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(l-r) Farhad Moshiri's "Woman touching her lips," 2013 at Galerie Perrotin, Katsura Funakoshi's "You and Your Quavery Lips," 200 from Galeri

In the Know: Insiders Talk Art Basel (By Art+Auction)

"You can't go to Basel and not buy something," said Larry Fields in these pages nearly a year ago. The Chicago collector's matter-of- fact tone expressed the sense, common among initiates, that the granddaddy of all fairs, Art Basel, is the art-world calendar's premier event. Much has changed in the fair landscape since its founding 44 years ago, but despite the increased competition-even from its own franchises in Miami Beach and Hong Kong-the original retains an almost magical pull on serious collectors and some 300 leading dealers, who reserve their best and brightest for unveiling in the halls of the Messe each June.

"It's impossible to overstate the city itself, its collectors and museums, as one of the core elements for the fair's appeal," says director Marc Spiegler. "But reaching out to other cities has created a transcontinental effect-collectors developed in Miami and Hong Kong are now coming to Basel." He tries not to let the fair's success go to his head, though. "We're very Swiss," says the American-born director, who makes his home with his family in Zurich. "We do a lot of self criticism, and ask a lot of questions of the dealers, the collectors. You want to be confident about what you've done, but you want to run a little scared. We try to embrace what is most interesting in the exhibitive moment." Those innovations include Unlimited, the fair's program for large-scale work-which Spiegler says has "made collectors think about such work at home as well as in museums"-and this year's 14 Rooms, a showcase for performance curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Not that he has a choice: "If you stand still, you fall behind," Spiegler says. "The art world is just moving too fast." The challenge, then, is to remain consistently better than the rest. As dealer Robert Mnuchin puts it, "The Art Basel fair is like flying first class." Below, his colleagues offer their own inside impressions.

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