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    High Demand Fuels Buying Frenzy at Art Basel Miami and Spinoff Fairs

    With more than 40,000 visitors and 100 museum delegations in attendance, Art Basel Miami Beach boasted another year of superlative success. A need for crowd control was the only basis for complaint as collectors streamed into the Miami Beach Convention Center at noon on Dec. 7 and packed the hall for the next three days.

    MIAMI BEACH—With more than 40,000 visitors and 100 museum delegations in attendance, Art Basel Miami Beach boasted another year of superlative success. A need for crowd control was the only basis for complaint as collectors streamed into the Miami Beach Convention Center at noon on Dec. 7 and packed the hall for the next three days.

    Spillover from the fair filled a baker’s dozen of other expositions happening simultaneously in the Miami area—with Aqua Art Miami, Bridge Art Fair, Design Miami, DiVA Miami, Flow, Fountain, Ink Miami 2006, NADA Fair, PooL, Photo Miami, Pulse Miami, Scope Miami and Zones Contemporary Art Fair offering more modestly priced artworks for those who flinched at some of Art Basel Miami Beach’s sky-high price tags.

    Dealers with works by Andy Warhol were the fair’s key beneficiaries, leading with Jeffrey Deitch’s sale of a collaborative painting by Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dos Cabezas, 1982, for $5.5 million.

    L&M Arts, Manhattan, offered an array of Warhols, including Marilyn Monroe, 1967, a portfolio of ten screen prints that fell for $1.5 million to an American collector; and a very small Mao, 1973, going for $2.2 million.

    New York’s Acquavella Galleries also offered a selection of Warhols, among them Diamond Dust Shoes, 1982, for $2.4 million. “Overall we did very well,” director Nicholas Acquavella told ARTnewsletter, adding that the gallery had sold works by artists ranging from Warhol to René Magritte, with most of the pieces selling for under $1 million. Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, sold a Warhol Brillo Box, 1968, for over $200,000.

    Knoedler & Company, New York, exhibiting for the first time at the fair, made a bid for market transparency by openly posting prices at its booth. The gallery’s selection of works by Lee Bontecou was what captured the crowd’s attention, with a small 1983 mobile fetching $600,000, a 1958 wall piece going to a patron for an American museum for $950,000, and a welded steel, porcelain and wire piece making $350,000. Knoedler also sold Robert Rauschenberg’s Catwalk/ROCI USA, 1990, for $600,000; and Milton Avery’s subtle-hued painting Solitary Boat, 1960, for $1.4 million.

    Knoedler director and president Ann Freedman told ARTnewsletter, “I think what was important was the depth of the interest and the ability to make choices with those collectors who were serious about the art.” Moreover, Freedman said, she was encouraged by the interest and demand from the number of museum patrons present at the fair.

    “Overall the results were astounding,” says Robert Landau, president of Landau Fine Art, Montreal. The gallery sold about 60 paintings, Landau told ARTnewsletter, among them works by artists such as Fernand Léger, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso.

    By the end of the first day, the Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, had already sold Yoshitomo Nara’s Puff Marshie, 2006, a room-sized white fiberglass head, for $250,000; and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. had sold a complete set of ten portrait collages by Wangechi Mutu for $85,000.

    Tokyo dealer Tomio Koyama spotlighted an installation of a comical hunting scene, Beaver’s Life, 2006, by Shintaro Mayaki, at his booth. Koyama sold the work in pieces rather than as a single installation, at prices ranging from $2,000 for small wooden cutouts of hunters in boats to $12,000 for piles of stuffed cartoonlike beaver pelts.

    Vienna dealer Ernst Hilger reports overall sales of nearly $1 million, including: 17 works by John Gerrard, an artist who works with computer time-based programs, at $35,000 each; and more than 20 works by Russian photographer Anastasia Khoroshilova for $6,000 each. Hilger says he also sold work by Cuban photographer Angel Marcos.

    Innovation Attracts Buyers

    A new feature at the fair, Art Kabinet, enabled dealers to create a display of works by a single artist on the exterior walls of their booths. Jay Gorney, of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, found success with new works by Martha Rosler. Teaming her 1973 installation Diaper Pattern with 2004 photomontages of scenes from today’s Iraqi war—priced from $8,500/$15,000, depending upon the number in the edition—Gorney says he rapidly found buyers for the pieces.

    “It’s nice seeing difficult political material entering the minds of collectors,” he commented.

    The frantic shopping-spree atmosphere did not stop some dealers from taking huge financial risks. Gavin Brown turned over his entire corner booth to Urs Fischer’s dangling, empty cigarette pack, which danced around the booth on a fishing line attached to a mechanical arm—in an edition of two, plus an artist’s proof, at $160,000 each. Both found buyers before the opening; the proof sold during the fair.

    Michele Maccarone showed videos by California artist Anthony Burdin, but with a twist: Viewers had to enter a separate room with Burdin and watch each video (priced from $20,000/50,000) from start to finish without leaving, though smoking was permitted in the tiny cubicle. Maccarone, who says a Burdin video was on reserve, reports selling the only other piece in her booth, a tombstone by artist Nate Lowman (b. 1979), for $20,000.

    Ironically, the retail frenzy was even more apparent at alternative fairs situated around Miami and South Beach during the course of the weekend. Exhibiting at Pulse, dealer Jack Shainman noted intense demand for Jonathan Seliger’s realistic rendition of the distinctive blue Tiffany shopping bag, produced in bronze in an edition of five pieces that were sellouts at $12,000 each.

    Shainman also sold Subodh Gupta’s untitled sculpture made from a stack of nine brass pots for more than $200,000.