DCSIMG

Art Insight #20: Marc Spiegler

Art Basel Global Director

Marc Spiegler Global Director, Art Basel ⓒ Art Basel
Esther Schipper, AA Bronson ⓒArt Basel

Today, many art fairs of different strengths and traits open and close around the world, but none rival ‘Art Basel’. Art fairs in European countries receive vigorous national sponsorship, yet June every year, the leaders in the world of contemporary art head to ‘Art Basel’ in Switzerland. Now the premier art fair has become more than a showcase to the market, and has developed into a powerful platform where different insights are shared and upcoming trends can be read.

‘Art Basel’ which started in Basel, Switzerland, has grown into a global event and now also takes place in Florida and Hong Kong. ‘Art Basel’ opens an art fair at each location once a year, for a total of three annually, with more than 500 galleries participating worldwide. Behind each successful show is Marc Spiegler, the Global Director who has raised the standard and brand quality of the fair. We sat down with the man, many in the European art community refer to as “the brain behind the shows”, and discussed ‘Art Basel’, its philosophy and successes.

As a basic principle, we provide the most supportive platform for networking and idea exchange for galleries. Our philosophy guides us to invest and focus our resources on future collectors and artists. - Marc Spiegler -

Gavin Brown's enterprise,Thomas Bayrle ⓒArt Basel

Q. What are some key roles of the ‘Art Basel’ Global Director?

I head an organization composed of 75 individuals across offices in three continents, in the cities of Basel, New York, and Hong Kong. I seek outstanding individuals I can trust and empower for a mission. That is the gist of what I do at ‘Art Basel’ as its Global Director. To me, the strategy, vision, and insight provided by a director are more important than giving fine-print orders to individuals. I empower the individual in charge and also expect a great deal of accountability. Work at the offices is organized so that each individual can make decisions as a platform, and also be validated by the control tower.

Hauser and Wirth, Paul McCarthy ⓒArt Basel

Q. ‘Art Basel’ is a world-class institution. What philosophy and principles do the fairs subscribe to, and what do you think is the single most important factor that has earned it such success?

‘Art Basel’ grew into what it is now, because we gathered the best galleries in the world and presented their best works at the fair. The secret ingredient to our success is substantial excellence. As a basic principle, we provide the most supportive platform for networking and idea exchange for galleries. Our philosophy guides us to invest and focus our resources on future collectors and artists.

Gavin Brown's enterprise,Steven Pippin ⓒArt Basel

Q. ‘Art Basel’ has risen to the top in Basel, Miami, and Hong Kong in an era when the traditional boundaries in the global art industry have been coming down. What are some defining, distinguishable characteristics of each of the art fairs?

Each fair draws its identity directly from its geographical location. We take great efforts to ensure that about 50% of participating galleries at every fair embody a representativeness of the region. It is in the same vein that we repeatedly check for gaps and blind spots in representation or combine certain regions. Plainly put, the three fairs have a complementary relationship. So whatever the European galleries in the Basel Show overlooked, the ‘Art Basel Miami’ seeks to address. Whatever is left wanting at Miami is satisfied by the Asian galleries at ‘Art Basel Hong Kong’.

Dominique Levy Gallery, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Spruth Magers, Frank Stella ⓒArt Basel

Q. Selecting participating galleries and distinguishing their most admirable works from such a large pool of candidates must be a meticulous process. What principles and criteria are involved in the selection process of galleries and cooperating corporations for ‘Art Basel’?

Choosing the right galleries to work with is possibly the most crucial part of the preparation process. Although we have exacting standards and principles by which we make decisions, the galleries that ultimately make it to the special preparation committee for consideration are ones that actively reach out to the needs of artists and seek shared growth, much less ones with outstanding sales records. That attitude also translates into more fully developed works. We might open symposiums or academic conferences in the region, or build ties with the hosting city's cultural bodies to find the most engaged galleries. This approach is differentiated according to whether a gallery is positioned in the primary or secondary art market. For instance, if an artwork sold at a gallery is not delivered directly from the creator to the buyer(secondary market), the gallery's reputation and connoisseurship is factored into the evaluation criteria. Rich background knowledge of art history relevant to their artwork is also important for a gallery. In the case of galleries positioned in the primary market, the quality of the relevant artists is important, but the artist-gallery relationship carries more weight. From the ability to identify capable artists and introducing their works to the market, to fostering and enhancing artist capabilities, and even helping them find other galleries, we consider and cross-reference everything.
Those criteria stand for how we select cooperating corporations. We look for corporations that actively reach out to artists with a helping hand. It is through those criteria that we seek to promote progress in the artworks.

