Art, New York City, Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, Party

Art, New York City

True Colors: Amid the Truly Die-Hard Collectors at Art Basel

While international travel restrictions meant slightly smaller crowds at this year’s fair, those who did turn up brought their wallets.

9/25/2021 1:04:00 PM

The lucky few who received an invite knew little about the rare Matthew Barey performance, apart from the name, “Catasterism in Three Movements,” and that it would contain “loud sounds” and “a laser light.”

While international travel restrictions meant slightly smaller crowds at this year’s fair, those who did turn up brought their wallets.

Ken Griffina Barnett Newman masterpiecewith a price tag said to be north of $100 million. So why was Meyer in the bar room of Zurich’s best restaurant, Kronenhalle, Sunday night, having a clandestine drink with a client? We couldn’t ID the mystery man, but there’s plenty of collectors in Switzerland ready to unload a pricey picture from their wall, or their free port.

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…andKatherine Bradfordwere on hand Thursday in New York to unveil their new permanent installations on two stops of the L train—Dzama crafted massive mosaics for the Bedford Avenue stop, and Bradford made a new work,Queens of the Night,for the First Avenue stop.

…Jarrett Gregory,who made waves as a young star at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, has been named curator at the Beyeler Foundation, the gorgeous institution cofounded by Swiss mega-collectorErnst Beyelerin a town on the outskirts of Basel.

…actor still best known for experimenting with a warm pastry in the late-’90s hitAmerican Pie,slid into the DMs of artistLucien Smithto try to buy a work from a particular series by the artist, saying, “I’ve been talking about how I need to get one of your Pie Paintings for a while now, As you can imagine, it speaks to me on many levels lol.”

Scene Report: Director’s Cut Party in Basel“It’s just like old times,”Tolga Albayrakscreamed into a reporter’s ear in the middle of the dance floor at Das Viertel, a nightclub in an industrial corner of Basel, Switzerland. The old times being June 2019, the last time Art Basel was able to hold the fair, and the last time Tolga (

it’s always just Tolga) was able to hold his marquee eardrum-bursting, up-all-night Director’s Cut party, where famous-in-Europe DJs hit the ones and twos until daylight. To those who enjoy both contemporary art and face-melting bass drops, these two events are of similar importance. There’s a reason why, on Wednesday-night-slash-morning, one of the people logging time in the VIP area behind the DJ booth was Art Basel’s global director,

Marc Spiegler.The place was packed, loud, sweaty, and overall extremely pre-pandemic. (But safe, or at least as safe as can be—all attendees had to be vaxxed, or take a rapid test at the station outside.) Each year at Art Basel, the promise of a Tolga party is the carrot on a stick that gets a dealer through two grueling days of convincing people to spend hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs on pictures. Yes,

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the billionaire Art Basel attendeekicks back post-fair with a casual 30-franc glass of champagne at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois. But the mid-level gallery director who’s spent two straight days shaking down clients and filling out spreadsheets? That person wants nothing else but to suck down tequila sodas and dance.

And sure, sometimes a Tolga–party attendee takes the occasional break to sell art—it’s not like dealsweren’tgetting done in the backyard smoking deck, where the Berlin art-macherJohann Königwas chatting with artistAustyn Weiner,a prominent Los Angeles collector made the rounds, and directors at Gladstone, Kasmin, and Sotheby’s mixed with Gagosian staffers. But when a DJ ripped into a low-end-slathered version of

Todd Terje’s “Strandbar,” cigarettes got smashed outside and everyone surged inside to hit the floor, not thinking about how they had to be standing in an art-fair booth in just a few hours.And that does it for your Art Basel True Colors. Like what you’re seeing? Hate what you’re reading? Have a tip? Drop me a line at

This article has been corrected to reflect that this year’s Art Basel is its 51st edition. Read more: VANITY FAIR »

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