Art Basel is a for-profit, privately owned and managed, international art fair staged annually in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach, Florida; and Hong Kong, selling the works of established and emerging artists. The commercial fairs also offer parallel programming produced in collaboration with the host city's local institutions. While Art Basel provides a platform for galleries to show and sell their work to buyers, it also attracts a large international audience of art spectators and students.
Art Basel was started in 1970 by Basel gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner and Balz Hilt. In its inaugural year, the Basel show attracted more than 16,000 visitors who viewed work presented by 90 galleries representing 10 countries. Thirty art publishers also participated.
By 1975, five years after its founding, the Basel show reached almost 300 exhibitors. The participating galleries came from 21 countries, attracting 37,000 visitors.
UBS is the lead partner of the Art Basel in Basel since 1994, the lead partner of the Art Basel in Miami Beach since its inception in 2002 and the lead partner of the Art Basel in Hong Kong since its inception in 2013.
In 2013, Art Basel launched its inaugural sales fair in Hong Kong. Half of the participating galleries came from Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2014, Art Basel partnered with Kickstarter to create a crowdfunding initiative aimed at funding non-profit visual arts organizations worldwide. Together with JRP Ringier, Art Basel publishes Art Basel | Year 44 the first book that covered all three shows.
In 2015, the BMW Art Journey award was established by BMW and Art Basel to reward promising artists from the Discoveries sector in Hong Kong and the Positions sector in Miami Beach. Also, the executive-education program Collecting Contemporary Art in Hong Kong was launched by Art Basel, HKU SPACE Centre for Degree Programmes (CDP) and Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design (CSM).
Under the stewardship of Art Basel's Global Director, Marc Spiegler, the 2015 show in Basel, Switzerland, attracted 98,000 visitors over six days. It presented 284 galleries from 33 countries, exhibiting the work of over 4,000 artists. A total of 14 galleries showed in Basel for the very first time. Alongside private collectors from Europe, America, and Asia, representatives and groups from over 80 museums and institutions from across the world were in attendance.
Spearheaded by Noah Horowitz, Art Basel's Director Americas, the 2015 show in Miami Beach, Florida, presented 267 leading international galleries from 32 countries. Over five days, the show attracted 77,000 visitors including private collectors and directors, curators, trustees and patrons of nearly 200 museum and institution groups. The show hosted first-time collectors from Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Romania, Togo, and Zimbabwe.
Art Basel Miami Beach was first introduced in 2002 under the direction of Sam Keller.
In 2008, MCH Group, Angus Montgomery Arts and the events organiser Tim Etchells launched Art HK, sparking investor interest in Hong Kong. MCH bought it out in 2013 to create Art Basel in Hong Kong. The 2015 Hong Kong Exhibition, directed by Adeline Ooi, attracted over 70,000 visitors, among them directors, curators, trustees, and patrons from over 100 leading international museums and institutions. On display were 239 galleries from 35 countries and territories.
Art Basel's initiatives concentrate on the broader art world. Art Basel has three main initiatives: Art Basel Cities, BMW Art Journey, and Crowdfunding.
Art Basel Cities is a project between Art Basel and cities worldwide to create cultural events and programming throughout the year. Art Basel, the city's local art stakeholders and the city's officials will sit together and develop a program in line with the city's mid- and long-term cultural development goals. This initiative was launched during the 2016 Hong Kong edition of Art Basel. Cities interested in the collaboration have to apply via an online questionnaire. As of 2016, Art Basel has yet to announce which cities it will be working with.
BMW Art Journey Award is a grant that supports emerging creatives and enables them to go on an artistic journey of their own definition. The chosen artist can select the destination and go almost anywhere in the world to explore new ideas, discover new themes, and create new works. A winner is selected twice a year from a shortlist of three finalists during the Art Basel shows in Hong Kong and Miami Beach.
The Crowdfunding Initiative is a partnership between Kickstarter and Art Basel to provide visibility and generate support for projects from non-profit organizations around the world. The projects include artist residencies, education programs, public installations and other innovative artistic projects. They are selected by an independent jury made up of three non-profit art world specialists.
The Art Market is an annual global art market analysis. It covers all aspects of the international market and highlights the most important developments in the previous year. The first report was published in 2017.