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Art Basel

The strong gets stronger: Art Basel outstrips other art fairs in popularity as applications soar

Art Basel's status as the leading art fair remains in tact; whilst plans are made to include a video forum and a space for young galleries

Regarded as the most accurate barometer of the market for Modern and Contemporary works of art, the twenty-sixth edition of the Basel Art Fair (14-19 June) will present 247 exhibitors, who were selected from applications made by more than 500 candidates. By comparison, 160 dealers took part in FIAC 94, while the Cologne Art Fair, which adopts a less rigorous policy of admission, made space for 320 booths.

Those blunt figures disguise the fact that it is the event in Basel which sets the standards to which every other fair aspires. Quite simply, the status of the participants, and the quality of the works of art which they bring, eclipses the European competition. Only Art Chicago 95, the leading American event now consolidated by Thomas Blackman and attracting 165 exhibitors, can claim to approach it.

The exhibitors at Art 26’95 Basel include fifty-eight German dealers; forty-two from Switzerland; thirty-one each from the United States and France; and sixteen from Britain. In addition to the strong European content, there are three Asian participants, two Japanese dealers and one gallery from South Korea; and, in a new geographic orientation, one exhibitor from Australia.

The British contingent speaks for every country. It is a list of the leading dealers who are showing the most interesting work being made by several generations of artists. It ranges from the established galleries of Anthony d’Offay, Annely Juda, Lisson, Marlborough and Waddington to those dealers specialising in younger or more experimental art: Victoria Miro, Anthony Reynolds, Marc Jancou, Jay Jopling and Jane Hamlyn’s Frith Street Gallery.

New recruits include Gagosian, Max Protetch, David McKee (United States); Froment & Putman, Crousel and Xippas (France); Konrad Fischer, Wittrock and Nagel (Germany). Durand-Dessert and Yvon Lambert are returning after not having attended for several years.

Following a three-year period of review, there has been a minor adjustment to the process of selection which is now administered by a committee of ten experts, each drawn from a different exhibiting country and known as the Exhibitors’ Admission Board.

In practical matters concerning the operation of the fair, a second consultative board has been created, the Art Commission, which involves three senior participants who are Felix Buchmann (Basel), Karsten Greve (Cologne and Paris) and Pierre Huber (Geneva).

Two new developments calculated to broaden the appeal and relevance of Art 26’95 Basel are a forum for video art covering historical and new productions; and a section reserved for young galleries which is expected to be one of the fair’s leading attractions.

Invited by the Art Commission, twelve dealers are making special installations which will feature the latest developments of contemporary art. They include Art:Concept (Nice), Bloom (Amsterdam), Bravin Post Lee (New York), Cottier (Sydney), Jennifer Flay (Paris), Neon (Bologna), Valleix (Paris) and Weiss (Berlin).