Tornabuoni Art, Salvatore Scarpitta ⓒArt Basel

Q. ‘Art Basel’ has earned a stellar reputation for its thoroughness and dedicated effort. In terms of that dedication, how has ‘Art Basel’ contributed to contemporary art?

The international art community has come to expect certain standards or criteria of ‘Art Basel’. The community counts on us to meet certain terms of precision, mutuality, problem-solving capacity, and maximization of opportunities. We hold nothing back in meeting those expectations.

Kukje Gallery/Tina Kim Gallery, Haegue Yang ⓒArt Basel

Q. In closing, would you share your thoughts on any Korean artist who has caught your attention, and also some thoughts on the art scene in Korea?

The art scene in Korea is arguably the most international in Asia. Personally, I consider the art markets in Korea, Japan, and Taiwan to be most sophisticated in the region. Korea has the most accumulated knowledge of artists and collectors, and it also has an excellent art ecosystem. Korean artists move internationally, creating art across borders, while Korean collectors make decisions and revolve around a stable art system. What I find highly interesting in the Korean art scene is that large corporations do not shy away from supporting contemporary art. But back to that first question about a particularly notable artist? You know I cannot answer that (laughs). ■ with ARTINPOST

  • Art Basel in Basel 2016

    ⓒArt Basel

    Art Basel in Basel 2016 ⓒArt Basel
  • Lehmann Maupin, White Cube, Xavier Hufkens, Tracey Emin

    ⓒArt Basel

    Lehmann Maupin, White Cube, Xavier Hufkens, Tracey Emin ⓒArt Basel
  • Dominique Levy Gallery, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Spruth Magers, Frank Stella

    ⓒArt Basel

    Dominique Levy Gallery, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Spruth Magers, Frank Stella ⓒArt Basel
  • Esther Schipper, AA Bronson

    ⓒArt Basel

    Esther Schipper, AA Bronson ⓒArt Basel
  • Galerie Daniel Templon, Chiharu Shiota

    ⓒArt Basel

    Galerie Daniel Templon, Chiharu Shiota ⓒArt Basel
  • Gavin Brown's enterprise, Thomas Bayrle

    ⓒArt Basel

    Gavin Brown's enterprise, Thomas Bayrle ⓒArt Basel
  • Gavin Brown's enterprise, Steven Pippin

    ⓒArt Basel

    Gavin Brown's enterprise, Steven Pippin ⓒArt Basel
  • Hauser and Wirth, Paul McCarthy

    ⓒArt Basel

    Hauser and Wirth, Paul McCarthy ⓒArt Basel
  • Kukje Gallery/Tina Kim Gallery, Haegue Yang

    ⓒArt Basel

    Kukje Gallery/Tina Kim Gallery, Haegue Yang ⓒArt Basel
  • Tornabuoni Art, Salvatore Scarpitta

    ⓒArt Basel

    Tornabuoni Art, Salvatore Scarpitta ⓒArt Basel
  • Air de Paris

    ⓒArt Basel

    Air de Paris ⓒArt Basel

Profile

Marc Spiegler Global Director, Art Basel ⓒ Art Basel

Marc Spiegler Global Director, Art Basel ⓒ Art Basel

‘Art Basel’ Global Director Marc Spiegler is a native of Chicago, born in the Windy City in 1968, where he studied Political Science at the University of Chicago, and attended the Medill School of Journalism where he earned a master’s in Journalism. He has been writing as an art critic and columnist since 1998. For the past seven years, he has been overseeing all aspects of ‘Art Basel’ events and responsibilities as the Global Director.

View more in ART