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Hollywood and oligarchs descend on Art Basel

14 June 2013

10:30 AM

14 June 2013

10:30 AM

The art world has descended on the almost attractive city of Basel in Switzerland this week, for the annual art fair. And where the art world goes, glamorous collectors follow. Leonardo di Caprio appeared to be in the mood for some serious shopping when I glimpsed him, casting his eye over a Warhol or two. He may have looked at the Alexander Calder, or perhaps he saw the Edmund de Waal or the exquisite pair of Peter Doig etchings. And there’s this chap called Picasso; mark my words, dear readers, he’s going to be big.

Di Caprio had competition from one Roman Abramovitch, who sloped by a few Edvard Munchs, as one does. Cate Blanchett was a radiant study in concentration as she perused the stalls of the finest galleries in the world. And there were unconfirmed rumours that rapper Kanye West was in the house.

These luminaries were outnumbered by the battalions of suited and booted buyers for corporations that invest in important works of art. There is an estimated $2 billion worth of merchandise on show at Basel this week. Business was brisk; all carried out under the discreet eye of Swiss security, oddly reassuring beneath their Frank Spencer berets.

I put away my cheque book and found solace in the company of the vintners and jewellers who were exhibiting their iconic wares in the VIP area. Art Basel is a good gig for them. As one man, closely involved with the delegation from watchmaker Audemars Piguet (Arnie’s watchmaker), put it to me, ‘If you’ve just looked at a $5 million Matisse, $50,000 for a handmade watch is a bargain.’

Mr Steerpike sympathises; but, alas, Swatch is necessarily my territory.

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