Art Basel Releases Book to Celebrate its Globalized 44th Year

After expanding their Basel and Miami fair model to Hong Kong last May, Marc Spiegler and Magnus Renfrew have launched a book, Art Basel Year 44.

Art Basel | Year 44,MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Courtesy Art Basel
Art Basel | Year 44,MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Courtesy Art Basel

Art Basel | Year 44.
Photo: Courtesy of MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Art Basel

Art Basel has entered the publishing business. After expanding their Basel and Miami fair model to Hong Kong last May, for which the city signifiers were also dropped from the fairs’ names, Marc Spiegler and Magnus Renfrew have launched a book, Art Basel Year 44. The nearly 800-page tome tracks a year in the art world through their eyes and those of their influencers: the likes of Maurizio Cattelan, Bice Curiger, Chris Dercon, Massimiliano Gioni, Maja Hoffmann, Tadashi Kawamata, Christine Marcel, Elaine Ng, and Norman Rosenthal, among others.

Think Art Basel is just trying to squeeze another catalogue onto your shelf? You’d be wrong. According to Spiegler and Renfrew, who spoke with artnet news ahead of the announcement and April 2014 release, Art Basel Year 44 is an attempt to explicate the central tenets of the Art Basel ethos, looking beyond the commerce-driven catalogue model for a more intent view on the role of art fairs today.

Art Basel | Year 44,MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Courtesy Art Basel

Art Basel | Year 44.
Photo: Courtesy of MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Art Basel

Spiegler says the book’s major thrust was to put the emphasis on galleries. This is highlighted in a series of in-depth interviews with gallerists such as David Juda, Matthias Arndt, and David Zwirner about their backgrounds and outlook for the years ahead. Each of the 527 galleries that took part in at least one Art Basel in 2013  gets a mention. Mega-collector Harald Falkenberg has contributed a treatise on the art market’s status quo. And selected conversations from Art Basel’s series of public talks have been recast within the book’s pages.

Year 44 takes a wider view on the need for face-to-face pulse-taking within an ever more digital art world. Noting the importance of events like major art fairs and biennials in that process, Renfrew highlights two photo-based sections of the book in which the pair enlisted the help of some of their  favorite art world characters. Sent on a mission around the Art Basel shows last year, each were asked to pick out their favorite moments and artworks from Miami, Basel, and Hong Kong. Cattelan picked an iPhone snap of a logo for satellite fair Volta, and stuck it to a trash can for one of the more tongue-in-cheek offerings.

Lest the book turn into some perverse sort of art world yearbook, Spiegler notes that the current aim isn’t for an annual edition with a slight look of trepidation that suggests the monumental effort involved in coordinating the publication. With year 50 looming on the horizon, however, we’d venture to say this effort won’t be their last.

Art Basel | Year 44,MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Courtesy Art Basel

Art Basel | Year 44.
Photo: Courtesy of MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Art Basel

Art Basel Year 44 is out from JPR|Ringier in April and will be available for purchase at each of this year’s fairs.


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