The hundreds of gallery owners who apply each year to secure a coveted booth at Art Basel, the Swiss art fair, spend weeks on their admission applications. They describe the evolution of their galleries, track the history of their exhibitions and list the biographies of their artists. Then there is the matter of the “mock booths,” intricate sketches, miniature models, even virtual tours, of their planned exhibition spaces, complete with tiny reproductions of the exact works they hope to exhibit.
All to impress the fair’s selection jury, six fellow dealers who have become among the most powerful gatekeepers — and tastemakers — in the art world.
“It is like the Olympics,” said the New York dealer Fergus McCaffrey, “or the European Champions League, and every good gallery and their artists wants desperately to compete.”
As the art market explodes in value and collecting becomes a global treasure hunt, the importance of showing at art fairs has soared, too. Fairs now account for about 40 percent of gallery sales by value, and as collectors flock to destination bazaars in places like Paris, London, New York, Miami and Maastricht in the Netherlands, dealers, museum curators and art-world groupies follow.
by New York Times June 2015