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Press Release

Show Report

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Art Basel stages the first full-scale international art fair since 2019, with vigorous sales and outstanding presentations marking a highly successful 2021 edition.

  • Art Basel's 2021 edition closed on Sunday, September 26, amid reports of strong sales across all levels of the market throughout the duration of the fair
  • 'Art Basel Live', the digital initiative first debuted in May at Art Basel Hong Kong, amplified participating galleries to a broad global audience
  • The fair attracted an overall attendance of 60,000 throughout its VIP and public days
  • The show, whose Lead Partner is UBS, took place at Messe Basel from September 24 to September 26, 2021

Art Basel brought together 272 premier galleries from 33 countries and territories, presenting outstanding works across all media, from rare and historical masterpieces to new works by today's emerging voices. A strong line-up of galleries from around Europe were joined by new and returning exhibitors from across the world, including Asia, North and South America, the Middle East, and Africa. 24 galleries from cities including Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, London, Milan, New York, Palm Beach and San Francisco took part in the fair for the first time.

In addition to showcasing exceptional art within its Galleries, Feature, Statements, and Edition sectors, the fair also presented 62 large-scale artworks in Unlimited; 20 site-specific projects as part of Parcours; two performances – by artists Monster Chetwynd and Cecilia Bengolea – on the Messeplatz; an ambitious Film program; and the fair's vibrant talks series, Conversations.

Leading private collectors from across Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa attended this year, as well as curators and representatives from over 300 museums and institutions, including: Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris; Fondazione MAXXI, Milan; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA); Städel Museum, Frankfurt; Serpentine Galleries, London; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate, London; and Zachęta - National Gallery of Art, Warsaw. 

Art Basel Live amplified the onsite presentations in Basel, transmitting the vibrancy and excitement from the show floor to the broadest possible global audience. Visitors from around the world explored our exhibiting galleries via an enhanced edition of the Online Viewing Rooms (OVRs). Dedicated Viewing Rooms specifically developed for Unlimited and Parcours and complemented with an audio guide gave additional insight into these large-scale and site-specific projects. Art Basel Live also featured virtual Walk-throughs of the show floor and the OVRs led by Princess Alia Al-Senussi, PhD, global art patron; Thierry Gillier, CEO & Founder of iconic French fashion brand Zadig & Voltaire, together with Guillaume Houzé, President of Galeries Lafayette, as well as a rich program of social-media content including exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, giving audiences intimate access to the show.

Prior to the show’s opening, Art Basel announced a one-time CHF 1.5 million solidarity fund to mitigate the financial risk for participating galleries under the current extraordinary circumstances. Many galleries have already announced they will be opting out of the fund, thereby increasing the share for other exhibitors who may have been less successful. This initiative reflects the spirit of collegiality and collaboration that has come to the fore during the pandemic and is part of Art Basel's commitment to developing new formats and models that best support its galleries.

Marc Spiegler, Global Director, Art Basel said: ‘This year’s Art Basel was a landmark show. The fair served as a place for making new discoveries and building new relationships in person, activities that were largely impossible for more than a year. Despite reduced attendance of collectors from Asia and the US due to current travel restrictions, vigorous sales throughout the duration of the show brought to the fore Europe's powerful collector bases and rich collecting tradition. This week represents the beginning of the art world coming together again, at scale, and the rejuvenation of the international art market.'

Galleries exhibiting across all sectors of Art Basel commented:

‘After quite some speculation and uncertainty, Art Basel turned out to be a remarkable success. Collectors from all corners of Europe and Asia showed up hungry and with an appetite to buy art! We were particularly thrilled with the interest in our contemporary program — our sales highlights included many artists who joined us this past year and whom we presented at Art Basel for the first time.’

Marc Glimcher, CEO, Pace Gallery (New York, London, Hong Kong, Palo Alto, Seoul, Geneva, East Hampton, Palm Beach)

‘It’s astonishing and amazing that the success of this edition lives mainly from European collectors and that Europe alone can carry such an important art fair like this.’

