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The Traveling Art Circus Arrives in Basel

art basel switzerland
Central to Murdoch’s bet on MCH is the hope that Art Basel’s enormous brand can be monetized beyond the trade fair business. Photo: Getty Images for Rob Pruitt
Marion Maneker
June 9, 2024

There was a time when Art Basel was the only art fair in the world that mattered. Galleries waited years to meet the sometimes mystifying demands of the fair and its vetting committee in order to get a booth. Once they did, they would save up their best, most coveted works in anticipation of the crowd of the richest and most committed collectors, who would fly to sleepy Basel just to spend a day or two perusing the floor of the Messeplatz. The fair’s quality and reputation were so great that even the most entitled wealthy patrons lined up at the glass doors for the opening “preview.” 

Those days are long gone. Lining up at the doors no longer makes sense because much of the preselling is done by gallery directors over email. In the week leading up to the fair, you can follow many of those same directors, and a battalion of art advisors, on Instagram as they make their way to Basel, some via Paris, others transiting through Venice, and a few making other European stops along the way.