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    Contemporary Collectors Drive Up Sales at Art Basel

    In its fourth year Art Basel Miami Beach firmed up its reputation as the must-attend fair for contemporary art. Organizers report that the event drew 36,000 visitors, 9 percent more than last year, to the Miami Beach Convention Center. The fair does not release overall sales figures, but many returning dealers in attendance believe results were

    MIAMI BEACH—In its fourth year Art Basel Miami Beach firmed up its reputation as the must-attend fair for contemporary art. Organizers report that the event drew 36,000 visitors, 9 percent more than last year, to the Miami Beach Convention Center.

    The fair does not release overall sales figures, but many returning dealers in attendance believe results were even stronger than a year ago. “We did better than last year,” says Dominique Lévy of Manhattan’s L&M Arts, which sold a Jean-Michel Basquiat drawing for just under $1 million and a Keith Haring painting for around $500,000.

    “So many people have said this, but I think it really was our best fair ever,” affirms Andrew Silewicz of London’s Victoria Miro Gallery. The gallery represents Isaac Julien, whose video installation True North, 2004, went on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, the night before the fair opened. Single-channel DVDs of the installations sold for $25,000 each, from an edition of 10. (All six of the installation versions had been placed in American and European museums before the fair opened.) The gallery also sold 20 photographs by young artist Idris Khan (b. 1978) for $10,000/18,000, as well as paintings by Peter Doig, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Alice Neel.

    The most enthusiastic buying was reserved for works made by artists within the past three decades. “It’s a very different market from Art Basel in Switzerland,” Lévy told ARTnewsletter. “It’s more contemporary. Even if very serious 20th-century collectors come to Miami, they are there for contemporary art.”

    New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery reports sales of works by Walton Ford, Frank Stella and 1980s icon Kenny Scharf, who turned the gallery into a deliberately garish funhouse of black-light-sensitive colors this fall. At Berlin’s Galerie Eigen + Art, two large faux-naive paintings by Martin Eder sold for $60,000 each to American and European private collectors.

    Paintings dominated most booths, but some sculptures and videos were on view as well. Standouts included Marina Abramovic’s video of herself in a topless dirndl, Balkan Erotic Epic, Exterior Part One (B), 2005, at Sean Kelly Gallery. All but one were sold, for $72,000 apiece, from an edition of five.

    Chris Ofili’s sculptures, shown at Berlin’s Contemporary Fine Arts, included two 2005 pieces—Blue Moon, depicting a large blue-bearded, afro-haired man excreting a long silver spool, across from Silver Moon, a sculpture of a woman dropping her pants. Ofili debuted his sculpture series with his Berlin gallery after spending time working with the city’s Hermann Noack foundry, where Henry Moore had cast many of his works, says gallerist Philipp Haverkampf. By fair’s end the two pieces had gone to private collectors for $275,000 and $290,000, respectively.

    Satellite Fairs Proliferate

    This year, not two but six ancillary fairs attached themselves to Art Basel Miami Beach’s marketing engine, opening at the same time. The scopeMiami fair returned for its fourth year; and the fair of NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance), for its third. PULSE, Aqua Art Miami and design.05 were new, while Frisbee, a small art fair that refused to be identified as an actual fair, was in its second year.

    At scopeMiami, held at the Townhouse hotel, South Beach, sales rose to $5.2 million, compared with $2.2. million a year ago, even as competition from other fairs cut into overall attendance. Organizers said the number of visitors dipped by 2,000, though the fair still posted a healthy count of 10,000.

    “We couldn’t be happier—it was like a fairy tale,” says Leah Stuhltrager, curator at the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, gallery Dam, Stuhltrager. Sales ranged from $1,000/5,000 for individual pieces. The gallery sold several Robotic Grass works by Ryan Wolfe and knitted pieces by Ruth Marshall, recounts Stuhltrager, noting sales to museums as well as established collectors.

    The 40 galleries at PULSE, held in a 30,000- square-foot tent in Miami’s Wynwood district, sold $4 million worth of art, or an average of $100,000 a gallery. Booths cost from $5,000/15,000, far less than the $20,000/55,000 fee at the bigger, well- established Art Basel Miami Beach. Before the fair, director Helen Allen said she would have been very happy with 6,000 visitors for PULSE’s inaugural edition; it turned out that 7,200 visitors came.

    Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, realized $64,000 for a suite of eight photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher; DCKT Contemporary, also of New York, took $2,500 apiece for three Kim Krans paper trees; and Conner Contemporary Art, Washington, D.C., made about $35,000 for a large historic painting by Kehinde Wiley. “We had to rehang our booth twice,” says gallerist Leigh Conner, who also did brisk business in $350 drawings by Zach Storm. Two days after the fair’s opening, six galleries had to have art shipped in by overnight delivery because they had sold out, Allen reports.

    Walter Maciel, whose Los Angeles gallery of the same name opens in January, notes sales of several John Bankston paintings for $3,000 each. The next edition of PULSE is scheduled for March 10-13, to coincide with New York’s Armory Show.

    At NADA, held at the Ice Palace Film Studios, there were about 18,000 visitors, preliminary figures show, compared with about 15,000 last year.

    Says Nick Cindric, director of Miami’s Rocket Projects: “It’s a huge impact not only in the immediate sales but the follow-up and the ability to create context for exhibitions.” At the fair opening on Wednesday night, the gallery sold five pieces, Cindric notes. “It was tremendous.”

    Sales at Rocket Projects ranged from $300/14,500. The top sellers were: Christina Pettersson, whose large-scale graphite-on-paper drawings were selling for prices of $6,000 and $8,000; TM Sisters, whose video games and two-dimensional works were priced at $2,000; and Emilio Perez, whose paintings sold for $10,000 and $14,500 each.