to grow

Art Basel is one of the biggest, most influential, seismic contemporary art fairs in the world, a behemothic beast of artistic exuberance, sway and visibility. It continues to matter and in its 43rd incarnation, it continues to be an important platform for showcasing and articulating the world of art as it stands today.
This year, more than 300 galleries from 36 countries around the world will be exhibiting the work of over 2,500 artists past and present. That 99 per cent of last year’s exhibitor’s reapplied for a spot in this year’s show is in itself a testament to the magnitude of Art Basel.
So too does the first time appearance of two institutions from the Middle East, which demonstrates the fair’s influence. Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde and Green Art Gallery will be showing work in the Art Statements sector, which promotes solo projects by young and emerging artists.
Although both establishments are located in Dubai, one of the most cosmopolitan, liberal and western friendly countries in the Gulf, it is nevertheless eventful for two reasons: one, Art Basel’s continuous expansion as a truly global body – see also its acquisition of the Hong Kong International Art Fair – and two, the growing interest in art from what is a generally esoteric scene.
In terms of more conventional works of art, the biggest draw no doubt will be Mark Rothko’s hefty painting Untitled 1954, which has been put up for sale by a Swiss-based collector represented by London’s Marlborough Fine Art.
The dealer in contemporary art is asking for £50 million, which is substantially more than what it sold for in 2007 (approximately £17 million). The mood for Rothko’s is strong, so a certain sale is on the cards.
That a lot of the conversation at the fair will be centred on the global economic environment’s impact on the art market should not be mistaken for apprehensive dialogue, far from it. It will, in stark contrast to the exchanges within major financial districts around the globe, be largely positive.
“There’s been a lot of talk about art as an alternative investment over the last five years,” Robert Read, fine art expert at specialist art insurer Hiscox Ltd, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
“It does resonate. The world’s mega-rich have piles of cash at the moment, and there’s nothing for them in the bond markets or equities.”
Art Basel takes place from June 14th until June 17th.