Sales Roll In on Art Basel's First Preview Day

Caixa de entrada

ARTnews On Balance 
Anular subscrição

14:03 (há 30 minutos)
para mim

View on web

New reader? Subscribe

June 12, 2024
On Art Basel's First Day, Sales Roll In and Dealers Breathe A Sigh of Relief
Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers, 1990-1991. Courtesy of David Zwirner
On Tuesday, the first day of VIP previews for the bellwether Art Basel fair in Switzerland, several dealers admitted they had waited with bated breath for how the day would turn out amid the apparent market slowdown—or “correction,” as it has often been called.

“We were all waiting. We were watching the auctions very intently, and they did well. We didn’t know how this was going to go,” Samanthe Rubell, the president of Pace, told ARTnews.

Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz similarly noted the art market’s “period of recalibration” and the atmosphere of caution these days. However, he told ARTnews that the energy of the crowd on Art Basel’s first day was evidence that “the market is very much still here, and very strong.”

Horowitz may not be far off. By the end of Tuesday, it was apparent that not only had the worst been averted, but there was enough sales activity to consider the day successful. Dealers told ARTnews with some surprise that, unlike previous years, more purchases were made in-person, rather than via presale PDFs, suggesting a real desire to experience artworks in person and all that the fair and its surroundings have to offer.

Perhaps the most direct, and colorful, message about the market’s resilience was sent to press by Hauser & Wirth cofounder Iwan Wirth. “In spite of the ‘doom porn’ currently circulating in the art press and along gossip grapevines, we are very confident in the art market’s resilience and the first day of Art Basel has confirmed our perspective,” Wirth said in a statement.

“The advantage of the market returning to a more humane pace is that the most discerning international collectors are committing here and now to the very best of the best,” he continued.

There were certainly collectors galore taking advantage of that “more humane pace”—in other words, a time for good deals—including mega-collector Steve Cohen, who made the rounds with a colleague dressed in paraphernalia from the New York Mets, the baseball team Cohen bought in 2020. Despite Cohen’s prodigious art collection, he is not a usual sight at the fair.

Other dealers, too, were seeing some excitement in the air. By afternoon, news spread through the crowded halls that David Zwirner gallery had sold a Joan Mitchell diptych titled Sunflowers (1990–91), for $20 million. (ARTnews has heard disputing reports from well-placed sources that the actual selling price was closer to $18 million.)

“I would call that a very strong fair,” Zwirner told ARTnews, before pointing to works throughout the booth repeatedly saying "sold." 

He continued, “And it really happened today. People want to see [the works], experience, talk about them. So, it’s happening here, much more this year than last year.”

Zwirner noted that, in some cases, advisers came on behalf of collectors from all over the world and used FaceTime or messaging to close deals.

“There’s been a narrative out there that the art market is weak and I feel like, when we do well, other galleries do well,” he said. “I assume this will be a very successful fair for the galleries. If the art market is not performing well in the auction environment, that’s one problem, but it’s certainly performing well right here.”

Zwirner also sold Gerhard Richter’s 2016 Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Painting) for $6 million, and Yayoi Kusama’s giant Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023) for $5 million in the fair's Unlimited section.

For what it’s worth, secondary market markups seemed more reasonable than usual. At Gagosian’s booth, an Ed Ruscha painting, Radio 1, which last sold at Sotheby’s in May of last year for $2.1 million, was on offer for $2.8 million. Also at Gagosian, Andy Warhol’s Hammer & Sickle (1976), which last sold at Sotheby’s in 2017 for $5.5 million, was on offer for $8.5 million.

“Overall, most galleries are better off today than they were in 2019,” Alex Forbes, the vice-president of galleries and fairs at Artsy, told ARTnews, referring to the last pre-pandemic fair. “It’s always important for folks to zoom out and take in the longer trend, rather than just focusing on year to year. In my view the art market in particular tends to respond to uncertainty more so than, necessarily, the ups and downs of the S&P 500.”

The European Central Bank’s decision to cut interest rates last week, offers some of that needed sense of stability, according to Forbes. ”I’m optimistic in the long run, particularly as we’re coming out of maybe the period of peak anxiety around possible runaway inflation,” he said.

Despite the top line successes, many dealers told ARTnews of a “slow down” in sales at the fair, with dealers taking longer to close sales and having to “work harder” with their clients to get pieces sold.

A New York–based art adviser who wished to remain anonymous, told ARTnews that a market slump, and what she called “disastrous” auction sales, have given her access to excellent artworks that were out of reach a few years ago.

“They will call you up, and before they didn’t have the time, because they had like 50 people calling them,” she said. “They are doing a really good job. They are the only people in the art world who put their money where their mouth is, [and] they are working harder.” When asked, the adviser echoed others who said primary prices have not changed, or gone down, despite concerns they have gotten too high.

“We do the very best we can, and when things do get quieter, it’s always also a moment of opportunity of getting even closer to the relationships you have, and build more there,” Marc Payot, president and partner of Hauser & Wirth, told ARTnews, while nevertheless noting sales are taking more time at the fair. 

Basel is the mega-gallery’s home turf, and it had one of the fair’s stronger presentations, including mostly works by women and two artists of color.

