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New Art Stirs Up Basel and Spills Over to Fresh Venues

With a nearly 8 percent increase in visitors, who totaled 56,000—compared with 52,000 a year ago—Art Basel 36 closed on June 21 after seven highly successful days. Director Samuel Keller pronounced it “one of our best editions ever,” and London gallerist Leslie Waddington called it “a great fair.” The works of young artists were prominent,

BASEL—With a nearly 8 percent increase in visitors, who totaled 56,000—compared with 52,000 a year ago—Art Basel 36 closed on June 21 after seven highly successful days. Director Samuel Keller pronounced it “one of our best editions ever,” and London gallerist Leslie Waddington called it “a great fair.” The works of young artists were prominent, and the demand for them spawned two new fairs that ran concurrently at nearby venues.

At the preview, Waddington reports, he sold Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square: High Sound, 1968, for about $485,000. His stand also featured Barry Flanagan’s monumental bronze Nijinsky Hare, 1985 (one of eight casts), for approximately $520,000.

The Richard Gray Gallery, New York and Chicago, sold, also at the preview, a large Abstract Painting, 1993, by Gerhard Richter, for about $3 million. A similar price was attached to the monumental bronze sculpture Spider Couple 2003, by Louise Bourgeois, which was sold by New York’s Cheim & Read Gallery. Before the vernissage—which was visited by more than 5,000 guests personally invited by the exhibitors—the German gallery Gmurzynska, Cologne, sold Yves Klein’s ANT 86 for about $2.2 million.

At the same time, Francis Bacon’s painting Pope and Chimpanzee, 1962, at C&M Arts, New York, which marked nearly all its selling prices, was tagged as sold by the usual red-dot sticker; yet the $3.15 million price tag was not fully hidden.

At gallerist Victoria Miro’s stand, 13 paintings by young Miami artist Hernan Bas were sold within 15 minutes. Priced at $20,000 (about £12,000) each, they were snapped up by established collectors the likes of Charles Saatchi, Donald and Mera Rubell from Miami, New York stockbroker Adam Sender and French luxury-goods magnate Bernard Arnault. First-time exhibitor Modern Art, from Bethnal Green, London, sold out its entire display by young artists on the first day.

Late arrivals were disappointed. By June 15, the first official date of the fair, the few available paintings by this year’s Turner Prize favorite, Gillian Carnegie, priced up to £20,000, had all gone. Sculptures priced from £7,000/25,000, by Jim Lambie, another artist on the Turner shortlist, had gone too.

There appeared to be more multimillion-dollar art works on display than ever before, led in part, by Pablo Picasso’s Portrait d’Olga Khokhlova, 1917, which was offered by Geneva’s Galerie Krugier together with Picasso’s pastel study of The Hands of Olga, 1920, for $30 million.

The high level of quality among the classic works of modern and contemporary art had a strong and healthy impact on the quality in the other, younger sectors of the fair.

With the growing market for new art, young galleries that cannot get into the main fair have set up alternative venues. This year, three fairs took place simultaneously. Within walking distance of Art Basel, the Liste fair for galleries under three years old has been operating for 10 years. Collectors, who see it as a breeding ground for talented dealers, were buying heavily.

Their first port of call however, was VOLTA, a new fair housed in a former voltage plant on the Rhine. Here 23 enterprising galleries, including three from London, were besieged by collectors before the fair had even opened. Frankfurt gallery Voges + Partner showed four paper collages by Manfred Peckl, priced up to €12,000 each. All were bought by New York collector Jerry Speyer.

“Collectors are eating up new art,” said Chicago dealer and VOLTA fair founder Kavi Gupta. An agent for Saatchi snapped up two paintings by 29-year-old Angelina Gualdoni for €12,000 each at the show. “We launched this fair because there is a limit to what Art Basel can contain. The next generation of galleries needs its own fair.”

Gupta is so confident of the future that he and his partners have booked the space for the next five years.

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