As Art Basel Miami preps to kick off this week, there are some grim realities unfolding behind the glamour.
There’s buzz in the art world that the high-flying fair could be for sale — though reps for Art Basel Miami’s parent company, MCH Group, adamantly denied it. MCH has reportedly been weathering tough financial times — possibly due to a decline in its Baselworld Watch and Luxury Fair business, which has lost exhibitors as well as Swatch as a major sponsor after a decade.
MCH has been selling shares in regional art fairs such as the India Art Fair and Art Düsseldorf. It canceled a three-day Abu Dhabi summit, called Art Basel Inside, but said pulling the plug was due to launching an “ambitious project on quite a short timeline.”
Meanwhile, its Art Basel Hong Kong fair in March is still on, despite the tense political unrest there. Reports said some galleries were weighing whether to attend — and that two galleries dropped out — though in October a list of exhibitors totaled 242 and the fair was offering exhibitors incentives.
Adding to the headaches, investor Erhard Lee, whose firm reportedly owns a 10 percent stake in MCH, has been advocating in the Swiss press for a full or partial sale of Art Basel, according to Artnet.
But when Page Six reached out for comment on any sale, an MCH rep told us in an e-mail: “No, there are no plans to sale [sic] Art Basel — not at all.” The company has said its business plan is to focus on its own fairs, like Art Basel Miami, while backing away from a Live Marketing Solutions arm that consults on events. As a vote of confidence, just last week MCH appointed Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel, to its executive board.
Either way, celebs expected to host parties at this year’s event are Lenny Kravitz, Serena Williams and Swizz Beatz, while Billy Joel, DJ Khaled and 2 Chainz are reportedly performing at various spots.
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