Who to Network With at Art Basel
Get your business cards ready!
The international art fair carousel stops in Switzerland in June, where over 200 galleries, collectors, museum curators, and various hangers-on land at Art Basel for the 46th edition of the renowned fair.
Because the sheer size of the event can be overwhelming and the crowds can be difficult to navigate, we’ve prepared a condensed guide to the movers and shakers to sidle up to, or at least exchange business cards with, if you want to give your Rolodex a boost.
Marc Spiegler, director, Art Basel:
As the head of the most prestigious art fairs, with branches in Europe, Asia, and the US, Marc Spiegler will be one of the most sought after people at the Swiss fair. Having worked as a journalist for over a decade before taking the top job at Art Basel, Spiegler has a keen eye, and a distinctive voice.
Since Spiegler’s joining Art Basel as director in 2007, the fair has flourished under his leadership. He oversaw the fair’s expansion to Asia, establishing the event in Hong Kong in 2008. And as the fair’s 46th edition approaches, he has managed to keep it relevant in a rapidly changing market. If you’re ambitious and are looking to speak to a deeply connected insider, make sure to swap cards with him.
Eva Presenhuber, gallerist:
Eva Presenhuber, who represents artists such as Joe Bradley, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Franz West, and Ugo Rondinone, has been a mainstay on the Swiss art scene since she opened her first gallery in Zurich in 1989.
As a member of the Art Basel selection committee, the Austrian born gallerist is in the privileged position of deciding which of her colleagues make the cut and which don’t. If you’re a gallerist looking to secure a coveted booth at the most important European fair of them all, schmoozing with Presenhuber and her fellow committee members is a good place to start.
Stefan Simchowitz, private dealer:
“You disregard him at your peril,” Spiegler once said about the divisive private dealer Stefan Simchowitz. The Los Angeles-based dealer has made a name for himself for identifying and promoting an array of emerging, media-friendly artists such as Petra Cortright, Amalia Ulman, and Jon Rafman.
Although his hard-nosed, confrontational approach to doing business is unpopular with some, you can learn a lot from his media-savvy approach to selling art. If you want to learn which artists to follow, Simchowitz probably has an few opinions.
Philippe Ségalot, art advisor and private dealer:
The former head of contemporary art at Christie’s is one of the most influential advisors and private dealers in the art world. He is known equally well for his expansive network of contacts and his ability to secure top level works for his clients as for the persistent rumor alleging that he used to sneak into art fairs before openings in disguise.
Most recently, he attracted attention for his bidding activity at Christie’s “Bound to Fail” auction, where he narrowly lost out on Maurizio Cattelan’s record-setting $17.2 million sculpture Him (2001) to a telephone bidder (he wasn’t bidding in disguise). There are few people as well-connected as Ségalot, so if you see him roaming the floor at Basel, make sure to introduce yourself.
Iwan Wirth, gallerist:
One half of the Swiss art power couple behind international mega gallery Hauser & Wirth, Iwan Wirth is one of the most experienced art dealers around, having opened his first gallery at the tender age of 16. Since founding Hauser & Wirth with his wife Manuela Hauser in 1992, the gallery has become an internationally renowned enterprise with spaces in Zurich, London, New York, Somerset, and Los Angeles.
If you’re in Basel, you know where to find him. Make sure to stop by Wirth’s booth to have a chat with the renowned dealer and take advantage of his art knowledge.
Samuel Leuenberger, curator:
Born and raised in the city of Basel, the independent curator was appointed to curate Art Basel’s popular Parcours sculpture section exhibited throughout Basel’s historic old town. Leuenberger’s career spans the breadth of the art world, having worked at commercial galleries, institutions, non-profit organizations, and now an art fair.
Leuenberger has run the arts non profit SALTS, based in the Swiss town of Birsfelden since 2009. In 2014 he was associate curator of the critically acclaimed 14 Rooms, a major exhibition organized by the Foundation Beyeler, in association with Art Basel, which left a lasting impression. In other words, Leuenberger is a guy you need to get to know.
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