Art Basel turns 50 this year. But many would still be baffled by that statement—as its Miami spinoff first appeared in just 2002. Yet the latter’s extravagant celebrity bashes, with their glittering guest lists and oceans of sipped and glugged champagne (depending on the time of night) has become the media darling of the brand—with many unaware of the longer history.
But indeed, in the actual city of Basel (Switzerland, that would be), most of the rest of the year sitting charmingly and unassumingly along the Rhine—yet with world class cultural offerings always at the ready—the original happens every June. And it competes with Maastricht’s TEFAF for the title of biggest art fair in the world. Yet just as Art Basel Hong Kong was forced to go all digital back in March, so will the mothership, despite the big anniversary, as large gatherings (especially those with a tendency towards enthusiastic kissy kissying) are still forbidden, or at least strenuously discouraged.
Gagosian, no surprise, have already risen to the virtual challenge, crafting impressive online viewing rooms for each major fair (including also the recent Frieze NY), and launching a weekly Artist Spotlight program. But their efforts dedicated to this month’s Basel have turned out particularly extraordinary. And beginning June 14, the public viewing for their Gagosian Online and Art Basel Online collections will carry on until June 24 (Art Basel’s official VIP preview launches June 17).
The reward? Andy Warhol’s 1986 hand-painted Last Supper, a 1960s “soak-stain” painting by Helen Frankenthaler, an entirely new painting by Mark Tansey, and prestige-level works by the likes of Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Theaster Gates, Katharina Grosse, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, and Sarah Sze, amongst so many others.
But what most want to know is, how is this actually turning out, as opposed to the interactions at the actual physical fairs?
“We have witnessed more energy in our online sales as we get closer to Basel,” reveals Gagosian’s Director of Publications Alison McDonald, “and sense that collectors are excited. Our platform will offer access to artworks of the highest caliber, which is to say that we approached Basel Online the same way we would have planned our booth at the fair. When collectors are offered works that they desire, we’ve found that they are just as willing to buy online as they would in person.
For those who still prefer the in person buyer-to-dealer experience, Gagosian also recently announced the re-opening of their three London galleries in Camden, Westminster and Mayfair.