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Basel Art Fair Preview: Who will grab the headlines in 2019?

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By Gareth Browne
"Venice in oil", set up by a person purporting to be British artist Banksy,
"Venice in oil", set up by a person purporting to be British artist Banksy,   -   Copyright  Courtesy of Instagram @banksy/Social Media via REUTERS.

Thousands of art dealers are today descending on the Swiss City of Basel for its annual art fair - one of the most important events in the art calendar.

Now in its 50th year, dealers often take advantage of the fair's private viewing rooms to doll out millions of dollars on some of the world's most sought after art.

Though this year’s show will feature displays from more than 4,000 artists – from the United Arab Emirates to New York City, headlines from the fair are often dominated by a single artist or piece of work. In 2018 it was American expressionist painter Joan Mitchell – nine of her paintings sold for a combined total of $70 million (€61.8 million).

Speculation is already mounting as to who will be this year’s star performer. Sweetheart of the fair Gerhard Richter, whose work has previously fetched millions is one of the names being touted.

The fine art market has shown no sign of stuttering despite global instability and financial pressure increasing on some of its most important markets.

A report produced by Art Basel in conjunction with UBS released on the eve of the fair notes that “Sales in the global art market in 2018 reached $67.4 billion, up 6% year-on-year”.

In the UK, despite Brexit worries, sales rose 8% in 2018 to almost $14 billion (€12.3 billion).

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