Art Basel kicks off with strong reflections on global political uncertainty | Arts | DW | 16.06.2016
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Art Basel kicks off with strong reflections on global political uncertainty

The world's most important contemporary art show taking place in Basel, Switzerland, is a strong indicator of trends on the art market. While global crises inspire artists, collectors are jumping on art as an investment.

The 47th edition of Art Basel, the world's largest contemporary art show, opens its doors to the public on Thursday (16.06.2016), after two days reserved for collectors.

The Swiss art fair is seen as a powerful indicator of current trends on the art market.

From a work referring to the drowned refugee child Alan Kurdi to an installation using a "non-lethal" sonic weapon usually deployed against protesters, this year's edition is considered one of the most socially critical in a long time.

"We are confronted to major political issues worldwide and that provides a lot of reflection material for artists to work on," said Art Basel director Marc Spiegler.

Uncertainty drives sales

Despite the political and economic crises affecting the world, collectors appear to be more eager than ever to invest in art.

"We have already sold nearly half of the works of our stand," declared Marc Glimcher, president of Pace Gallery, which represents the US neo-Expressionist painter Julian Schnabel. "I could already go to bed," he said jokingly. Different paintings by the artist were sold for $375,000 (333,000 euros).

Altogether, 286 galleries from 33 countries are taking part in the event. They were selected among 800 art dealers who had applied for a booth.

Some 98,000 art lovers are expected over the six days of the event to view and purchase artworks from the 20th and 21th century.

Art Basel, Ai Weiwei's White House, Copyright: Sabine Glaubitz/dpa

Ai Weiwei's "White House" is one of the most spectacular works on show

Stars of the contemporary art scene, such as Damien Hirst, Albert Oehlen, Miquel Barceló or Juan Muñoz are all prominently represented.

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is also showing in the Unlimited section, which focuses on large-scale installations, video projections and live performances. The works in this section are destined to museums or exceptional collections.

For example, the installation "Tomato Head" by the provocative US artist Paul McCarthy was sold during the preview days for a sum of $4.75 million (4.2 million euros).

Art Basel runs through Sunday, June 19.

eg/kbm (AFP, dpa)

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