Inside Art Basel, the World’s Most Prestigious Art Show

Every year, art lovers from around the globe flock to an exclusive art show called Art Basel. The show is made up of hundreds of galleries featuring both established and up-and-coming artists. If you’re looking to experience high-art culture, this is the place to be. Take a look inside Art Basel, the world’s most prestigious art show.

History

Interior of open exhibit with multicolored pieces at the Art Basel show, Miami, Florida
Credit: Mia2you/ Shutterstock

The first Art Basel show was held in 1970 and was organized by three gallerists: Enrst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner, and Balz Hilt. Their vision was an international art fair to showcase art from around the world all in once place. The show was named after Basel, Switzerland, where the original show took place. The first-ever Art Basel show featured 90 galleries from 10 different countries. More than 16,000 attendees showed up for the inaugural show.

Only five years after the initial launch, the show had more than doubled in size. The 1975 show gained more than 300 exhibitors from 20 countries and attracted over 37,000 visitors. Art Basel was a huge, worldwide hit. In addition to paintings and sculptures, other mediums of art were added such as photography, performance art, and film.

In the 21st century, Art Basel opened two new venues: one in Miami, Florida, and the other in Hong Kong. Each venue specializes in art from its region.

Outdoor art exhibit showing large, multicolored sculptures on grass with Miami, Florida trees in background
Credit: Mia2you/ Shutterstock

Every year, the show gains more exhibitors, artists, and visitors. The 2019 show featured work from over 4,000 artists. You can check out some of the more iconic work in a video that was made during the event. The exhibits range from the typical framed paintings on the wall to larger murals, sculptures, films, and even installations that take up entire rooms.

As technology advances, artists are using more innovative methods to create. Some artists are trading in their paintbrushes for digital animation software, creating elaborate visual experiences using virtual reality.

Planning a Visit?

Miami Beach with buildings boarding the coast
Credit: Mia2you/ Shutterstock

Before you rush out and buy tickets to the next Art Basel show, there are a few rules to be aware of. A local Miami publication was helpful enough to provide a guide for people to prepare so they don’t embarrass themselves at such a high-class cultural event:

Proper pronunciation – What could be worse than going to a fancy art show and calling it by the wrong name? It’s pronounced “Bahs-el,” not like the basil plant that grows in your garden.

Dress appropriately – Notice that it doesn’t say “dress formally.” Since this is a high-class art event, casual, everyday clothes like baggy t-shirts, flip-flops, and shorts should be avoided. Most visitors choose to wear something artsy that makes a statement. Have fun with it!

If you’re not sure, don’t ask – Sometimes art can be confusing. If you see a McDonald's cup sitting on the floor, is it art or is it just trash? To avoid embarrassment and possibly offending the artist, just forget it and move on.

The most famous rule of art exhibits: Don’t touch – Artists work hard to create their exhibits. Every detail is meticulously crafted, and one little change could affect the entire piece. Plus, if you break it, you buy it, and most of these pieces aren’t cheap.

Don’t talk to people who are performing or enjoying – Performance pieces are popular in art shows. If you see someone that could be participating in an art performance, even if they don’t seem like they’re doing anything, just leave them alone. The same goes for anyone who is intensely enjoying a work of art. Don’t break their concentration.

Art Basel Events

Aerial view of Art Basel grounds with Florida palm trees and bright, multicolored rock art exhibition
Credit: Felix Mizioznikov/ Shutterstock

While there are only three main events, Art Basel also works with other venues on shows throughout the year. Most of the time, these smaller shows are an exhibit for a featured artist or collection. The three primary Art Basel shows take place in Basel, Miami, and Hong Kong. Each venue has one show per year that’s open to the public for a few days:

  • Miami, Florida: December 5-8, 2019
  • Hong Kong, China: March 19-21, 2020
  • Basel, Switzerland: June 18-21, 2020

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