In early September, just a few weeks before its marquee Swiss fair was set to take place, Art Basel announced that it would create a “one-time solidarity fund” in order to “mitigate the risks for exhibitors of our 2021 Basel show.” This week, the world’s top art fair said that nearly two-thirds of the exhibitors at the Swiss edition chose not to take funds from Art Basel.
In a letter sent to exhibitors on Wednesday, Art Basel said that its Covid-related relief efforts—spurred by “unexpected pandemic developments shortly before the fair would lead to reduced international attendance and thus negatively impact sales”—were not needed by a majority of the galleries that participated in the fair, signaling “a strong success for the gallery community,” according to the fair.
The news comes just two weeks before Art Basel Miami Beach is set to launch on November 30, with 254 exhibitors lined up to take part. The upcoming fair was briefly thrown into a state of uncertainty over the summer when Art Basel’s Director Americas, Noah Horowitz, revealed that he would be leaving after six years. He later announced that he had decamped for a position at Sotheby’s.
Art Basel had allocated 1.5 million Swiss francs (about $1.6 million) to the fund, which was to be divided evenly among all exhibitors to reduce their booth fees, unless a gallery chose to opt out.
Of the 272 galleries who showed at the Swiss edition of the fair this year, 175 (around 64 percent) chose not to benefit from the fund. Their portions have been reallocated to the 97 remaining exhibitors, who will now receive a 35 percent reduction in their booth fees, which will be disbursed by the end of the year. (If all the galleries had taken part in the fund, they would have each received a 10 percent reduction in their fees.)
The letter was signed by by Art Basel’s global director Marc Spiegler; its head of business and management for Europe, Andreas Bicker; and its regional head of gallery relations for Europe, Michael Müller. The letter reads, “The final allocation, with two thirds of our exhibitors choosing to forego their share, truly reflects the spirit of collegiality between galleries that came to the fore during the pandemic period and the principle of solidarity on which the fund was created. We would like to thank you for your generosity in choosing to forego the fund in favor of supporting your colleagues and for your part in this year’s truly historic edition of Art Basel in Basel.”