Scope Attracts Middle-Market Collectors to its Hip New Basel Location

El Anatsui's work at London's October Gallery
(Photo by Alexander Forbes)

BASEL — In its seventh Basel edition, SCOPE challenges the centripetal  force pulling visitors to the Messe. The fair’s 4,000-square-meter tent, which holds 95 galleries, now sits directly across the Rhine from France in a former industrial neighborhood that is considerably farther from Art Basel than SCOPE’s location last year. However, for Daria Brit Greene, vice president of Hubshman Factors, which owns the fair, the new site was an exciting opportunity to pave the next steps of Basel’s cultural future. “It’s in an area that the city is hoping to redevelop into an arts and culture district,” she explains. “They’re building real estate and turning this former industrial stretch into a parkland like New York did with the High Line.”

The physical distance from Art Basel did make for a quiet first couple days. By Wednesday morning, however, the aisles were filling up with visitors, and dealers were feeling relieved. “The mood is much better today — people are interested in the works and are buying,” says Caroline Høyer, who is representing the New York–based “nomadic” project space Magpi Projects, one of 20 participants in the fair’s Breeder Program for young exhibitors. From a solo show of James Edwin Hall’s works, Høyer had just sold two photographs, one for $700 and one for $3,000.


Another Breeder participant, John Ferrère of Paris’s L’Inlassable Galerie, was similarly buoyant. The gallery sold two works on paper by Frederique Loutz for €1,000 each from its seven-artist booth. Though small in size, the booth and especially its pair of map-based works on paper by Caroline Corbasson was a highlight of the fair.

Hans Alf, a Copenhagen-based gallerist, sold three porcelain sculptures by Maria Rubinke to the Swiss Re Collection for €8,000 to €10,000 each. Aureus Contemporary of Basel and Providence, Rhode Island, placed a work by Claire Shegog with a prominent Zurich collection for €10,000. And Standing Pine, a Nagoya-based gallery, sold a Kenji Sugiyama for €15,000 to a Turkish collector.

These relatively low prices illustrate one of SCOPE’s strengths in a marketplace where collectors are largely sticking to the poles of blue chip and ultra-emerging artists. “Based on the last few fairs, I think that our price point is right for the market right now,” says Hubshman Factors’ Greene. “Most of the work here is pretty affordable, so people feel a lot more free to buy.”

However, exceptions to that rule can be seen in the fair’s signature work for Basel, El Anatsui’s “Skylines?”, 2008, at London’s October Gallery (which has sold two works by Romuald Hazoumè) and, at Vienna’s Mario Mauroner, in Bernardi Roig’s “Der Italiener” (“The Cow”), 2011, and two works from 2007 by Portugal’s representative at Venice, Joana Vasconcelos “Desejado” and “Formoso.”

While there were sales in the mid-range — Stanley Casselman’s “IR 24-6” at Vertes Modern for CHF 20,000 to an Italian collector; an Audrey Kawasaki at Thinkspace for €48,000; a Yves Hayat at Mark Hachem for €30,000 — many more top-notch pieces in that price range had received minimal interest at the fair as of Wednesday afternoon. An installation of six Michael Johansson sculptures at Milan’s Massimo Carasi was an eyecatcher but remained unsold at €30,000. Likewise, at Antwerp’s Galerie Van Der Planken “Indeterminate Line,” 1987, a Bernar Venet sculpture, remained available for €54,000, despite the artist’s recent popularity at fairs. 

To see images, click on the slideshow.