What Grand Basel definitely is not is a show for OEM car makers with huge sales stands covered in branding and trying to push the metal. That’s a different type of car show altogether.
The opening event has three floors housing around 100 cars, each one presented in a ‘frame’ – a well-lit cube with a clean and simple floor and defined by four uprights – giving the flavour of a giant toy car box. The organisers wanted a simple picture frame, of the sort that doesn’t detract from the artwork contained within. They succeeded.
About half the 100 exhibits were “invitation only”, said Professor Paolo Tumminelli. An Italian design expert, Tumminelli also chaired the board of six curators, aesthetes, artists and designers who gave the show its creative spirit.
They included Giorgetto Giugiaro and Stephen Bayley, and all six chose a car each as the heart of the Grand Basel’s offering.
As if to reinforce Grand Basel as not-another-car-show, Tumminelli and German design professor Michael Erlhoff took a whimsical approach – choosing a rusty Fiat Panda and 1:87 scale model cars to grace their frames.
The other half of the cars on display were entered by their owners. They still have to comply with the values of the show, but the owners will pay a charge for exhibiting. Autocar understands that’s going to be “well under four figures” and the parallel is the consignment fee now charged by auction houses to sellers, now typically £1500.
But long term, the financial future of Grand Basel will be secured by a main title sponsor, likely to be a big bank or financial institution looking for an event that will get them closer to super-rich clients.
Moving the show around the world will do the same. Grand Basel Miami Beach – mirroring Art Basel Miami Beach – is already in the planning stage for February/March 2019. Expect the cars exhibited to reflect the US location. And Grand Basel Hong Kong is pencilled in for autumn 2019.
But what about the show for car enthusiasts? On the press day, at least, it was quiet with around 200 visitors having plenty of space to peruse the sleek metalwork from every angle and with no hordes to block the view. The show area was compact and the selection of cars was delectable.
One omission was a lack of labelling and explanation. Each car was named, but details of its specific history was not included. Mind you, a beautifully produced catalogue would solve that oversight quite easily.
Some visitors might also feel the lack of razzmatazz made for a rather quiet day out and 45 Swiss francs not well spent. But if the collection of amazing cars can be repeated in forthcoming shows, we’d hope that Grand Basel has a solid and secure future ahead of it.