When thousands of wealthy collectors descend on Switzerland for Art Basel this week, works by some of the most coveted artists won't be on public display. Instead, they'll be offered to select clients, one by one, in private viewing rooms.

Some rooms are tucked away above the aisles of the convention centre, where 290 galleries from 34 countries will set up booths at the world's biggest modern and contemporary art fair. Others are sequestered at high-security warehouses in an industrial area 15 minutes away by car...

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