A Shadow Market at Art Basel

BASEL, Switzerland — Art Basel, the world’s pre-eminent fair devoted to modern and contemporary works, opened its doors to V.I.P.s on Tuesday. But by then plenty of business had already been done by many of the 285 exhibiting dealers. Hundreds of thousands of digital images had been emailed to collectors, advisers and curators, giving them the opportunity to reserve or even buy works before the official opening of the event in Switzerland.

“Jpeg bombing,” as we might call it, has subtly changed the dynamic of Art Basel and other contemporary fairs. Back in the mid-2000s, during the last contemporary art boom, Armani-clad collectors would actually run into V.I.P. openings, desperate to have first dibs on the latest available works from the studios of Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and other fashionable artists.



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