Home Arts from a $22.5 million Bourgeois spider to a massive $2.5 million Richter sculpture

from a $22.5 million Bourgeois spider to a massive $2.5 million Richter sculpture

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Art Basel, described by its new chief executive Noah Horowitz as “the most important annual event in the global art market” and the “barometer of the industry”, opened its doors to VIPs yesterday, with many noting that the Fair was the busiest they had seen in years. Security staff at a crowded mega-gallery nervously herded patrons past multimillion-dollar paintings as major collectors and curators including Frank Cohen and Cecilia Alemani were spotted strolling the aisles of the Mass Basle.

And, despite talk in commerce of a “cooler” market, customers were spending. Early seven- and eight-figure sales include Gerhard Richter’s oversized sculpture STRIP-TOWER (2023), presented by David Zwirner to Unlimited, for $2.5 million. The most expensive work reportedly sold at the VIP preview was a 1996 sculpture by Louise Bourgeois at Hauser & Wirth, which fetched $22.5 million from an American collector; the gallery also sold a painting by Philip Guston for $9.5 million. Prime primary market work that sold yesterday included a new painting by Jonas Wood, offered by David Kordansky Gallery for $2.5 million.

The work of Mark Rothko from 1955, Untitled (yellow, orange, yellow, light orange)remains on sale at Acquavella for $60 million David Owens

Presales down?

Nevertheless, as the preview day drew to a close, a number of expensive pieces had not been placed, including the most expensive: a $60 million Rothko painting in sunset colors donated by Acquavella Galleries. . Also without confirmed sales, a Picasso, for $25 million at Landau, and a Joan Mitchell triptych for $14 million at Pace.

“A lot of major works are sold on the second and third day, and that’s usually been the case for the past five years,” says Pace president Samanthe Rubell, noting that the gallery has kept presales to a minimum this year. “We leave room for serendipity, but ensure that the work of our artists enters the most important collections.” Deals at the stand in the early hours of the fair included an Alexander Calder mobile for $2.8 million and two smaller works by the artist, donated by his family, for $775,000 and $675,000.

Sadie Coles, whose London gallery sold “several” new works from a solo stand by Laura Owens, priced between $90,000 and $1.8 million, says she kept things “at old” and did not send a preview list of works to its customers. On the other hand, Gagosian, for example, sent a checklist of more than 100 pages to its customers. Andrew Fabricator, the gallery’s COO, said opening day was “the busiest in years”.

“Many of those who come to Art Basel are less affected by the stock market and interest rates”

David Nolan, Dealer

Talk of pre-sales is particularly relevant after a spring auction season in New York marked by reserved auctions, purchased works and reduced reserves. “Inflation, interest rates, politics and an ongoing war are all affecting consumer confidence, causing the art market to slow,” says art consultant Nilani Trent.

A painting by Philip Guston, at Hauser & Wirth, has been sold to an American collector for 9.5 million dollars David Owens

“My general feeling is that the overall market is fresher,” says dealer David Nolan, who is exhibiting at the fair, continuing that “it’s a necessary correction that is needed from time to time in the market.” Nonetheless, tough times are often prime opportunities to buy art, with galleries more receptive to discounts and collectors looking to free up capital. “There is such diversity in the types of people who come to Basel, many of whom are budgeting specifically to buy at Art Basel, and who are less affected by the stock market and interest rate fluctuations,” adds Nolan.

Horowitz paints a more confident picture. “There has been a lot of discussion about whether there is a correction. Clearly, the results of the auctions are indicative of a real reset. But, also, the demand for art is extremely strong,” he says. Regarding presales, Horowitz believes there are fewer at the fair this year, suggesting collectors are taking longer to engage. He concludes: “You have to work harder to do business, but business is done, and at pretty high prices too.”

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