Maike Cruse, currently the director of Gallery Weekend Berlin (GWB), will become the new director of Art Basel in Basel, a role created since the departure of Art Basel’s erstwhile global director, Marc Spiegler, last October.
Cruse, who has just overseen the 19th edition of GWB last weekend, will start at Art Basel in July and attend this year’s Swiss event in June as a spectator—albeit one who will be “analysing every detail”, she tells The Art Newspaper. She will report to Vincenzo de Bellis, Art Basel’s director of fairs and exhibition platforms who joined in August 2022, and work alongside Andreas Bicker, the head of business and management Europe.
Before joining GWB, Cruse was director of Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC) from 2012 to 2016, then Art Berlin from 2016 to 2019. She has also worked at the KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin and the Berlin Biennale.
Cruse knows Basel well too—she was communications manager at Art Basel from 2008 to 2011. “I left because I had a baby and my partner lived in Berlin,” she says. “But I remained close to Art Basel as I was good friends with Marc Spiegler, and I still organised the Conversations and Art Salon after I left.”
Although she and Spiegler “were always speaking about Art Basel and art market issues”, Cruse “never imagined becoming director, the idea seemed too crazy!”.
But after Spiegler left the company, Horowitz and de Bellis approached Cruse about the role. “There are lot of reasons why I’m well equipped for this job,” Cruse says. “I was part of the team before and because I lived in Basel, I know the institutions and their directors really well. I’ve also worked with galleries and their artists for many years now, as a director of firstly ABC and Gallery Weekend Berlin.”
Much has changed since Cruse last worked at the fair: “When I left Art Basel there were two fairs and two directors, and now there are four fairs, an additional continent and a leadership team. So, the whole undertaking has grown immensely and become truly global.”
Based between Basel and Berlin, Cruse’s role will be hands-on, “overseeing the team in Basel, and working very closely with the cultural partners and institutions in the city.”
Art Basel has long had strong connections with Berlin, with 35 of the exhibiting galleries having spaces in the city and two Berlin-based gallerists, Jochen Meyer and Jennifer Chert, sitting on the main selection committee and that of the Feature and Statements sections respectively.
At this early stage, Cruse declines to go into details of her plans for the new role: “First of all I want to look at everything and listen to everyone, take it all in before making decisions.” She will attend the fair this June, as an interested spectator, “but this will be a totally different experience, because I will be walking around with Vincenzo and the team and taking everything in and analysing for myself what needs to be done. That’s a totally different perspective to anything before.”
Although Cruse will not comment on the specific issues Art Basel might face, she says of the challenges facing the broader art market: “As we saw in the UBS and Art Basel art market report, bigger art galleries are growing but it’s also very important to foster the younger and mid-sized galleries because they are our future and it’s a lot tougher for them. That’s something I think we should not forget about.”
Noah Horowitz, the chief executive of Art Basel, says in a statement: “Maike knows the art world intimately and has deep relationships with our global community of galleries, collectors, and institutional audiences, having been at the helm of art fairs and Gallery Weekend Berlin for many years.” He also praises “her entrepreneurial mindset, her consummate professionalism, and her unwavering commitment to contemporary art”.