Sam Keller, who has served as director of Art Basel since 2000, is to be replaced by three successors when he steps down to lead the Beyeler Foundation in January 2008. The new directors will divide the responsibilities of running the Swiss fair and its American edition, Art Basel/Miami Beach.
Marc Spiegler, a US journalist based in Zurich and editor at large of this newspaper, is to be responsible for strategy and development; Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, senior US editor of the Swiss magazine Parkett and a faculty member of the Parsons New School for Design, will become artistic director of the fairs, and Annette Schönholzer, who has served as show manager of Art Basel/Miami Beach since December 2002 will oversee organisation and finances. They take up their positions in September.
Each director will have core areas of responsibility but all the major decisions will be taken jointly. This division of tasks is unusual for a major, international art fair, and it remains to be seen how it will work in practice.
While Frieze in London is successfully run by its two co-founders, Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, some smaller events such as the Palm Beach Art and Antiques Fair have tried, and then abandoned, a bi-furcated management in recent years.
Sam Keller’s seven years as director of Art Basel have coincided with
the phenomenal global expansion of the art world, an enlargement which Mr Keller both contributed to and capitalised on with the establishment, in December 2002, of Art Basel/Miami Beach which rapidly established itself as the leading modern and contemporary art fair in the US.
Its varied programme of talks, co-ordinated museum exhibitions, visits to collectors’ homes for invited guests, and increasingly hectic party schedule have since been imitated by a number of other fairs in both the US and Europe. “The important thing is to keep changing,” said Sam Keller yesterday. Whether these “changes” will include further editions of Art Basel in expanding areas of the market such as the Gulf and China remains to be seen.
Speaking to The Art Newspaper at the press conference held yesterday to announce the new directors, René Kamm, ceo of Art Basel’s parent company Messe Schweiz, said the continued expansion of the fairs “would be up to the directors”.
When asked if the management of Messe Schweiz was considering launching an edition in China, Mr Kamm said there was still much work to be done in “educating” collectors in the country. He said he would be visiting ShContemporary in Shanghai in September, China’s first international contemporary art fair, “Be- cause, I’m going to be in the area.”