We’re getting mixed messages out of Art Basel in the press, which may be more of a commentary on the press than what’s going on at Art Basel. On the one hand, there are reports from dealers like Iwan Wirth that this Art Basel is the best sales event they’ve ever had.

On the other hand, we get Lisa Schiff declaring to Reuters that “the habit of the last 15 years of buying voraciously is finito.”

Josh Baer sheds some light on the disparity by pointing out that Art Basel has become multiple fairs in one with the secondary market buyers behaving in different ways from the primary market buyers or, even, those who acquire monumental sculptures.

Here’s the way one dealer explains the conundrum:

Speculation had transformed the industry from one driven by art to one fueled by finance, Galerie Gmurzynska’s Mathias Rastorfer said.

“If you’re selling for a lot of money, without critical acclaim, without peer recognition and without curatorial accompaniment, you’re still successful because you’re selling well,” Rastorfer said, adding that the phenomenon was slowly beginning to correct.

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