Art Basel Arrives in Miami with a New Structure and Hints about Its Future

When Noah Horowitz rejoined Art Basel a little more than a year ago, there were questions about what exactly the fair’s prodigal son had in store for the business. Horowitz’s newly created title, that of CEO, seemed to provide some indication of Art Basel’s growing corporatization. But that corporate structure had already begun under his predecessor, Marc Spiegler, whose role had been global director. nikmatqq

Several months before Horowitz returned, Spiegler named Vincenzo de Bellis, a curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, to the newly created position of director, which gave him oversight of all Art Basel’s fairs and exhibition platforms globally, a role in which he continues today. Then, this year, Horowitz restructured the company further, naming a dedicated director for each fair, all reporting to de Bellis, and a dedicated head of business and management who reports to Andrew Strachan, a 12-year Basel veteran now serving as general manager of fairs and exhibition platforms.

But a more important indicator of the Swiss fair’s future may lie in its announcement in September that it had hired Hayley Romer, former publisher and chief revenue officer of The Atlantic, as chief growth officer, and Craig Hepburn, former head of digital at the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), as chief digital officer. Reading corporate tea leaves can often be a fool’s errand, but those very not–Art World hires would appear to augur a new approach, a point not lost on Horowitz.

“When you’re in a leadership role, that role has to change as the business grows,” Horowitz told ARTnews last week. “Of course, I want to make sure that we are working closely with our gallery clients and collectors, both emerging and established, but the day-to-day maintenance of that has been passed to our team. My job as CEO is to put people like Craig and Hayley in place and to make sure our teams, internally, work well with each other.” nikmatqq

Romer has spent her career courting luxury and high-end corporate clients, at Forbes Media as head of luxury advertising, at media giant Condé Nast as executive director of corporate sales, and at Atlantic Media, where she was initially hired as the head of luxury advertising. Two decades’ experience in those roles builds a deep rolodex, not to mention proficiency in building media brands.

Hepburn, meanwhile, worked at Microsoft, Nokia, and Indian telecom company Tata Communications in various high-up roles manning digital marketing and consumer engagement prior to joining UEFA. But it was at UEFA that Hepburn created a “digital-first mindset,” along with building interactive services, a streaming platform, and the company’s nascent Web3 strategy.

Hepburn described his digital philosophy at a 2019 conference hosted by SportsPro, which covers the business of sports. Hepburn lamented that the proliferation of streaming services had made it difficult for consumers to find the sporting events they wanted, even if they subscribed to the service that streamed them. The future, he went on, was for the sector to consolidate so that streaming could become truly “frictionless” in the way that dominant apps like Uber or Airbnb now are.

“These are problems that, quite frankly, consumers and fans will not put up with,” Hepburn said at the 2019 conference. “We need to figure out a way in the industry to make OTT [over-the-top] frictionless to fans, where it feels really smooth. That will be the biggest challenge.” nikmatqq