Art Basel Pursuing Global Dominance

Art fairs are a viral global phenomenon, with fairs of all sizes branching out to new locations. Currently, a new initiative from Art Basel, one of the most dominant fair organizers, is taking place. It aims to make the company not only a market force but also to cement a position as a benefactor of the arts.


Art Basel, which started in Switzerland and then branched out to Miami Beach and Hong Kong intends to stage art events in new venues in a program it’s calling Art Basel Cities. The announcement comes on from Art Basel’s parent company, MCH Group, which is planning to initiate new fairs or buy up existing ones worldwide.

Art Basel’s fairs have one of the highest attendances, with upward of 65,000 spectators going to Art Basel in Miami Beach and about 75,000 to its birthplace in Switzerland.

The new program adds to a previous attempt to branch out into art patron status. Basel’s Kickstarter Crowdfunding initiative aimed to raise money to support non-profit cultural institutions; since launching in 2014, though, it has garnered a modest $800,000, which has been spread around to 34 projects worldwide.

Ugo Rondinone, <i>The Gracious</i>, at Art Basel's Parcours section, 2015.

All the same, Basel has gathered a high-powered board for the new project, including Tanzanian-born architect David Adjave, Turkish art patron Füsun Eczacıbaşı, urbanist and author of The Rise of the Creative Class Richard Florida, Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak, and Swiss mega-collector Uli Sigg. Richard Florida’s advisory firm Creative Class Group will work with Basel on an “audit” of selected cities’ cultural scene. The fair’s director of business initiatives, Patrick Foret, will head up the project, which will also result in the cities sending projects back to the fairs, according to the press release.

Carsten Nicolai, α (alpha) pulse, 2014, at Art Basel in Hong Kong.

There are sufficient details in the press release, which promises “cultural events with international resonance” and “vibrant and content-driven programs” in cities “that have either an emerging or an already established cultural scene.”