Last week the small town of Basel, Switzerland brimmed with over 2,500 contemporary artists, 300 leading galleries, curators, collectors, and of course thousands of art appreciators. Each day, full with lectures to attend and films to be critiqued. This is the 40th anniversary of Art BASEL. On an adjacent block other art happenings took place at Scope. Although, this is only its third year in Basel, SCOPE has been quite popular in New York for over five years. Alongside these primary events, came a myriad of smaller functions like Hot Art Fair, The Campara preview party at Vitra Design Museum, and The Solo Project. It was all too easy to fall subject to feelings exhaustion just thinking about how one might attempt to see everything. With each proceeding function, I began to focus less of the art itself and more on the success of the fairs in general. In a time when economic crisis has trickled into so many societies, one begins to wonder who can actually afford, "The Simple Things" a collaboration project with Pharrell Williams and Takashi Murakami valued at $2.8 million? A Warhol self portrait for $440,000? Even actor Brad Pitt made an appearance and laid down $1 million for a Neo Rauch painting. Is this crisis really an opportunity in disguise?
Creative individuals naturally have the insight to question reality, and create an abstract perception of the world. This ability has proven over the centuries to not only be useful in aiding change, but inspiring for nations struggling to keep morale high. Artists are the first step to enabling positivity during tough times by working through these issues in, what some may consider, unorthodox strategies creating alternatives which stimulate the collective unconcscience. In short, art provides hope.
Galleries remain more cautious yet generally still optimistic. Diana Hohenthal at HOHENTHAL UND BERGEN explains, "There were more sales last year. This year there were also sales, but we focused on establishing a better contact network for future sales," in an interview. On the other hand, Brigitte Schenk at her gallery, GALERIE BRIGITTE SCHENK felt, "If you look at the figures of the turnover at the last Art Basel you would hardly believe that there is any crisis at all. Blue chips were sold out on the first day- even on the telephone. Big dealers like Gladstone, Mayer, Ropac, and Jay Joplin had the best day ever on the first day of the V.I.P. opening. This has nothing to do with the crisis but the fact that the black money accounts in Switzerland still have to be deleted. However, there were hardly any American collectors around. The main sales were made by European collectors," and continues, "The sales at Scope also were also effected by this trend. A lot of dealers made very good deals, but mainly with established artists. You could feel the energy that people wanted to buy."
The situation now, which means a real crisis for a lot of economic fields, in art it's business as usual. Regardless of economic state, passionate artists will continue to create. This is beyond survival, but a more a personal obligation. As long as there are innovators producing these dynamic works despite struggle and strife, revitalizing our community from the ground up, dealers will find a way to make a profit. Even if it takes, " very carefully planning in a longterm context, and try to reduce the costs where possible." Ms. Schenk concludes.