How To Get a Coveted VIP Card for Art Basel

What does it take to get "First Choice" VIP status at the world's premier art fair?

Art Basel 2014 VIP kit. Photo: Benjamin Sutton.


Art Basel 2014 VIP kit.

Art Basel 2014 VIP kit.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

Let’s face it, in today’s cutthroat contemporary art market, it’s not enough that you’re a millionaire, or even a billionaire, when it comes to collecting art for your homes. These days it’s all about access.

Whether you are sitting in the auction salesroom fighting for an eight-figure Francis Bacon or jetting off to Switzerland for next week’s premier international art fair, Art Basel, the odds are you’ll still have  to beg, borrow or steal to get your hands on a “First Choice” VIP card. Why bother? Status, baby, status! And of course to rub shoulders with your peers and get to see and buy art before everyone else.

All art fairs have VIP and VVIP programs, and dole out special access cards to a select group based on status and purchasing power–museum directors, chief curators, and proven collectors. Art Basel, the fair that started it all, is described on its homepage as the “world’s premier international art show for Modern and contemporary works” and therefore, not surprisingly, is the most competitive for VIP access.

VIP cards entitle holders to a number of exclusive perks and events at this year’s Basel fair, including but not limited to a champagne breakfast in the Rundhof; access to the VIP opening of the curated “unlimited section” on Monday June 16; VIP access to the main fair opening on Tuesday June 17; admission to the Collectors Lounge, where you can boast about your recent purchases or lament the ones that got away (for those who really don’t have any money to spend); join VIP tours of the fair booths with AXA Art experts; admission to most Basel museums; and free public tram and bus travel in Basel. Free bus—huh? Strictly cars for the VIPs, please. These are usually brand-new black BMWs driven by handsome young German students.

What a Art Basel VIP Guest Representative Has to Say

Okay, so now we know more or less what you get, how to get your hands on a “first Choice” VIP Pass? Given how frequently the artnet News staff is asked by friends and others to help nab a VIP card for them, we thought we’d do a public service announcement. Here is an email, below, from an Art Basel VIP guest representative. This is what fair organizers request before they can determine if you qualify:

Dear Madam,

. . . The Show Management requires detailed information on all those requesting VIP Cards. As such we kindly request more information from you and your collector friend.

Please note that only internationally recognized art collectors, the Directors of renowned museums and their chief curators receive a VIP card from Art Basel’s Show Management. Participating galleries will also invite their VIP clients.

As we have numerous requests for VIP cards, the Show Management kindly requests further information from you.

Please send us the following information:

your complete mailing address and e-mail address

a list of artists strongly represented in your collection

a list of galleries participating to Art Basel from which you regularly purchase

a list of museum boards with which you are affiliated

All information provided will be held in the strictest of confidence and may be verified for accuracy


Translation? Don’t think your flashy one-time purchase of a blue chip artist like Warhol or Basquiat is enough to score a VIP pass.

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