VOLTA Basel

First launched in 2005, VOLTA Basel is the mother edition of the two VOLTA fairs. This popular art fair began simply as a meeting of dealers and friends and has established itself as a bridge between the unmissible blue fair Art Basel and the cutting-edge Liste. It showcases an eclectic mix of art works including paintings, sculpture and textile art. The show now offers a space for new international galleries, and galleries that prefer to present solo artists. VOLTA Basel has grown over the years and there are now over 45 galleries that contribute from at least 24 countries. Taking place in June, during Art Basel Week, the fair moved in 2023 to a new boutique venue Klybeck 610. Since 2008, VOLTA runs an additionnal edition in the US, VOLTA New York.

Lee Cavaliere

Lee Cavaliere shares his views!

Artistic director

VOLTA Basel: June 10-16, 2024

Location

Klybeck 610
Klybeckplatz
Gartenstrasse 2
4057 Basel
Switzerland

Art Periods

Contemporary

Contact

info@voltashow.com
Website

Ceramic Brussels

Insights VOLTA Basel

Lee Cavaliere

Lee Cavaliere

Artistic director

What would you say is the DNA of VOLTA Basel?

VOLTA has a long history of supporting younger, more emerging galleries and platforming unseen artists. A focus for me personally is to locate stories and narratives that divert from the usual art-world staples. The art world can at times present a stagnant and repetitive experience, where you see the same things year on year. Geographically and culturally too, there is a whole world out there beyond the standard art world capitals, and VOLTA is a powerful platform for discovery. We’re all products of our background and discovery means moving out of your space and at times, your comfort zone. I’m from a specific education and background, being a slightly posh white Englishman. Though I’ve had an international life and career, I’m always looking to learn and see the world from new perspectives. Basel 2024 is our most diverse fair to date, representing galleries from 27 countries including Lebanon, Nigeria, Japan and Hong Kong.

What type of galleries are chosen to exhibit, and why?

I’m interested in hungry, slightly dangerous galleries whose artists have a story to tell and the passion and guts to tell it. We like galleries who invest in their artists and take risks on their behalf. There’s a patronage angle to both galleries and to collecting, and that’s important here. At Basel this year, we have several galleries taking the novel approach of presenting older contemporary masters in a conversation with emerging voices. It’s hugely daring and very effective; it creates a space for our visitors to engage with the flow and continuum of art and culture.

We’re now entering our 19th year and, due to VOLTAs legacy in the emerging and middle market space, there is a generational aspect creeping in. Our long-standing galleries are now more established, and lending support to the younger ones! It’s an incredibly generous international community that we are really excited to grow.

What is the price range of pieces? Who is the average buyer?

I always tell galleries that the ‘sweet spot’ is between $5,000 and $35,000. This is the space in which a newly discovered gem can be acquired by a curious collector. We do have works at much higher levels and sell into the high six-figure sums, but those sales are more rare.

“Our long-standing galleries are now more established, and lending support to the younger ones! It’s an incredibly generous international community that we are really excited to grow.”

VOLTA Basel

VOLTA Basel © VOLTA

Who is the typical attendee of VOLTA Basel?

VOLTA has a strong core of dedicated fans, who visit every year and are keen to buy and discover new things. They’re educated, serious collectors from across Europe and those with the aspiration to step into that too. We have a strong local contingent of buyers who know that VOLTA is where they will find something new, and where they can get behind artists early in their careers. We have visitors from all over the world including huge institutional collectors and, a good friend of mine, an architect from Geneva who came especially to find something new. This breadth will only increase thanks to our global network and our Advisory Board’s influence.

With this global expansion in mind, VOLTA is aiming to expand our physical fairs with potential locations including Paris and Hong Kong. VOLTA has teams in cities around the world so we can lean on them to help develop a local story and connect us with local galleries.

What makes VOLTA Basel so special?

I love that Covid finally shoved the art world into the modern age. It had often eschewed the egalitarian, open-ended nature of internet engagement, in favour of a very crotchety insistence on private conversations behind closed doors. This led to stagnation, elitism, and an inevitable slide towards homogeneity.

In 2020 we had no choice but to embrace the digital, and it led to mass adoption of virtual platforms and online sales. We realised, as we were all trapped in our homes, that we can’t always go to every fair, gallery, or museum – there should be quality opportunities to engage with art online. It opened up the world and I’m a huge advocate of this change. However, the pendulum continues to swing between in real life experiences and digital.

We will have a virtual element to VOLTA, where galleries can choose to highlight work from the physical fair, or present other pieces that they are not bringing. It’s my ultimate ambition to have a completely virtual fair, with its own programming, that runs independently of the physical fairs. People can then browse at their leisure, and purchase works directly from galleries.

Nothing beats seeing something in person of course, and online will always be a supplement to real world experience. But if it gives marginalised communities access to the market, while saving billions of tons in carbon due to excess travel, I’m all for it. We remain a vital, agile fair with an incredible network globally. We’re always on the lookout for new ideas – that’s very VOLTA.

What are two other art fairs you would suggest?

Currently I’m deeply in love with Untitled Miami. It’s cleanly organised, brilliantly diverse and loaded with amazing galleries. The location on Miami Beach also doesn’t hurt. Miami is full of fairs at the moment, and this is my firm favourite.

1:54 London continues to strive for variety and excitement and presents a stark contrast to Frieze, which runs at the same time. Again, the location is interesting: African galleries in a sprawling 250-year-old colonial-era Neoclassical edifice, formerly owned by the Crown.

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