Art Basel 2021 marks a return to the art world as we left off in 2020. The fair 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.
Leading private collectors from across Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa attended
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)
The show’s main sector comprised 220 leading galleries, showing painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, photography, video, digital, and editioned works of the highest quality. 13 galleries graduated into the main sector to present their full program: Antenna Space from Shanghai; Cardi Gallery with spaces in Milan and London; Carlos/Ishikawa from London; ChertLüdde from Berlin; Galleria Raffaella Cortese from Milan; galerie frank elbaz from Paris; Essex Street/Maxwell Graham from New York; Experimenter from Kolkata; Layr with spaces in Vienna and Rome; Madragoa from Lisbon, Edouard Malingue Gallery from Hong Kong; Galeria Dawid Radziszewski from Warsaw and Galerie Gregor Staiger from Zurich.
Six joint booths were featured, including: The Approach and Kate MacGarry, Bergamin & Gomide and Galeria Luisa Strina, Konrad Fischer Galerie and Peter Freeman, Inc., Galería Elvira González and Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Madragoa and Galeria Dawid Radziszewski, and David Nolan Gallery and Sperone Westwater. Galerie Jocelyn Wolff’s booth hosted Take Ninagawa as a ‘Wunderkammer’ booth presentation, a new concept allowing exhibitors to stage small exhibitions within another gallery’s stand, while Magician Space, ShanghART Gallery, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, and Vitamin Creative Space participated with satellite booths. For the full list of exhibitors in Galleries, please visit artbasel.com/basel/galleries.
The sector presented 24 ambitiously curated projects by both historical and contemporary artists, with 11 galleries completely new to the show. Highlights included Ben Brown Fine Arts’ booth, which explored Lucio Fontana’s beginnings and evolution as a sculptor; one of the first computer-generated poems by Alison Knowles, presented by James Fuentes; Kasmin’s presentation of significant works by Lee Krasner; Mira Schor’s monumental painting ‘War Frieze’ (1991-1994), addressing militarism and patriarchy, presented by Lyles & King; and Galerie Jérôme Poggi’s presentation of Prix Marcel Duchamp 2020 winner Kapwani Kiwanga’s ‘The Botanics of History’. For the full list of exhibitors in Feature, please visit artbasel.com/basel/feature.
Showcasing 18 solo presentations by young galleries across the world, Statements offered collectors and visitors the opportunity to discover quality work by emerging artists. Highlights from the sector included: Company Gallery’s presentation of an immersive installation by Jonathan Lyndon Chase; ‘In A Sign for Things to Come’ by Vartan Avakian, presented by Marfa’; and Jessica Silverman’s booth comprised of sculptural works by Rose Bean Simpson. For the full list of exhibitors in Statements, please visit artbasel.com/basel/statements.
The 22nd Baloise Art Prize was awarded to Cameron Clayborn, presenting with Simone Subal Gallery, and Hana Miletić, presenting with LambdaLambdaLambda. A jury of international experts awarded CHF 30,000 to each artist, and their works were acquired by the Baloise Group and donated to Mudam Luxembourg and the Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin.
Spread throughout both floors of Hall 2 for the first time, the sector featured 10 leading galleries in the field of prints and editioned works: Niels Borch Jensen Gallery and Editions, Cristea Roberts Gallery, Sabine Knust, Lelong Editions, Carolina Nitsch, Paragon, Polígrafa Obra Gràfica, René Schmitt, Susan Sheehan Gallery, and STPI participating with a satellite booth. Lelong Editions showcased ‘Borders’ by Barthélémy Toguo on the Spotlight wall facing the Rundhof. For the full list of exhibitors in Edition, please visit artbasel.com/basel/edition.
Unlimited, Art Basel’s unique platform for large-scale projects, once again provided galleries the opportunity to showcase expansive installations, monumental sculptures, vast wall paintings, extensive photographic series, and video projections that transcend the traditional art fair stand. Featuring 62 projects, the sector was for the first time curated by Giovanni Carmine, Director of the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen. Highlights included: Etel Adnan’s large-scale drawing ‘Le Soleil Toujours’ (2020) presented by Sfeir-Semler Gallery; ‘Entrare nel linguaggio’ (2019-2021), a textile installation by Marion Baruch, completed especially for Unlimited 2021 and presented by Galerie Urs Meile; Frank Bowling’s painting ‘Samson’s Circle with Lila’s dress made in Africa of imported Chinese fabric: and the rest’ (2019) presented by Hauser & Wirth; Urs Fischer’s installation ‘Untitled (Bread House)’ (2004-2006) presented by Jeffrey Deitch; David Hockney’s painting ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ (2018/2021) presented by Gray and exhibited at Unlimited for the first time; Robert Rauschenberg’s large-format painting ‘Rollings (Salvage)’ (1984) presented by Thaddaeus Ropac; and Carrie Mae Weems’ ‘Repeating the Obvious’ (2019) co-presented by Jack Shainman Gallery and Galerie Barbara Thumm. For the full list of artists and exhibitors in Unlimited, please visit artbasel.com/basel/unlimited.