By now, the Art Basel International Art Show is a worldwide institution. It comes in three versions: the original Switzerland version (called simply Art Basel), the Floridian-franchise Miami Art Basel, and a Hong Kong show. When Miami Art Basel descended on South Beach back in November, we wrote about both the need-to-know artists and need-to-know parties going down at the four-day event.
This week, Art Basel has arrived once again in Basel, Switzerland, in all it’s opulent glory. But what’s the difference between Miami Art Basel and Art Basel Switzerland? You’ve been to (or at least heard of) Miami’s version, but odds are you’re not in Switzerland’s third most populous city attending the original.
And the reason why is also the difference between the two events: because Miami Art Basel is all about street art, installations and parties and the Swiss Art Basel is all about high-powered art buying of rare and precious artworks and objects (like watches, furniture, architecture — stuff that’s not shown in Miami).
The Swiss Art Basel is filled with money managers, famous curators, and other movers and shakers in the art world. The prices they pay are astronomical. On the first day of Art Basel alone, which is billed as a private VIP showing – a Warhol self-portrait sold for $32 million, a blue canvas by Pablo Picasso sold for $12 million, a sculpture of an inflatable dolphin by Jeff Koons sold for $5 million, and a Sigmar Polke painting (depicting purple monkeys, an alligator and a dick [yes, a dick]) sold for $4.5 million.
This year there is apparently over $4 billion worth of art up for sale from 285 exhibitors from 34 countries.
Simply put, when compared to Miami’s Art Basel, Switzerland’s is not for the faint of heart or the shallow of wallet. Think Manhattan’s Upper Eastside versus Manhattan below 14th Street. Think Cannes versus Sundance. Think business versus pleasure. That’s all you need to know, to at least sound like you know what you’re talking about when someone asks about the difference.