UBS Europe boss hands out orders at Art Basel

Head of UBS Europe Christine Novakovic at Art Basel 2024
Head of UBS Europe Christine Novakovic at Art Basel 2024 (Image:

Art Basel has been cooperating with the major bank UBS for 30 years. Despite the mutual benefits, the art fair must fear for its life.

Art and journalism are two very different worlds.

But when you combine the two, the result is usually bizarre.

Not much but said twice

This was impressively demonstrated this week at the Art Basel art fair, when hundreds of ‘journalists’ were invited to the media conference in Basel.

Art Basel Basel, as the art fair is officially called with Basel twice in its name, was opened by fair director Noah Horowitz, who listed many highlights to applause.

He, who is also responsible for the sister fairs Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Basel Miami and Art Basel Paris, said practically everything that there was to say.

But then the CEO of Art Basel Basel, Maike Cruse, also had her say and said practically the same thing over again.

The audience clapped, anyway, even though a lot of it was superfluous.

Market of 65 billion

The appearance of the director of the Swiss Institute in New York, Stefanie Hessler, was also strange because it made no sense at all for a Swiss institution in the USA to curate an installation in Basel.

Nevertheless, there was much applause.

Notes on the Art Basel media conference
Notes on the Art Basel media conference (Image:
Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz at the media conference
Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz at the media conference (Image:

Only Christine Novakovic, Head of UBS Europe and Head of the UBS Art Board, hit the nail on the head.

She deliberately called the collaboration between the major bank and Art Basel a partnership rather than a sponsorship, because both sides benefit from the cooperation in a market worth over 65 billion dollars.

Interplay between generations

The bank could also learn a lot about the art market and its clientele through this partnership, as UBS clients are often also art collectors, explained the bank manager.

In addition, Art Basel brings people together in one place, which is reason enough for the bank to support this, she added.

Moreover, she drew parallels between art and asset management at a bank.

From UBS lounge to Claraplatz

Somewhat unusually for a media conference, however, the UBS pot-woman then even issued the attendees orders.

She explained that they absolutely had to inspect the textile works on display in the UBS Lounge.

However, those media representatives who took up Christine’s invitation were not allowed into that space by UBS security.

An art object by Yayoi Kusama at Art Basel Unlimited
An art object by Yayoi Kusama at Art Basel Unlimited (Image:
Extra large objects are shown at Art Basel Unlimited
Large objects are shown at Art Basel Unlimited. (Image:

Novakovic also invited those present to visit the day-and-night event venue in the vacant Hotel Merian in Basel.

Inside, there was African and German curated art to admire and a DJ to listen to.

Last but not least, according to the head of UBS Europe, everyone also had to visit the UBS branch on Claraplatz in Basel and examine the paintings by German artist Edith Deyerling under UV light.

Selfies at the media conference?

There was much applause from the representatives for their tasks.

During a round of questions, one Swiss medium proved particularly embarrassing because it was only presenting its own new product and didn’t really have a question to ask at all, the spook was over. 

Afterwards, the ‘journalists’ ran onto the stage to take selfies with the celebrities.

A media conference could hardly be more bizarre. Was it art?

Neither dilution nor pressure

Art Basel CEO Horowitz was annoyed by the question of whether Art Basel could soon be history after the disappearance of Baselworld and the Geneva Motor Show.

He does not see this happening, he told

The fair is unique, the 285 galleries from 40 countries always present top art, especially in Basel, and with new galleries, Art Basel also appeals to a much younger audience.

Talks at the Media conference of Art Basel 2024 in Basel
Media conference of Art Basel 2024 in Basel (Image:
Art Basel Basel CEO Maike Cruse during an interview
Art Basel Basel CEO Maike Cruse during an interview. (Image:

Nor did he feel any pressure from the actual exhibition management of the MCH Group that Art Basel was under threat.

On the contrary, he said, the event should be made even bigger and include other parts of the city. This would not dilute anything.

Challenging artists

The head of UBS Europe said that the art fair in Basel is so unique because it does not present products, but unique pieces and outstanding individual achievements.

After all, people buy passion and not products, Novakovic emphasized.

The artists even make it possible for people and companies to develop further.

They challenge the status quo of a society, are very vital and sometimes even push everyone to their limits, according to the UBS top manager.

Buttoned-up UBS collector

“Artists see things that others don’t,” Novakovic continued, emphasizing the different way of thinking and seeing the art world. None of this could be found anywhere else, she said.

When asked by whether she collects art herself, she said “Yes, of course.”

However, Novakovic did not want to reveal which genre of art and which artists she owns, even when asked several times.

Declining quality on the Internet

Ultimately, it turns out that the bizarre art world and journalists do work together – just like Art Basel and the big bank UBS.

They help each other out.

Yoyoi Kusama at Art Basel
Many of the objects at Art Basel 2024 were similar (Image:
Yoyoi Kusama at Art Basel
Many of the objects at Art Basel 2024 were similar (Image:

After all, journalists still have to get the news about the uniqueness of the art fair out to the people.

However, anyone who classifies Youtubers, bloggers and wannabe social media stars as journalists is likely to soon feel a drop in quality.

Deterioration for journalists

It was therefore all the more surprising that Messe Basel Group MCH treated real media representatives worse than ever this year.

With just a few stools crowded into one corner, it is no longer possible to talk about a large media center, as once used to be the case.

This year, there were also no longer any admission badges for journalists with extensive privileges, but only normal admission tickets via an app. But nobody knew why.

However, if more trade media do turn their backs on Art Basel, its days may soon be numbered.

Uncertainties from top to bottom

This is exactly what many critical voices said on the fringes of this year’s art fair, which, according to several observers, is said to have had fewer visitors.

Nobody initially believed that the Baselworld luxury watch and jewelry fair would disappear.

The Design Miami.Basel trade fair taking place in Basel at the same time was partly deserted.

The fair needs to work hard on itself. This also includes the administration.

Giacometti sculpture
This Giacometti sculpture was already at Art Basel 2023 (Image:
Campari made wonderful drinks at Art Basel
Campari once again delighted visitors to Art Basel with beautiful drinks. (Image:

Numerous exhibitors shared similar or the same things as last year. Not only were the security staff poorly trained this year, but the roles of Art Basel CEO and Art Basel Basel CEO seemed completely undefined.

When the boss and deputy say the same thing, it is commonly known that one is one too many.

The art fairs organized by Basel do not even overlap worldwide.

More visitors come

This Sunday evening, contrary to the opinion of long-standing visitors and exhibitors, the official figures stated that 91,000 visitors – around 10 percent more people – came to Art Basel 2024 than last year.

It could hardly be more bizarre.

And the throng of bizarre instant journalists may even have been counted as normal visitors via the app.


UBS Europe boss hands out orders at Art Basel

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