Art Basel Is Launching a Charitable Online Art Sales Platform Ahead of Its Miami Beach Fair

Collectors must make a charitable donation beginning at 10 percent of the sale price of the artwork they want to purchase.

Art Base Miami Beach 2022. Courtesy of Art Basel.

Collectors from around the world shopping for art in the primary market will soon have a new online avenue to acquire works they want from a reputable source, but this time, they will be required to pledge a donation to a charity along with purchasing a work they desire.

Such is the basis of Access by Art Basel, a new online sales platform by the Swiss fair giant that aims to bridge primary art market activities with philanthropy. Featuring over a dozen works from galleries participating at the upcoming Art Basel Miami Beach, the platform will make its debut on Monday (November 27) ahead of next month’s fair, Art Basel announced on Thursday. It is a pilot project and it may be extended to future Art Basel fairs.

Access by Art Basel is developed by Arcual, a technology company launched in 2022 and backed by Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group, as well as the Luma Foundation and BCG X. While Arcual specializes in blockchain solutions for galleries, Access will not run on the blockchain.

Collectors will be able to browse the works available for sale via Access from Monday onwards. They can submit a request to purchase a work they desire through December 10, the last day of Art Basel Miami Beach.

Works are sold at a fixed price, but there is a bidding aspect to the sale in that collectors will be required to pledge a donation to a charity of their choice between the Miami Foundation or the International Committee of the Red Cross, with a minimum amount of donation beginning 10 percent of the listing price of the artwork. However, it will be up to the gallery to decide to whom a work to be sold, and the donation won’t come into effect until the sale takes place.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2022. Image courtesy of Art Basel.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2022. Image courtesy of Art Basel.

“We wanted to deliver a platform that meaningfully and effectively supports the causes that matter to our galleries and their artists, while allowing them to remain the beneficiaries of 100 percent of the sale on artworks,” noted Noah Horowitz, CEO of Art Basel, in a statement.

During his previous tenure at Sotheby’s, Horowitz launched a similar platform called Artist’s Choice that ran alongside the Contemporary Curated sale in New York in September 2022; for each lot sold, a 15 percent donation was made to a charity or institution selected by the artist.

Over a dozen galleries will take part in the pilot edition of Access by Art Basel by invitation, including Pace and François Ghebaly. Featured works include those by the Miami-based Hernan Bas at Fredric Snitzer, New York-based Katherine Bradford at Kaufmann Repetto, Taipei-based Wu Chi-Tsung at Sean Kelly, American artist Rafael Delacruz at Michel-Innes & Nash. Mendes Wood DM will be offering works by Jaider Esbell, Sprüth Magers will feature Jenny Holzer, alongside works by Mark Handforth at Luhring Augustine, Angel Otero at Hauser & Wirth, Chelsea Ryoko Wong at Jessica Silverman, and Maja Ruznic at Karma.

Galleries are not required to pay a fee to take part, and Art Basel is not taking any share in sales. These works will also be shown at the fair from December 6 onwards but they will be sold exclusively only on Access.

“This is a great development for Art Basel. To me it seems like green shoots of responsible and sustainable collecting that aligns artists and collector values, because this is necessary right now. I think this is what as a business they have also identified as necessary,” noted art advisor Janna Lang. “The world is not well.” Art Basel will be making a $25,000 donation on the occasion of the launch of Access, with the amount to be split evenly between the Miami Foundation and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

While some in the art world are skeptical about the new platform, Lang did not see this as another tool for sales. “I see this as a tool to make sales that would be made anyway, but with the addition of some impactful investing.”

Some dealers have reflected that collectors and art buyers have become increasingly aggressive asking for discounts for primary sales recently as the market is getting softer. While discounts are not uncommon, a sales initiative that requires the buyer to make a charitable donation on top of the sale of an artwork can make people do more when the world is clouded by uncertainties and warfares, noted one advisor who does not wish to be named. “At the end of the day, there’s some money,” the art advisor said.


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