Swiss Art Basel fair defies economic gloom with skyrocketing sales
Economic commentators predicted a financial recession as the Art Basel fair opened to VIPs, but the stock market sell-off and cryptocurrency crash appeared to have limited impact on the art fair’s buzzing activity and sales. modern and contemporary art. Visitors ranged from Tate manager Maria Balshaw, seen at the David Zwirner stand, to Swiss tennis supremo Roger Federer, spotted at the Gagosian stand.
While there is a valid argument that the art market operates in a bubble, separate from the real world economy and geopolitics, the more likely reality is that the financial losses suffered so far by prestigious clients of the art fair have not yet started last year. earnings. “The people we work with are richer than ever. Maybe some professionals and speculators are affected, but that’s different,” New York gallerist Sean Kelly said on the opening day of the fair.
He and others felt that Russia’s relentless invasion of Ukraine and its potential global impact were more pressing concerns, with some galleries expressing sympathy through their stands. Florence Bonnefous, co-founder of the Air de Paris gallery, brought a large painting by Rob Pruitt – “Sunrise” (2017, $110,000) – because, she says, although it was done before the invasion, its blue to yellow shading echoes the Ukrainian flag.
In general, the sales seemed to be going dense and fast, although many were the result of hard work before the fair – or “PDF hell” as one art consultant put it. Dealers with new artists on board chose to show them at the Swiss fair, with reported success. Alison Jacques brought two 2017 works by Whitney Biennial artist Jane Dickson, one of which sold on the day the fair opened ($95,000). At the Lisson Gallery, “Listen” (2022) by Jack Pierson, made for the fair and probably a pun on the name of his new gallery, sold for $225,000. Pace Gallery has brought the first sculpture from Jeff Koons’ moon-related NFT project, which was yet to sell for $2 million at the time of writing, although ‘Outer Space’ (1964), by Austrian artist Kiki Kogelnik, which the gallery took over that year, sold for $265,000. The gallery’s president, Marc Glimcher, acknowledged the unfavorable macro-economic context, but noted that “the art market is made up of thousands of artists, so there are different so-called markets, which together are much less vulnerable. Art Basel runs until June 19.
A dealer who watched Iwan Wirth, whose gallery celebrated its 30th anniversary – and the 24th Art Basel – with a booth dominated by Louise Bourgeois’ “Spider” (1996), is one of many ups and downs in the market. Valued at $40 million, her sale was by far the highest price reported at that year’s fair and, according to Wirth, “probably the most expensive female artist and sculpture ever sold at Art Basel”.
He says the 2022 art market is “incomparable” to where he opened the gallery in Zurich in 1992. “The market is truly global now and its entry level is so much higher. During my first Art Basel, I sold a [Gerhard] Summary of Richter for $240,000. At that year’s show, Richter’s “IG” (1993) sold for an undisclosed price, put at “above $10 million” by the gallery. Wirth also says the market and fair has become much more diverse over the years – “it used to be such a men’s club,” he says.
Getting works out of China mission impossible for the young Beijing and London gallery Tabula Rasa. Its planned exhibition of eight works by the artist and activist known as aaajiao – Xu Wenkai’s online pseudonym – has apparently been thwarted by Shanghai lockdowns, which have halted shipments. Sammi Liu, co-founder of the gallery, explains that they decided with the artist that rather than canceling their solo presentation for the Basel List fair for emerging art, they would put the outlines of the works on the walls from their booth and provide QR codes. Two works had already been sold at the time of writing (price range €8,000 – €19,000). “Artists often stage interventions in life, but sometimes life intervenes in art…Adaptation and flexibility as resilience strategies are embedded in Chinese thought, as Bruce Lee tells us. learned: be water,” the gallery said in a statement.
Exhibitors were delighted to be back in the war bunker revamped by Herzog & de Meuron, which hosts the alternative June Art Fair in Basel (June 13-19). Last year’s second in-person edition was moved to halls at the city’s main convention center, better suited to Covid-19 restrictions at the time, but this year 19 gallerists and five projects were back in their underground and open format. It was a beautiful fair that, despite its raw surroundings, showcased high-quality works from established galleries, but on the fringes of the mega-leagues. Sales included works by Los Angeles-based Benjamin Echeverria (Galerie Parisa Kind, €10,000-16,000) and paintings by Petra Cortright (Foxy Production, $15,000-32,000). The fair’s co-founders are gallery owners Esperanza Rosales, who runs Gallery VI, VII in Oslo, and Christian Andersen, who owns a gallery in Copenhagen. “We used to be young galleries and a lot of us grew up together. Our show aims to be a bit of a respite from such a busy week,” says Rosales.
Sotheby’s will offer an array of Lucian Freud by his friend and colleague at the time Francis Bacon for £35million on June 29. “Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud” (1964), was painted from a photograph of Freud sitting on a bed and taken by the artists’ mutual friend, John Deakin. Bacon and Freud sat for each other several times, with Freud first sitting for Bacon in 1951, although the pair later fell out. The Sotheby’s work was originally the central panel of a triptych, divided by Bacon into individual works. The left panel is now in a private collection; the one on the right at the Israel Museum. In 2013, Bacon’s triptych “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” (1969) sold to Roman Abramovich for $142 million, the most expensive work ever sold at auction at the time. The latest work carries the highest estimate for Sotheby’s June season in London, the auction house confirms.