Art Basel in the Covid era

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Art Basel in the Covid era

Guests must go through a checkup here before enjoying arts. [CHOI SUN-HEE]

Guests must go through a checkup here before enjoying arts. [CHOI SUN-HEE]

The author is the head of Gallery Choi & Lager.

Premier art fair Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, resumed after 18 months. As art fairs that had been canceled due to Covid-19 last year began to reopen beginning earlier this year, gallerists and collectors are once again actively traveling long distances.

A Covid-19 verification center was built next to the Basel Convention Center, the site of Art Basel, and visitors can enter the site only with a bracelet verifying vaccination or negative test result. In most European countries, including Switzerland, you can go anywhere as long as you can prove either.

Most visitors were Europeans. Unlike the last event where more than 90,000 people visited, most collectors from the Americas and Asia did not attend. But ambitious collectors already purchased artworks from the PDF materials or online viewing room provided before the fair. Hybrid art fairs simultaneously offering online and offline markets has become the common, and major galleries change artworks everyday just like any other year.

The Art Newspaper, published during Art Basel, highlighted the rapid rise of Asian art enthusiasts with economic power with a headline, “The Super Power of Asian Collectors.” Emerging art collectors in Asia who are digitally savvy are buying artworks online.

The global arts market report from the same period is also interesting. It provided specific statistics of the trend that art collectors in China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries are increasing and the art markets are expanding. While the Western arts market had negative growth during the pandemic, most Asian countries enjoyed high growth.

As the huge power in the arts market is going over from the West to the East, I could not find many works by Asian artists at Art Basel. Despite the interests on the market, it seems that a good balance of cultural interests and exchanges hasn’t been found.

Nevertheless, with high-quality works, great works at Art Unlimited that allowed a maximum size limit and various art programs by Fondation Beyeler and Kunstmuseum, Basel remains an attractively balanced city of old buildings with history and modern structures by great architects. To the visitors who personally came to the lively arts market with fluttering hearts, the event gave various emotions that cannot be experienced online.
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