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‘We Believe That This Model Is Fairer’: Art Basel Reworks Booth Fees, Aiming to Help Smaller Galleries

Art Basel 2018.

ARTNEWS

Art Basel will institute what it termed a slide-scale pricing model, beginning with the 2019 edition of its flagship Swiss fair next June that will look to help galleries with smaller footprints at its regular bazaars.

Under the new plan, which was announced in an email to exhibitors today, two-thirds of galleries are expected to pay less for space in the Messeplatz (by 13 percent, on average), and one-third are expected to pay more (to the tune of 4 percent), according to the fair. Similar pricing models are also expected to be rolled out for the 2019 edition of its Miami Beach fair and the 2020 edition of its Hong Kong fair.

“Given the current financial pressures faced by many galleries, especially smaller and mid-sized galleries today, we believe that this model is fairer, and will provide some relief to smaller galleries, while not overburdening galleries that have a larger stand,” Basel said in a press statement outlining the new plan.

The changes come amid widespread discussion in the industry about the struggles of smaller galleries, with many such dealers saying that attending art fairs, which can account for a large chunk of a gallery’s annual business these days, has grown to be cost prohibitive and ultimately risky.

Last month, the New Art Dealers Alliance announced that it would end the New York fair it started in 2012. And during a panel discussion in Berlin in April, blue-chip dealer David Zwirner floated the idea of larger galleries paying more to participate in fairs—“a little bit like a tax,” he said—to subsidize smaller outfits; dealers Elizabeth Dee and Marc Glimcher of the Pace Gallery, endorsed the proposal.

The new fee structure includes a number of components. Booths in the Swiss fair’s Statements section, which focuses on presentations of emerging artists (and where price points are typically lower) will drop from CHF 12,000 to CHF 10,000 (about $12,400 to $10,300); Feature booths, which have curated focuses, will go from CHF 25,000 to $20,000 ($27,800 to $20,600); and dealers new to the main Galleries section will receive a 20-percent discount in their first year and a 10-percent one in the second year.

Furthermore, booths sold by size will move from a standard price of CHF 830 per square meter (about $855 for about 10.8 square feet) to a system that will see prices rise proportionally as booths get bigger. The fair provided two examples: a 25-square-meter booth, equivalent to about 270 square feet, will be priced at CHF 760 ($783) per square meter, while a 124-square-meter one, roughly 1,330 square feet, will be priced at a higher CHF 905 ($933) per square meter.

“While the changes to our pricing system and the additional benefits will not resolve the systemic issues faced by many galleries,” the statement reads, “Art Basel sees this as a solid step in addressing the current situation and is glad to see that many of the most established galleries are prepared to take on some additional costs in order to support their colleagues running smaller and mid-sized galleries.”

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