Basel art fairs brought out more than 1.2 million guests this year

The art fairs of Basel, Switzerland, brought out hundreds of the world’s top artists in less than three weeks of town this year. They brought a buzz. But visitors, and not just artists, who wandered the spacious floor plans of the fairs, were almost enamored. Their small talk was mostly about the brushstrokes of their designs.

Fair as circus, the culture, and the world they depicted attracted more guests than ever. This year there were more than 1.2 million attendees — an increase of 12 percent over 2017, according to the fairs.

“We are completely blown away by the numbers,” said Philippe Fleury, president of the Midy-Bureau, organizers of the popular fair. There were more than 30,000 stays — an increase of 13 percent — for artists.

It may not have been the Rocky Mountains, but Basel certainly didn’t disappoint. Swiss meat-pie lovers sliced up the critters as well as any in the country, and a new information booth provided information and recipes for the tasty concoctions.

More than a million people came to Basel, Switzerland, for its annual art fair, a weeklong festival drawing visitors from around the world.

The Basel art community, as heartily celebrated in Basel itself, is a group of mostly young artists from a variety of disciplines who both visit and work in the city. Basel, with its excellent museums and art spaces, is a sort of Swiss Cleveland and much sought after by visitors.

It is a small city, and it has something to say to many world travelers. It is a little bygone, not at all like its later-industrialized neighbors. Most feel less of a hassle here than in New York or D.C. They often feel more at home, and often feel more at home sharing with other world travelers.

Bern, the center of Swiss banking and at least as rich in symbolism as Basel, is another capital city but an even more eclectic one. Here, visitors are drawn to baroque art, the art of alchemy, the architecture of renaissance Europe and the city’s gambling-themed museums.

Bern is big on the art fairs. The Contemporary Art Museum fills the dome of a building designed by Cézanne, the second largest in the world. It was developed by the Swiss foundation, the Simon Kupfer Foundation.

The fairs are open from the end of August to the week after Labor Day, the heart of Art Basel Week. The first Basel International Trade Fair of the art world, which started in 1970, attracts about 125,000 guests.

Basel is also a port city. And there is no shortage of notable boats in the harbor. Here the term is more apt, though the tall ships on the water seem to belong in Venice and not far away.

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