The Art Market: Buoyant Basel
Art Basel success; ‘karaoke king’ snaps up photography; fake furniture allegations rock Versailles
Coming after a New York auction season that turned in totals half those of last year, there were some jitters during the run-up to Art Basel, the world’s premier modern and contemporary art fair.
In addition many dealers have been finding trade slow in their galleries — but from the first minutes of the invitation-only day on Tuesday, they were breathing easier and reporting buoyant sales.
“The top collectors are here, and they seem unaffected by reported slowdowns,” said gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac, noting quick sales of a painting by Adrian Ghenie (€400,000), a Robert Rauschenberg at $1m, and the three works on offer by Georg Baselitz (€500,000). Metro Pictures, pairing sculpture by Camille Henrot with a new series of Cindy Sherman photographs, was “almost sold out” of the Shermans (priced at $300,000-$375,000). And among other big-ticket sales on the first day were a 1988 Sigmar Polke (€6.5m) at Zwirner and Paul McCarthy’s “Tomato Head (Green)” (1994), on show in the increasingly gigantic Unlimited, the section reserved for oversized art works (Hauser & Wirth, $4.75m).
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Two newcomers to the main fair were delighted with initial sales. Stevenson of South Africa was virtually cleaned out in the first hour, notably placing a new work by Barthélémy Toguo, “Human Feeding” (around €60,000), as well as selling a photograph by Viviane Sassen — to a European museum — and a painting by Nicholas Hlobo. New York’s Jack Shainman sold four works in the first 15 minutes of the fair, including Kerry James Marshall’s “Untitled (Looking Man)” (2016, $350,000) and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s “Peregrine” (2016, $100,000). Indeed, works by African artists were hotly pursued: Goodman Gallery of South Africa sold works by emerging artists Hasan and Husain Essop, Nolan Oswald Dennis and Gerald Machona, as well as Walter Oltmann’s standing sculpture “Caterpillar Suit IV” (2016), which sold for €25,000 to the Dokolo collection in Angola.
“Snapping up photography at the fair was “karaoke king” Qiao Zhibing, a regular fixture on Artnews’s annual “Top 200 Collectors” list, whose extensive holdings are mainly housed in Shanghai Night, his Shanghai nightclub. “I felt there was more emphasis on photography this year, and my buying was in this field,” he tells the Financial Times. Among his purchases were works by Thomas Ruff and Wolfgang Tillmans. “I am always slightly wary of editioned works, which is why I like Tillmans, where there is just one plus an artist’s proof,” he says.
Meanwhile he is planning shows. The first will coincide with the third edition of Photo Shanghai, slated for September 9-11, and for this he has commissioned a number of the best-known Chinese artists, among them Zeng Fanzhi, Liu Xiaodong, Zhang Xiaogang, Yang Fudong and Yan Pei-Ming, to make photographs of their studios or other subjects.
Then in November, to coincide with the two fairs, Art021 and West Bund, he has commissioned Martin Creed for a show, again at Shanghai Night. Meanwhile he is driving forward his project to create a massive art space located in five disused oil tanks in the West Bund, the city’s newest cultural district. It will show a mixture of his own holdings and works borrowed from other institutions.”