Art Basel, the fair where impulse buys of millions of dollars are normal

A man walks next to an untitled artwork by Pascal Vochelet during the Frame Basel 2018 Art Fair.

Neighbourhood Lifestyle Desk: Premise of an art fair is that a collector can walk through its aisles, stumble across an artwork that catches her eye, and buy it. As a consequence, prices at most fairs are comparatively low, with work rarely surpassing the $2 million mark. After all, there are very few people who can afford a million-dollar impulse buy. One exception is at Art Basel in Switzerland (June 14–17), where dealers tend to bring showstopping art at a much higher price point. But this year at Art Basel, which opened to VIPs on Tuesday and officially opens to the public on Thursday, there’s been a further-upward trend in the price of many of the objects on view.

In past years $10 million-plus artworks were outliers and many pieces could be found for hundreds of thousands of dollars or less. This year, those ‘reasonably’ priced works are still there, but they’re increasingly joined by a profusion of art with values well above $3 million. And that’s where the action is. Dealers provided two explanations for this change in material and price point: First, that wealthy collectors are simply more interested in art that’s at the top of the market; and second,that the rich are getting richer,and can spend more on art than ever before.


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