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The Art Fair Where $20 Million Impulse Buys Are the New Normal

At this year’s Art Basel in Switzerland, prices are aimed squarely at the world’s wealthiest.

Robert Motherwell, Untitled (New England Elegy No.5), 1967.

Courtesy of Bernard Jacobson Gallery

The premise of an art fair is that a collector can walk through its aisles, stumble across an artwork that catches his or her eye, and buy it. As a consequence, prices at most fairs are comparatively low, with work rarely surpassing the $2 million mark. After all, very few people can afford a million-dollar impulse buy.

The exception is at Art Basel in Switzerland (June 14–17), where dealers tend to bring showstopping art at a much higher price point.