Strong Art Fair Sales

The UK Telegraph has an interesting article comparing the auction and gallery/art fair markets. The article looks at the recent strong sales of dealers at Art Basel offering nearly $4 billion in art. The article states by the second day dealers had sold nearly $100 million of works at the popular contemporary art fair. And, the sales were not only at the top end, as reports were showing strong sales in the middle market. The fair expects to draw 92,000 visitor/collectors with 285 dealers.

The Telegraph reports
In May, the New York auctions of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art amassed a record $2.2 billion (£1.3 billion) of sales in two weeks. Last week, 285 dealers offered an estimated $4 billion of works at the Art Basel fair in what was the biggest challenge to the auction houses’ perceived dominance of the art market.

Early signs were that the challenge was real. Before the first day was out, public relations agents had fed journalists a list of sales by 11 galleries worth over $55 million. New York’s Lehmann Maupin gallery made 19 sales for a total of $1.8 million. White Cube sold 10 works totalling more than $15 million, among them Damien Hirst’s Nothing Is a Problem For Me (1992), one of only four large-scale medicine cabinets made by the artist, for $6 million.

Lisson gallery sold $4 million of art in a day including a large driftwood sculpture by land artist Richard Long for about £300,000, far more than his work has ever sold for at auction. New York’s Per Skarstedt sold three works for $38.2 million, which featured the top sale of the fair, a large, pink self-portrait by Andy Warhol wearing his “fright wig” for $32 million, equalling the auction record for a Warhol self-portrait.

With a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art looming, Jeff Koons was in plentiful supply, notably at David Zwirner, where a blue stainless steel dolphin sold for $5 million, and at Almine Rech, recently opened in London, where two sculptures based on figures from antiquity that Picasso once owned, each balancing blue balls on their shoulders, sold for between $1.6 million and $2 million each.

By day two, 20 galleries had reportedly sold more than $100 million of art; but that was still only a fraction of the business being done. Beyond the PR hype, the middle market was doing well. This was the first fair for London’s Mayor gallery since it was unceremoniously ousted by developers from its historic site in Cork Street, so all the more important it did well. And by day two the gallery had sold 19 abstract and kinetic Fifties and Sixties works by European and Latin American artists for between $10,000 and $350,000 each.

Much of this early activity could be attributed to pre-fair marketing by the galleries. At an opening night dinner given by Vienna dealer Ursula Krinzinger, Hamburg collector Harald Falckenberg told me he had bought quite a few things, but two weeks earlier – in other words, he had been sent emailed images by exhibitors and bought the best examples before the fair opened.

Still, there was the usual competitive charge by collectors as the doors opened. Three made a bee-line for a $40,000 sculpture of an outsize Swiss pocket knife by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, at the Luisa Strina gallery from Brazil, and two were left somewhat disgruntled. Andrea Rosen reportedly sold 75 per cent of her stand in two hours. Thomas Dane sold out his stand on day one. One of his exhibits was a drawing made by bouncing a basketball against a sheet of paper by black American artist David Hammons.

It’s hard to acquire this artist’s work because he doesn’t have a gallery, and this was snapped up for $600,000. “There are crises everywhere, but not in luxury,” commented French- Moroccan artist Majida Khattari, who was visiting the fair.

For some, a sense of humour counts for something in this market. An early-19th century portrait of six children with red noses added by 70-year-old German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann, who exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery two years ago, sold for €100,000 (£80,000), far exceeding anything Feldmann has made at auction. A looping sculpture made with cardboard lavatory roll tubes by Austrian artist Heimo Zobernig was snapped up for €60,000, again surpassing his auction record.

On the way out, I stopped off to savour a new performance art feature of the fair. The piece was devised by Tino Sehgal, the front runner for last year’s Turner Prize, and involved two members of his gallery’s staff conversing with the audience as if they were would-be clients. Unrehearsed and speaking each word alternately, the staff resembled clowns. “Do – you – have – any?” they asked, and then danced around the crowd singing, again in alternate but clearly rehearsed words, “This – is – all – soooh – contemporary.” It seemed a suitably irreverent note on which to say farewell to this year’s fair, the talk of more than $1 billion of sales, and to the other 92,000 art fans who had jostled their way around it.
Source: The Telegraph

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