For her Art Basel itinerary, Mari-Claudia Jiménez, president of Sotheby’s and head of global business development, favors the classics: raclette, aperitifs at the Trois Rois and a visit to her favorite Holbeins at the Fondation Beyeler. Plus, a suitcase full of the finest Swiss chocolates for the trip back to New York.
On the opening day of Art Basel, however, Jiménez digs into the news, from researching presentations from the hottest Latin American galleries to spotting the latest trends in reappraising history. art. A former lawyer turned auction guru, Jiménez has fond memories of Art Basel for decades: she first visited the fair in the 1980s as a child with her creative mother and father (her mother is a writer and her father, a filmmaker). The fair is, in Jiménez’s esteem, still the grande dame of the art world.
“Art Basel in Basel is the mother of all art fairs. It was the fair that started it all, and it remains very relevant, even though it has been around since the 1970s,” said Jimenez. A trip to Basel, she added, “is the perfect way to start the summer as it sets the tone for the year ahead.”
We caught up with this fair veteran for her insider tips on getting the most out of her trip. Jimenez shared everything from where she starts her day with a classic Swiss pastry to her must-haves at the fair and beyond.
On what she expects this year:
Surrealist women are having a real time, and now that the ‘Surrealism Beyond Borders’ exhibition is at the Tate, I’m curious to see if the fair will have works by Remedios Varo or Leonora Carrington.
I’m also excited to learn about some of the new Latin American galleries that will be exhibiting this year. For example, Casas Riegner is a Bogota-based gallery that has exhibited in both Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach, and I love their juxtaposition of established Colombian artists like Beatriz González with newer artists like Leyla Cárdenas, who both explore questions of history. , memory, identity and social justice. Lately, I also look forward to Lawrence Weiner’s installation on Messeplatz!
On Art Basel’s special place in his heart:
Basel was the first art fair I attended! I went there in the early 1980s with my parents, so it still brings up a lot of nostalgia and good childhood memories of cheese and chocolate.
The day of its opening, strategies to see and be seen:
The first day of the fair is all about socializing and connecting with clients and colleagues in the art world, which takes up most of the opening afternoon – although I make sure always to visit the top notch galleries that day first – Gagosian, Pace, David Zwirner. Then I head to the balcony of the Three Kings (with pretty much everyone in art) to have an aperitif with friends and continue to see and be seen!
Using the second day as a deep dive:
I make sure to come back on the second day and visit the smaller galleries, some of the galleries that I may not know as well, so I can see what they’ve chosen to bring and who they’re highlighting as new artists.
On his packing list:
Without a doubt, my favorite pair of Chanel ballet flats. I walk an average of 15,000 steps or more everywhere in Basel! And I will definitely bring a pashmina or a light shawl. Even though it is summer, nights can be chilly along the Rhine.
On the art she plans to see beyond the fair:
I can’t go to Basel without taking a short trip to the Fondation Beyeler. I can’t wait to see their show “Mondrian Evolution” [until October 9, 2022]. And, as one of the areas of Sotheby’s that I oversee is Old Master paintings, I always make a pilgrimage to the Kunstmuseum Basel to see the Hans Holbeins. It has the largest collection of works by Holbein of any institution in the world. There is a Picasso-El Greco show [until September 25, 2022] I want to see there too.
Starting your day in Switzerland:
The perfect day in Basel embraces all things Swiss! I usually start my day with tea – or maybe hot chocolate – and a pastry at Beschle. They make the most amazing breads and pastries for breakfast and have a few that are quintessentially Swiss, like the Basler Läckerli, which is a kind of spicy gingerbread.
On his passion for raclette:
After the fair, the perfect way to end the day is with a traditional Swiss meal of raclette and rösti. I have a little problem with raclette – it’s practically impossible to find in New York, so I bought a raclette machine so I could recreate my Basel experience in my New York apartment. Needless to say, it’s not quite the same! My favorite is at Walliser Kanne in the old town, because it’s super traditional. But if I want more refined Swiss cuisine, I’ll go to Volkshaus or Cheval Blanc at Trois Rois.
On his collection philosophy:
Art is a passion purchase. Future value is secondary, so buy what you like, try to avoid hyper-trendy things, and if you can, don’t buy anything until you’ve been through the fair at least once. And once you’ve decided on something, sleep on it.
Where to buy Swiss chocolates for a sweet souvenir:
I love walking along the Rhine and around the old town and stopping at Confiserie Schiesser, one of the oldest chocolatiers in town, to buy truffles and chocolate bark for my husband and daughter At New York. I usually fill my suitcases with Swiss chocolate!
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