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Art Basel – The Most Influential Art Fair in the World

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Darla Uhl

Art Basel is an international, private art fair that takes place in Basel, Switzerland, every June at the Messe Basel. As a global platform for the arts, it brings together artists and galleries from all around the world. There are also Art Basel fairs in Miami Beach, Hong Kong, and Paris. 

What is Art Basel?

Leonardo Drew Installation taken at Art Basel by TouringSwitzerland

Featuring more than 4,000 artists and 250 leading galleries worldwide, Art Basel is an international art fair that connects the international art world. The fair is cited as one of the most influential in the world.

Over the course of four to seven days, the prestigious Art Basel fair attracts close to 100,000 visitors. The diverse exhibits and the world-class artistry make this the best art event in the world. There’s a lot to see in one day, or you can go several times over a few days. 

When you go to an art fair, you’ll see works from all kinds of people. While in Art Basel, you will be discovering the works of sculptors, illustrators, and artists. Additionally, this art fair brings galleries, dealers, collectors, and curators together for a short time. 

Messe Basel: Art Basel’s Home

Image was taken in Messe Basel by TouringSwitzerland.com

Messe Basel, located in Kleinbasel, opened in 1999 to compete with similar infrastructures in nearby cities like Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, and Frankfurt in Germany. Aside from the annual Art Basel exhibitions, it is also the site of the annual watch and jewelry exhibitions Baselworld.

Architect Theo Hotz began work on the plans in November 1996. The construction on Messe Basel began in autumn 1997 after the building permits were approved on August 22, 1997. 

After the Baselworld exhibit finished in May 1998, demolition of the old hall began. To realize the project as quickly as possible, six hundred workers worked in two shifts. Thanks to all those involved, the hall was completed ten months later, on February 25, 1999. 

A modern exhibition space by architect Theo Hotz serves as a pilgrimage site for architects. 

A 210-meter long, 90-meter wide glass house, Messe Basel is located at Messeplatz, Basel. The building is simple: over 36,000 square meters of total space, you have fabricated steel constructions over two levels. Hall 1 offers beautiful exhibition space in the heart of Basel. 

Art Basel: What to Expect

Over 4,000 artists exhibit their work at Art Basel, including paintings, sculptures, installations, textiles, photography, film, video, and digital art. Here you’ll find art viewers, students, buyers, sellers, and art lovers all gathered to enjoy the art installations.

Liu Wei Dimension Art Installation taken at Art Basel. Image by TouringSwitzerland

In Hall 1 at Messe Basel, you’ll find a lot of big, sprawling installations, huge statues or sculptures, big wall paintings, and photo series, plus video projections. Sometimes they’ll have interactive installations, too. This isn’t your typical art fair booth. As a result of its large space, it can accommodate massive installations that you won’t find at other fairs.

Hall 2 has art galleries from different parts of the world. The art galleries carry artworks from countries such as China, the USA, Germany, and Brazil. 289 galleries gathered in Basel for the 2022 Edition. Furthermore, they have an upcoming artist section in Hall 2, with lots of cool art installations for the next generation of artists. 

Hall 2, Art Basel by TouringSwitzerland

Throughout Basel, they also have what is called Art Basel Parcours, where they display site-specific works scattered across the city.

The Giant Steel Spider by Louise Bourgeois, according to Artnet, sold for $40 million this year. The over 3-meter-tall spider was at Hauser & Wirth’s booth during the VIP opening hours of the fair. 

Is Art Basel Worth It?

Huang Yong Ping Installation, Art Basel. Image by TouringSwitzerland

Art fairs are exclusive and selective, so their costs are high as well. Among the costs are various fees, rentals, insurance, security, packaging, and shipping. As of 2022, a ticket for Art Basel costs about 65 CHF a day.

In light of all the financial expenses, tight security, and personnel observing each installation, it’s no wonder that ticket prices are high. Is Art Basel worth it? Is it worth visiting and paying the fee? For art lovers, Art Basel is worth every penny. I recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone, especially to those who love art. My opinion is that you should go to Art Basel every year if you love art and all things creative. 

Art Basel’s popularity is largely due to its scale. It brings thousands of people from around the world to experience great art every year. Art Basel is unique and you won’t find it anywhere else; it is worth traveling to. If you are a collector, this is your chance to view a broad array of works within a short period.

There’s no better place for modern art on earth. And you’ll likely come back every year after you’ve been there. That’s because the installations change every year, so it’s a good idea to keep coming back. It’s also pretty easy to see and understand why some people have been going for years.  

How to Get to Art Basel

Art Basel. Image by TouringSwitzerland
AddressMesseplatz | City Lounge, 4058 Basel
By TramBasel, Messeplatz
By CarParkhaus Messe Basel
Riehenstrasse 101, 4058 Basel

Final Thoughts: Art Basel

As the world’s largest art fair, Art Basel is something worth seeing, especially if you’re a big art lover. Having modern and contemporary art in one place with so many other art lovers is awesome.

In one central place, you can see art from all over the world over a couple of days. Aside from being in the heart of Basel, it’s easy to find as well. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you made your way to the next one in June next year? Of course, I would. 

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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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