Art Basel’s newest director, Vincenzo De Bellis, is a former museum curator. This might be just what the show needs

MCH Group, the company behind Art Basel, is eager to relaunch its international events – so eager, in fact, that by the end of the year it will have organized no less than four major shows in just seven months.

Already in May, Art Basel hosted its Hong Kong fair, and quickly pivoted to Basel in June. Next comes the Paris exhibition (Paris+ by Art Basel, as it is officially called), which begins its very first exhibition in October under the direction of Clément Delépine. The extravaganza that is Miami Beach will open in early December.

“We entered the pandemic with three fairs in our operations and we came out of the pandemic with four fairs,” Art Basel Global Director Marc Spiegler said in a phone interview with Artnet News, referring to the fair. from Paris.

Add to that the fact that each fair is now a hybrid, and Art Basel also plays a role in Tokyo Art Week and SEA Focus, a showcase of contemporary Southeast Asian art staged in Singapore.

“We believe we can do more and our galleries want to do more,” Spiegler said.

It’s heavy, no matter how you slice it, that’s where the new named Vincenzo de Bellis, who assumes the role of director of fairs and exhibition platforms, will be useful.

De Bellis, who has a somewhat unusual background as a curator and art fair director, oversee the management teams of the four shows, as well as spearheading new events and initiatives. He will report directly to Spiegler.

Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel. Photo courtesy of Art Basel.

De Bellis arrives at work at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he has served as curator and associate director of programs for the past six years. Before that, from 2012 to 2016, he was artistic director of Miart, an international contemporary art fair in Milan.

De Bellis is credited with transforming the fair from a regional showcase with 90 exhibitors to an international event with 180 galleries, as well as making it the anchor of Milan Art Week.

“I had to work a lot with the city to make sure everyone would come together to make this week an experience for everyone who came, not just for the fairs,” De Bellis told Artnet News.

In addition to these positions, de Bellis was also founding director and curator of the Peep-Hole Art Center in Milan and he was curator of the first two editions of Panorama, the traveling exhibition of Italics, a consortium of over 60 of the best art galleries in Italy. He also co-organized the inaugural edition of Noor Riyadh, an annual festival of public art installations in Riyadh.

“Having Vincent come out of the curatorial field is fantastic because obviously it means he has a real sensitivity to the needs of artists,” Speigler said. “What he did at Miart is one of the best examples I have seen of serious improvement in an art fair in a relatively short period of time. He was a good promoter of the show while innovating in terms of investing in new sectors and collaborating with the city of Milan at large. He knows how to work with galleries to get the best out of them.

For his last act at the Walker before his move to Europe, De Bellis is ending a major retrospective of Jannis Kounellis co-organized with the Museo Jumex which opens in October.

“I learned so much,” he said of his time at the Walker. “It was new to me because I had never been exposed to the American museum world before. It’s a wonderful institution with amazing curators. When I was a student at Bard College, the Walker was one of the best museums in the world I could imagine working in.

Looking back, De Bellis added that the pandemic proved that, even if digital programming is important, “the physical experience cannot be replaced. Visual art is so called for a reason. It must be experienced in person.

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