Stefan Kobel: Recession seems to have hit the art market. The U.S. fairs this spring didn’t start out too well, though in Europe business went slightly better. What do you expect for Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach?
Marc Spiegler: As we know from speaking with our gallerists, and as was confirmed by the auctions in New York two weeks ago, the market for high-quality artworks remains quite strong. Collectors know that the galleries of Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach bring many of the best pieces available on the international art market, so we’re convinced that they will continue to have solid results.
SK: The debut of "Solo Project" means that there is yet another satellite fair for Art Basel this year. Do you see this more as a welcome complement or as an annoying irritation?
MS: The satellite fairs taking place during Art Basel demonstrate the success of our show in attracting top collectors and curators to Basel in June. So we take them as a compliment.
SK: New art fairs are evolving all over the world, especially in the Middle and Far East -- Art Paris recently established a fair in Dubai. When will Art Basel start a fair in Asia?
MS: All these new art fairs do signal that interest in art is growing worldwide. This does not mean, however, that we have to organize new Art Basels in the Middle East, Asia or other regions. We question whether there are enough premier artworks available to organize three shows per year of the calibre the art world expects from Art Basel. So our strategy is to bring these new collectors to Art Basel and to Art Basel Miami Beach.
SK: Art Basel Miami Beach became not only a fair but also a big party right from the start, Philipps de Pury celebrates its auctions of Contemporary Art as a society event, and in Berlin "Gallery Weekend" is very successful. On the other hand, classic art fairs seem to have entered a crisis. What will the format of the future look like?
MS: As you mentioned yourself, many new art fairs have emerged around the globe, and some of them are already successful; so it seems quite premature to suggest that the "art fair model" is in crisis. Speaking specifically of our show, the strength and the success of Art Basel are based in part on the fact that we react very quickly when the needs of our galleries -- and by extension the needs of their artists -- change. Thus, we will surely see different formats in the future from Art Basel. But those changes will be driven by the artists, not the directors of art fairs.
SK: With the hype art has been experiencing for a couple of years now, the market has taken over the final say on the relevancy of an artist to a museum. Are the market mechanisms dangerous for the function of art in society? Do we need a discussion about quality?
MS: We don’t agree that the market replaces museums in determining the relevance of an artist. In fact, one could argue the reverse: Major museum shows have an enormous impact upon the market of an artist. And when it comes to determining which artists have a lasting relevance, it is not the art market but rather the artists themselves who play the largest role -- followed closely by those writing art history.
STEFAN KOBEL writes for the German version of Artnet Magazine.