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What is Art Basel? A Guide to the World’s Biggest International Art Fair

What is Art Basel Guide Biggest Art Fair

Art Basel in Miami Beach (Photo: Mia2you via Shutterstock)

Since 1970, creators, collectors, and dealers of contemporary art have congregated at Art Basel, the world's biggest art fair. Intended to spotlight the top artists of the time and act as a “driving force in supporting the role galleries play in nurturing the careers of artists,” the annual event attracts art perusers and professionals alike.

While you probably have heard of Art Basel, you may not know what it is—let alone why, when, and where it operates. Here, we offer a handy guide that presents everything you need to know about this world-renowned art fair.

What is Art Basel?

Art Basel is an international contemporary art fair. It is held once a year in three host cities—Basel in Switzerland, Miami Beach in Florida, and Hong Kong in China—and gives hundreds of galleries a prestigious platform to present and sell art.

Art Basel

Paintings, sculptures (including outdoor pieces), works on paper, photography, digital art, video art, and installations make up most of the works featured year after year.

While exhibiting contemporary work is Art Basel's first and foremost function, the fair is also known for its events. Lavish parties, live performances, and master classes are just some of the extra festivities held at each fair.



The first Art Basel was held in June of 1970. It was founded by a trio of Swiss art professionals: Ernst Beyeler, a dealer and collector, and gallerists Trudl Bruckner and Balz Hilt. It was established to rival Art Cologne, a contemporary art fair that emerged in neighboring Germany just three years prior.

What is Art Basel Guide Biggest Art Fair

Art Basel in the news (Photo: Hadrian via Shutterstock)

Located in Basel, a cultural hub in idyllic northwestern Switzerland, Art Basel saw immediate success. In its inaugural year, it hosted 90 galleries from 10 different countries and attracted over 16,000 visitors.

In 2002, Art Basel debuted its first outpost: Art Basel in America at Miami Beach. Like its parent, this new addition was a hit, with 180 exhibitors sharing their art. It launched a second offshoot, Art Basel in Hong Kong in 2013, which has since become Asia's premiere art fair.


Art Basel Locations Around the World



Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, is held at Messe Basel every June. In addition to work by over 4,000 artists, those in attendance are treated to another work of art in Messe Basel: an exhibition hall designed by well-known Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron.

Neue Messe Basel

Art Basel in Switzerland


Hong Kong

Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre hosts Art Basel in Hong Kong. In addition to offering “an in-depth overview of the region's diversity through both historical material and cutting-edge works by established and emerging artists,” this art fair supports Asia's art world by insuring over half of its 240 exhibitors are based in Asia and Asia-Pacific.

Tina Kim Gallery & Kukje Gallery, Art Basel in Hong Kong (23–25 March 2017). Courtesy Ocula. Photo: Charles Roussel.



Basel's American event takes place in the Miami Beach Convention Center. Each year, it welcomes 70,000 visitors and displays work from over 250 galleries across the globe. These exhibiters showcase “significant work from the masters of modern and contemporary art, as well as the new generation of emerging stars.”

What is Art Basel Guide Biggest Art Fair

Ugo Rondinone, “Miami Mountain” (Photo: Michael Gordon via Shutterstock)

Partner Cities

On top of these host locations, Art Basel also has partnerships with cities around the world. Launched in 2016, the Art Basel Cities program “engages Art Basel's expertise, broad network of collectors, art world leaders and influencers, as well as its global communication channels to support cities in developing and celebrating their unique cultural landscape.”

Its first—and, so far, only—partner is Buenos Aires, which has hosted Art Basel Cities Week from September 6-12, 2018.


Attending Art Basel

If you're interested in attending Art Basel, it's important to know the fine print before you reserve your tickets and book your flights.

Future Fairs:

  • Art Basel in America at Miami Beach will run from December 6-9, 2018. Tickets can be purchased on the Art Basel Miami Beach website.
  • Art Basel in Hong Kong will host the fair from March 29-31, 2019. Tickets can be purchased in January 2019.
  • Art Basel in Basel will take place from June 13-16. Tickets can be purchased through the MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) website.

In addition to Art Basel, satellite fairs pop up across these host cities during the annual event. Like Art Basel, these smaller fairs offer the chance to see, buy, and sell art—but at a fraction of the price. Acclaimed satellite fairs include Design MiamiArt Central Hong Kong, and Scope Basel.

What is Art Basel Guide Biggest Art Fair

Art Basel satellite (Photo: Mia2you via Shutterstock)


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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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