Today is the first day of the 49th edition of Art Basel, the annual art fair in Basel, Switzerland. On the occasion of the fair’s opening, ARTnews has put together a comparison of the sizes in square feet (and square meters) of all the galleries—not of the their booths in Art Basel but of their physical spaces, out in the real world—in the fair’s main sector, titled Galleries. By some measures, the participants in this section are the most significant galleries in the world for modern and contemporary art.
The size comparison is interesting in light of Art Basel director Marc Spiegler’s point there is no correlation between a gallery’s potential for how much it can sell at its booth and how much that booth costs the gallery. While how much a gallery sells certainly does not always correspond to its physical size—Acquavella Galleries, of New York, is modestly sized and one of the top galleries in the world—the mega-galleries are called as such for a reason: they are big in many senses. In other words, a gallery that comprises more than 5,000 square meters (including all its various branches around the world), like Gagosian or Hauser & Wirth, might have the same size booth, at the same cost per square meter, as a gallery that has merely one space measuring 1,000 square meters or less.
As it turns out, the lion’s share of galleries at Art Basel—62 percent—are 500 square meters (5,400 square feet) or smaller.
The figures above are drawn from the 2017 edition of the Art Basel yearbook, published annually by the fair. They are reported by the galleries themselves. Where figures were not reported, ARTnews did research to fill them in.
On a related note, those visiting Art Basel this year will note that three galleries dropped out of their coveted Galleries booths just weeks before the fair opened (according to the original exhibitor list, published by ARTnews in February): Alexander and Bonin, Maccarone, and josegarcia.mx.
Alexander and Bonin’s absence is significant. Founded in 1995, the gallery has participated in Art Basel for over 20 years. Reached at the gallery’s headquarters, in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood, cofounder Ted Bonin told ARTnews, “After a year and a half of programming in our 7,000-square-foot space”—the gallery moved and expanded in 2016—“we began to think more about how we use our staff and time. After 20-plus years, maybe it was good to take a pause.” He added that Basel’s organizers were “gracious and made us feel we’d be welcome back.” Josegarcia.mx and Maccarone were not reachable for comment.
On the bright side, there are some new faces in Galleries, like Mother’s Tankstation from Dublin, which won the Baloise Prize for emerging art in the Statements sector a few years ago.