On my final day in Basel, I would be remiss if I didn't do a little storytelling and share with you what goes on behind the scenes. Unlike Miami, only a few satellites -- SCOPE, Volta, and Liste -- attempt to compete with the main Art Basel fair in Basel. This year was especially challenging for these mid-level dealers; the Art Basel space came with a new face and, according to those who had attended in the past, the show was one of the best. Collectors, artists, and hangers-on finished their days in an open air rotunda sipping cocktails while catching up on the day.
A dealer friend of mine likens the Art Basel experience to that of an Olympic Village. Hopefuls support each other while waiting for the next big sale. And if a collector doesn't purchase with one gallery, he is often directed to another. There is a huge sense of camaraderie. Unlike their Art Basel colleagues who get hundreds of thousands, if not millions, for single works, the folks at satellite fairs like SCOPE sweat it out and go to the mattresses. Each sale they make matters and could mean the difference between packing it in or moving forward.
Dealers here are inspiring dreamers, people who have made huge life changes for the sake of being in the arts. Joan McLoughlin, owner of the McLoughlin Gallery, left her job as a nurse and involvement with medical start-ups to open her own gallery in San Francisco. In less than three years she has built a family of artists that now have works in major museums and collections.
Ed Victori of Victori Contemporary left his career as a Wall Street trader in hopes of one day establishing his father as a master painter in fine art. Mark Hachem walked away from his successful computer consulting company to open a gallery in Paris. He now has additional locations in the Middle East, as well as the United States.
And after becoming disenchanted with others selling his paintings, Kevin Havelton began his own virtual gallery and now travels to several fairs a year, representing his own work as well as others. The stories are endless, and these people are warriors.
So the next time you think of purchasing a pair of Nikes or that Prada purse, donating your money to a corporate tycoon who doesn't need it, consider saving your pennies for art. You might be supporting the dream of another or paying a few months' rent of your favorite artist; not to mention the right to brag to your friends on how you discovered the next big thing while being at the center of it all -- Basel.
Writer Seanica Howe is reporting from Art Basel in Basel throughout its run.
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