“Asking why Art Basel is the most important fair is like asking why Venice is the most important biennale. It’s because the whole art world is there. I come here to make contacts that would be impossible to make in such a short time elsewhere,” says Dirk Snauwaert, artistic director of the Wiels contemporary-art centre in Brussels. Over the years, Art Basel has become a jealously guarded brand, as evidenced by the lawsuit it brought against Adidas, who used its name without permission on a pair of sneakers. What distinguishes Art Basel from its competitors? Its quality and longevity for one. It was as part of this “brand,” or community, that some of its exhibitors – like Kamel Mennour and Jocelyn Wolff – made a name for themselves. Although it took time to incorporate young galleries and those from emerging countries, the fair has taken the evolution of artistic practices into account by, for example, providing spaces for large works with Art Unlimited, a concept borrowed from biennales and used by other salons. But above all, it’s figured out how to replicate itself abroad.
“Asking why Art Basel is the most important fair is like asking why Venice is the most important biennale. It’s because the whole art world is there.”