“We have always done well when the market was not as hot,” Payot said, because the slower pace allowed them to spend more time “building relationships” with clients and artists. Despite any market cooling, by day’s end, the gallery said it sold more works Tuesday than on the first day of the 2023 fair.

In terms of sales, Hauser & Wirth placed its most expensive work brought to the fair, Arshile Gorky’s rare 1946–47 large work on paper, Untitled (Gray Drawing (Pastoral)), for $16 million. The gallery also sold Jenny Holzer’s red granite benches to an Asian museum for an undisclosed sum, Blinky Palermo’s Ohne Titel (Untitled), from 1975, for $4 million, and Louise Bourgeois’s Woman with Packages (1987–93) marble sculpture for $3.5 million. Coinciding with their museum-caliber Vilhelm Hammershøi show in their new gallery space in Basel, a 1906 painting by the Danish painter, depicting a woman pinning up her loose hair, was sold for an undisclosed amount.

At the time of writing, a large Philip Guston painting, and a serene, white moonscape by Georgia O’Keeffe (both priced at undisclosed sums) had not sold.

“Almost everything was sold in-person today,” said Pace’s Rubell, calling the gallery’s first day at Basel “fantastic.”

She continued, “In years prior, there have been a good amount of pre-sales from previews, but this time we’re really trying to capture new interest, and this moment of suddenly engaging, and having that feedback and response—it’s really worked. The energy is very good.”

A sprawling Jean Dubuffet bench sculpture titled Banc-Salon, overhung with suspended kites above, was a welcoming attraction for visitors who stopped at Pace's booth. By early afternoon, the gallery had sold three editions of a total of six, priced at €800,000 ($860,000) each, in collaboration with Galerie Lelong & Co. 

Pace also sold its star Agnes Martin painting, Untitled #20 (1974), which last sold at auction in 2012 for $2.43 million. Though they would not share the price, a source told ARTnews that the price was $14 million. In 2021, a similar work sold for $17 million at auction. 

To find out what else sold at Art Basel so far, follow the link for our full sales report.
The Big Number
$20 M.
That’s the reported sale price for Joan Mitchell’s diptych Sunflowers (1990-91), which David Zwirner sold at Art Basel on Tuesday. A similar "Sunflowers" diptych from the same year sold for 27.9 million at Sotheby’s last November from the collection of gallerist John Cheim.
Industry Moves
  • Mennour to Exclusively Represent Sidival Fila: The Rome-based Brazilian artist works primarily with disused materials, like silk or hemp, to “free the object from its ‘material’ condition.” The gallery will hold its first solo exhibition for the artist in the fall. The gallery also announced it would take on the estate of Huguette Caland.
  • James Cohan to Represent Kennedy Yanko in Collaboration with Salon 94: A sculptor and installation artist, Yanko is known primarily for her work with “paint skins,” a material she creates by pouring gallons of paint onto a flat surface. Her work is currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum and the Albertina Modern in Vienna.
  • Lisson Gallery Take On Ding Yi: The Chinese artist, who lives and works in Shanghai, will have a solo exhibition in July at ARTnews Top 200 Collector Paddy McKillen’s Château La Coste in Provence. Lisson is presenting Ding’s work at Art Basel this week. The artist will continue to be represented by ShanghART and Timothy Taylor, among others.
  • David Kordansky Gallery Adds Chico da Silva to Roster: The Brazilian artist initially gained recognition for charcoal murals, before expanding to paintings and works on paper. Da Silva’s work is featured in the gallery’s Art Basel presentation this week. Galatea will continue to represent the artist in Brazil.
  • Yossi Milo Will Represent Samuel Fosso: The Cameroonian-Nigerian photographer is known for self-portraits in which he inhabits numerous personas, examining African identity through costume and impersonation. The gallery will hold a solo exhibition of his work in 2025, and will exhibit works by him at the Armory Show in September.
Read This.
Summer is a time for the Great America Pastime. That is, unless you're a New York Mets fan this season (Note: speaking from experience). But, hey, at least the team’s owner, Steve Cohen, is having fun figuring out how to marry his new expensive obsession with his old one: art. This year, Cohen and the Mets are rolling out collaborations with artists Rashid Johnson and Joel Mesler, the latter of which threw out the ceremonial first pitch on May 25. (Cohen is reputed to have an art collection valued at over $1 billion that, of course, includes works by Johnson and Mesler.) Vanity Fair’s Nate Freeman has the inside story on how the collaboration came together, with a rather extensive interview with Cohen on the intricacies of mixing art and baseball. “We’re trying to make, any way we can, a day at the ballpark fun, and this is an example of that,” Cohen said of the artist giveaways. “I’d like to get on a winning streak—that’d be fun.” Yeah, me too. —Harrison Jacobs, Executive Editor, Digital

This email was sent to by Art Media. Please add to your address book to ensure delivery to your inbox.

Visit the Preferences Center to update your profile and customize what email alerts and newsletters you receive.

Art News Media is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2024 Art News Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

475 5th Ave New York, New York, 10017


View in Browser | Privacy Policy | Your California Privacy Rights | Ad Choices | Terms of Use | Unsubscribe