Art Basel Switzerland: Why Is It So Famous?

art basel switzerland

Interested in Art Basel, Switzerland, but don’t know enough about it? Then you’ve come to the right place because this detailed guide will tell you everything you need to know about Art Basel!

It’s the largest art fair in the country, but also in other places throughout the world. But that’s not too surprising considering that Basel has some of the best art museums in Switzerland. Art Basel has a history of more than five decades, during which time it has grown to become one of the most prestigious art fairs in the entire world. Where it’s held, when to visit, and what to expect from the famous exhibition are just some of the questions answered in this guide to Art Basel!

History of Art Basel

Art Basel at Miami Beach
Art Basel at Miami Beach

The first Art Basel took place back in 1970. It was organized by three gallerists from Basel, namely Balz Hilt, Trudl Bruckner, and Ernst Beyeler. Since the inception of the art fair, its purpose was to promote artists and younger galleries from different countries, and this concept helped the art fair grow rapidly.

In the inaugural year, Art Basel had some 90 exhibitors and more than 16,000 visitors. In just five years, the contemporary art fair grew to 300 exhibitors and more than 37,000 visitors. Art Basel has continued to grow every year since its founding, and nowadays it’s the world’s leading fair for modern and contemporary works of art.

In 2002, Art Basel was held for the first time at Miami Beach. It was introduced to the US public by Sam Keller, the director who has been at the head of the fair since 1994. In 2008, Art Basel arrived in Hong Kong, and since 2022, the art fair will also be taking place in Paris.

Where in Switzerland Is Art Basel Held?

Messe, Basel
Messe, Basel

Art Basel is held in the city of Basel in Switzerland, but it’s important to note that it also takes place in several other places throughout the world. Art Basel is organized in Miami Beach, Paris, and Hong Kong, in addition to the Swiss city.

In Basel, the fair takes place in June, in Messe Basel, an iconic building designed by architects Herzog and de Meuron. They’re famous architects from Basel, and this is one of their most famous projects. The building is situated on the right bank of the Rhine River, just northeast of the Old Town area.

Why Is Art Basel Famous?

Art Basel is the most famous fair in the art world. It’s the world’s best-known platform that allows established and up-and-coming artists, galleries, and art collectors to connect with each other. It’s a remarkable place for the promotion of new and emerging artists and galleries, but also a fabulous place for collectors who are looking to expand their collections with unique new pieces.

That’s one of the reasons why the Art Basel fair is the most famous event of its kind in the world. Another reason for such fame is that it is frequented by the rich and famous, which inevitably draws public attention to the event. It’s certainly not your average Joe’s art fair, at least not in terms of the cost of artwork, which can often sell for tens of millions of dollars. Opulence and wealth easily attract the attention of the wider public, especially when you can experience them up close for a relatively affordable price.

How Expensive Is Art Basel

Tickets for Art Basel (in Basel, Switzerland), range from 27 CHF to 230 CHF, depending on which exhibition halls you can access with the ticket. I’ve omitted the 22 CHF ticket for students from this range because that’s available only to select citizens of Basel and its surroundings. Tickets for Art Basel include free public transport in the city on the day the ticket is valid for.

Also, the 27 CHF ticket only gets you access to Unlimited Night. A regular ticket for one day of Art Basel will set you back 67 CHF, while a ticket for the entire fair costs 230 CHF, but it doesn’t include access to VIP Wednesday.

It’s worth noting that children under the age of 12 can visit the fair for free if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian with a paid ticket. Also, you can get discounted tickets for evening visits, and this isn’t a bad option if you just want to look at some unique art, preferably without spending a fortune. Another thing you should know is that the prices of Art Basel tickets differ in other countries.

What to Wear to Art Basel

There is no dress code for Art Basel, so you are free to dress however you want. However, keep in mind that this is one of the largest art fairs in the world, so you might want to skip the jeans and sneakers and opt for something with a little more oomph.

Many people who attend Art Basel dress to impress or to express their creativity and fashion sense, so feel free to take this as an opportunity to try out some wild outfits. If you have any designer pieces in your closet, this is the time to bring them out.

What to Expect in Art Basel in Switzerland

Art Basel Banana
Art Basel Banana

Expect glamour, a diverse crowd, fabulous outfits, and impressive art. The world’s best art fair is famous for a reason, and you’ll get to see some truly unique and out-of-the-box artwork there. Also, be careful what you touch at Art Basel because the exhibited artworks have included everything from obvious items like paintings to a banana duct taped to a wall.

Another thing to expect at Art Basel is the high prices of absolutely everything, from tickets to drinks, and artwork. It’s definitely not fair for average people, and that’s just reinforced by the ridiculously high prices at the bar.

In terms of some more practical information related to the fair, you can expect all the entrances to the main fair to be wheelchair accessible. There will be a bar on-site and it is possible to sign up for guided tours of the fair, which is a great option for people who want to learn more about the exhibited artwork. Guided tours only take place during certain periods on select days and it’s necessary to sign up in advance for them.

Is It Worth Going to Art Basel?

If you have a genuine interest in art and you actually want to purchase some unique artwork, it is absolutely worth it to go to Art Basel. The fair gets together hundreds of gallerists and artists from dozens of countries throughout the world, and you can snag some truly unique pieces and discover new and amazing artists.

On the other hand, if you’re not that interested in art and you find the ticket prices steep, just save your money. The tickets are the cheapest thing about Art Basel – the artwork and even the drinks on-site are more expensive, and you’ll just be wasting money if you’re not genuinely into art.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do celebrities go to Art Basel?

Yes, celebrities go to Art Basel. Some do it because they want to upgrade their art collection with unique pieces, and others are there just for the after-parties. But in any case, many world-famous celebrities can be seen at the art fair. 

Can I take pictures in Art Basel?

Yes, you can take pictures at Art Basel, but only for personal use. Also, you must ensure that you will not disturb any gallerists or artists while taking photos. If you want to take pictures of a specific booth or artwork, it’s best to ask permission beforehand. 

How many days do you need for Art Basel?

One day is enough to see most artworks at the fair, especially if you’re there just to admire art and have no interest in purchasing any of the pieces. If you wanted to visit the fair every day while it takes place, you would need five days, as well as special tickets for VIP Wednesday. 

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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