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This was its fifth staging in its present form, following a brief and occasionally rancorous spell as TEFAF Basel, and although it has made strides towards becoming a broadly-based fair, it is reasonable to assume that if there was no antiquities section there would be no Cultura.

This year, the fair has shrunk from nine to six days and from more than 60 to 55 exhibitors. This was a deliberate move to focus the fair on its strengths and, frankly, to hone down the exhibitor list to a streamlined group of traders eminent in their field.

It was a move which seemed to find favour with the standholders who all felt a shorter fair focused the buyers’ minds, and certainly there was no doubting the calibre of the exhibitors.

“The new shortened time created an animated and lively environment which stimulated business and created sales,” said London dealer in Oriental art Ben Janssens, who is co-chairman of the fair.

As expected, it was the Classical Antiquities and Egyptian Works of Art section which took most sales, and in the first couple of days positively buzzed (although that is not really a word one would use for the ultra-conservative and secretive – bordering on furtive – way the Swiss do their buying).

The Swiss are the main customers but for antiquities there were non-Swiss collectors in attendance.

The museums were there with representatives of the Metropolitan Museum, New York; The Louvre; the Alliard-Pearson Museum, Amsterdam and the National Museum, Budapest among those flying in.

After the opening night party, London antiquities dealer James Ede, who returned to the fair this year, had a major museum reserve one of his best pieces and reported the best few hours business he had ever
experienced at a fair.

By lunchtime on the second day, Mr Ede had sold to a European collector his prize piece, and, in the opinion of many, the finest Egyptian antiquity in the fair, a c.2528-2500 BC portrait bust of the Pharaoh Menkaure. The sum was a very substantial six-figure one in Swiss francs.

Fellow London dealer Rupert Wace sold a second century AD Roman marble head of Alexander the Great and had a good fair, as did Jerome Eisenberg of New York’s Royal-Athena Galleries and Basel specialist Jean-David Cahn.

There is much talk in the London trade about the stringent rules governing the selling of antiquities and it is notable just how well provenanced is the stock of the London dealers, which is always a plus point.

Overall, though, there did not seem the same inhibitions in the Swiss market for antiquities.

This fair is the main forum for ancient antiques, and the Swiss are serious buyers who do not seem to agonise over the international trading of these wares like we do. Which is why it will only get stronger as an antiquities centre.

Second to antiquities must be the Asian art at Basel. Making her debut, Ming furniture specialist Grace Wu Bruce, of Hong Kong and London, sold at least four pieces, greatly helped I should think by the splendid loan exhibition of Ming furniture (which she helped assemble).

Ben Janssens enjoyed some sales and met new clients, and from Holland Vanderven and Vanderven also sold.

The two new exhibitors in tribal art left happy and while the Illuminated Manuscripts and Rare Books attracted attention I do not know if they attracted major sales.

There were some significant sales in the Antiques and Works of Art Section and also in the section for 20/21st Century Art and Design, which is becoming an increasingly important component of this event.

All in all, a pretty successful staging of what will always be a singular, you could say quirky sort of fair. It is not a fair for furniture or Old Masters and there are other areas which will not suit the Swiss, who are the main buyers.

The fair’s financial future has been troubled for a few years now, but Cultura was saved last year by a very generous donation by a prominent Basel citizen, a sum of around £500,000 was whispered. The benefactor wishes to remain anonymous and while sponsorship and anonymity seem an odd combination across the rest of the world this is not so in Switzerland.

There are some corporate sponsors and a Friends of Cultura initiative to stoke up funds.

But whatever the future holds for Cultura, as long as there are more than 20 antiquities dealers present, as there were this year, there will be some sort of Basel fair.