Thaddaeus Ropac, owner of Thaddaeus Ropac (London, Paris, Salzburg)

 ‘The preparation for this year’s Art Basel happened under unusual circumstances. Regardless, many collectors and curators travelled to the fair. There’s a strong interest to see works in real life again and to have extensive in-person conversations. The fair has been a great success and we were able to place important works by Jenny Holzer, Andreas Gursky, Anne Imhof, Barbara Kruger and Rosemarie Trockel amongst others early on. It is really good to be back!’

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers, Co-owners, Sprüth Magers (Berlin, London, Los Angeles)

‘At Art Basel in Basel we finally rediscovered the pleasure of experiencing art in real life and not through the mediation of a screen; also, we could finally go back to have a direct relationship with people. Nothing feels better than this. The fair was very successful for the gallery, and we look forward to the much-anticipated acceleration of the market for this season.’

Massimo De Carlo, Founder, Massimo De Carlo (Hong Kong, Paris, Milan, London)

‘As soon as the doors opened, we all immediately felt that the fair would work. There was a great energy and mood. There is nothing like physical encounters. We have decided to opt out of the solidarity fund.’ 

Saskia Draxler, Co-Owner, Galerie Nagel Draxler (Berlin, Cologne, Munich)

‘We are extremely honored to be able to place a major work in the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. We experienced good attention and profound discourse with the project we showed. Nothing can substitute the in-person discourse.’

René Schmitt, Founder, René Schmitt (Westoverledingen)

‘We had such a good Tuesday it was the first time I’ve been able to come to the fair so relaxed on Wednesday morning. Sales have been very very good, and what is exciting is that we sold works by almost all the artists on the booth. We sold to collectors mostly from Europe but also some Americans.’

Stefan von Bartha, Director, von Bartha Gallery (Basel, S-chanf) 

‘We were happy to share a booth with Madragoa gallery from Lisbon, with whom we share representation of Joanna Piotrowska. It was our first time presenting at the fair in this way. Being able to have a physical presence at the fair for the collectors in town for Basel, whilst also showcasing our young artists in the OVR worked very well. The digital walkthrough of the OVR enabled us to connect with new collectors from Asia and other parts of the world who could discover the gallery’s artists for the first time. At the physical fair we placed 6 large paintings by one of our emerging artists, Louisa Gagliardi, in notable collections, while we also sold 3 of her works via the OVR.’

Magdalena Kobus, Director, Galeria Dawid Radziszewski (Warsaw)

‘Art Basel is back in full force. Collectors at the fair have renewed energy to be back with art of incredible calibre, such as the works by Philip Guston and David Smith, and this year we've had even greater interest from those in touch from afar. We've also seen great demand in our artists from international institutions and foundations.’ 

Iwan Wirth, President and Co-Founder, Hauser & Wirth (Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Somerset, St. Moritz, Zurich, Gstaad, Menorca, Southhampton)

‘This year’s Art Basel brought out the best in everyone. Galleries, artists and collectors all came together with great enthusiasm and energy. Above all the fair organizers deserve enormous congratulations for providing an event that felt grounded and right amid so much uncertainty. We were so glad to be here.’

Valerie Carberry, Partner and Principal, Gray (Chicago, New York)

‘Art Basel Switzerland 2021 was a great success. Just a few weeks ago the art world seemed unsure about the turnout of the fair and it is evident that collectors showed up and were excited to buy great art.’

Helly Nahmad, Owner, Helly Nahmad Gallery (New York)

‘Art Basel 2021 was like a long-awaited film release, the premiere of which was postponed—there was suspense and anticipation prior to the preview. Collectors returned to the show in a confident mood, sales were strong, and we look forward to meeting once again at Art Basel Miami Beach in December.’

Almine Rech-Picasso, Founder, Almine Rech (Brussels, Shanghai, Paris, London, New York, Aspen)

‘We were happy to be back in Basel and glad to see so many old friends after months of travel restrictions. While, not surprisingly, business was not at the same level as 2019, it certainly did exceed our expectations, and I think I speak for many when I say we were pleasantly surprised. This bodes well for Art Basel Miami Beach in December.’

David Zwirner, Owner, David Zwirner (New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong)

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