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Waiting for Change at Art Basel

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2nd Oct 2008




Tuesday, 12 June 2007

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Conrad Shawcross: Preretroscope (Sea Kayak) mixed media
The 38th edition of Art Basel is underway in Switzerland, and against a stunning collection of the world's most sought-after art, the politics of change are underway.

Sam Keller, the beloved boy who built the show to new heights over the last six years and presided over the successful rocket ship that is Art Basel and Basel Miami Beach, will step aside after the December show to run the highly endowed Fondation Beyeler, leaving a gaping hole in the canvas of the art world.

Sam is so highly regarded that three names have been announced to cover his role. The instant toast of the global art world and a group set to rewrite the balance of power between galleries, dealers, collectors and the auction houses by their newly elevated presence are: Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Annette Schonholzer, and Marc Spiegler. All are insiders to the world of art, and much remains to be seen about how they will maintain the juggernaut that has resulted in spinoff fairs, competing civic attempts to lure collectors to other fairs, and the management of the booming art world.

Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach are a source of general envy around the world, and increasing numbers of players are out for a bigger cut of the dealing world, led by the auction houses of Christie's, Sotheby's and Philips de Pury. Art Basel alone brings in a reported $500 million annually to the city of Basel, a sleepy town that would be more known for Bayer aspirin than Joseph Beuys if not for the show.

Meanwhile, record attendance crushed the opening, and while the buzz of the 52nd Venice Biennale continues to hold conversation, the evident rush of deals taking place reminds everyone that there are serious happenings going on. Among the cutting edge names: Hans Op de Beeck, Katie Heck, Boo Ritson, Katy Moran, and Conrad Shawcross.