Why Do So Many Dealers at Art Basel Wish They Were Farmers?

Is cultivating artists similar to cultivating livestock, or something?

The Art Basel 45 catalogue. <br>Photo via artbasel.com.

The Art Basel 45 catalogue.
Photo via artbasel.com.

What would your favorite art dealers be doing if they weren’t hawking paintings and sculpture? What seminal 20th-century artist predicted car-sharing services? How did one historical service entry inspire a New York gallery’s name?

artnet News found some answers hidden deep in a publication put out by the organizers of the Art Basel fair. For the second year, they’ve published a mammoth—and we mean really gigantic—catalogue featuring interviews with curators, dealers, and artists and championing their special projects from this past year’s outings in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Miami.

We read through the tome so you don’t have to; here are some fun facts we found.

Marcel Duchamp Invented the Zipcar
“In an interview with John Cage, Duchamp spoke about cars,” says Thomas Girst, head of cultural engagement, BMW Group, in a conversation with art market analyst András Szántó. “He said it would be more convenient if cars didn’t have a single owner, but were shared.”

Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Photo Vincent Evans.

Hauser & Wirth Somerset.
Photo Vincent Evans.

What Would Dealers Be Doing if they Weren’t Running a Gallery?
Art Basel sent dealers a questionnaire asking some standard questions (What is your favorite aspect of running a gallery? How do you choose the artists you work with?) that evoked some pretty standard answers. They also inquire what exhibitors might be doing if they weren’t running a gallery. We note some trends and some oddball answers.

  • James Cohan: “Mohel.” (That’s a Jewish person trained in the practice of brit milah, the covenant of circumcision. Bris party!)
  • Alexander Gray: “We would use our skills to serve animals.” (That’s in terms of animal rights, not as food, though a remarkable number of dealers say they would run a restaurant. Partners David Cabrera and Alexander Gray are also involved with the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and the animal rights nonprofit Our Hen House.)
  • Iwan Wirth of Hauser & Wirth: “Farm.”
  • Casey Kaplan: “General Manager of the New York Yankees.”
  • Daniel Wichelhaus of Société: “Farm.”
  • José Freire of Team Gallery: “I would sell popcorn at a suburban multiplex.”
  • Finola Jones of Mother’s Tankstation: “I’ve thought about astrophysics or animal dentistry.”
  • David Nolan: “My invitation-only private island with a swim-up bar and library.”
  • Natalie Seroussi: “I would have been a shrink.”
  • Isa Lorenzo of Silverlens: “Be a psychiatrist.”
  • Borkur Arnarson of i8 Gallery: “Farmer.”
  • Blaize Lehane of Ramiken Crucible: “Even more drugs.”
  • Leo Xu: “A critic that reviews volleyball.”
  • Chuan Yan of Vitamin: “Perhaps be a farmer.”
  • Natalia Sly of SlyZmud: “I would run a farm somewhere.”
303 Gallery's Booth at Art Basel 2014 Photo: Courtesy Art Basel, MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

303 Gallery’s Booth at Art Basel 2014
Photo: Courtesy Art Basel, MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG.

How Do Galleries Come Up with their Names?
303 Gallery got its name from the street address of the back entrance of the gallery of American photographer Alfred Stieglitz, which was located at 291 Fifth Avenue.

Joseph Beuys (1967) Photo: Liselotte Strelow via Landschaftsverband Rheinland

Joseph Beuys (1967)
Photo: Liselotte Strelow via Landschaftsverband Rheinland

Dealers Say Times Have Changed
Dealer Juana di Aizpuru has been doing the fair since 1982, when, she says, you could spot people you wouldn’t expect to see: “[Joseph] Beuys was at Art Cologne almost every day. That’s where I actually met him.”

Dealer Miklos von Bartha talks about how in the 1970s, “you could even drive your car right up to the stand! The cars were there, people unloaded stuff, placed it on the stands, and then even left the car there because it was cheaper than paying for a parking space.”

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