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U.S. Buyers Dig Deep at Art Basel Despite Fitful Dollar

The sixth edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, held Dec. 6-9 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, scored another round of record attendance and strong sales, even as a handful of new satellite art fairs sprang up in its shadow.

NEW YORK—The sixth edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, held Dec. 6-9 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, scored another round of record attendance and strong sales, even as a handful of new satellite art fairs sprang up in its shadow. Organizers report that attendance rose from 40,000 visitors last year to 43,000 this time around, and most dealers cite excellent results, including dozens of sales finalized in the days after the fair ended. More than 100 museums from Asia, Europe, Latin America and the U.S. were represented by delegations from their respective boards.

Observers express surprise at the strength of demand from U.S. collectors, particularly given the weakness of the dollar against the euro and the British pound. The number of satellite fairs also grew, to more than 20 from about 13 last year, with Pulse, Scope and Aqua Art Fair joined by new events such as the AIPAD Photography Show. And organizers of Art Miami, held each January for almost two decades, moved its event to December this year and opened at a new location in Miami’s fast-growing Wynwood district.

While praising the strength and organization of the fair, Carolyn Alexander, partner of Alexander and Bonin, New York, expresses doubt about the sustainability of the annual frenzy. “The general craziness of the atmosphere—the endless parties— you can’t repeat this year after year. Certain collectors are already staying away.” Several other dealers who did not exhibit at the fair concurred with one who was overheard saying, “The world has overdosed on art fairs.”

Prices Range Widely

New York dealer Jeffrey Deitch says his gallery brought work by emerging and established artists alike. “We sold almost everything,” he told ARTnewsletter. Sales included works by Andy Warhol on the secondary market, and by Francesco Clemente and the artist duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster, with prices ranging from a modest $2,500 up to as much as $2.5 million.

While Deitch reports that most of the buying was done by U.S. collectors, the gallery also sold works to collectors from Austria, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, Japan and Taiwan, many of them new to the gallery.

“That is what you really hope for at an art fair,” says Deitch. “The whole point is to meet new people, and about half our sales were to people we’ve never done business with before.” Among younger artists whose works were shown and sold by the gallery were Micah Ganske, Elizabeth Neel and Kehinde Wiley.

Younger Artists Ride Wave of Demand

David Nash, of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, told ARTnewsletter his gallery sold 45 works during the course of the fair and several others after the close. “It was very successful,” notes Nash, particularly in terms of younger artists, including 15 pieces by Enoc Perez and works by Chris Martin, Martha Rosler and Norbert Schwontkowski. Prices ranged from about $100,000/300,000. The gallery also sold works by more established artists, among them Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso.

Alexander told ARTnewsletter that the gallery’s sales “in general were not as crazy as last year, but we’re quite happy—it was more measured.” Among Alexander and Bonin’s sales: a painting by Stefan Kürten that fetched $62,000, and a sculpture by Columbian Doris Salcedo that took $750,000.

“Business was tremendous,” Tim Blum, a partner of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, told ARTnewsletter, adding that his gallery sold “everything we brought and more.” Hung on the outer wall of the booth, site-specific, 10-by-10-foot clocks by Tatzu Nishi (b. 1960)—a Japanese artist whose first-ever solo show was held at the gallery in the fall—sold for about $35,000. Two paintings by Takashi Murakami, whose current high-profile retrospective at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, runs through next Feb. 11, fell for approximately $125,000 and $200,000, Blum reports.

Echoing numerous other dealers, Alexandre Gabriel, director of Galeria Fortes Vilaça, Sao Paulo, Brazil, called the sixth edition of the fair the best yet and noted strong demand from private U.S. collectors. Sales included works by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto and drawings by the collective Los Carpinteros. A sculptural piece by Nuno Ramos took $32,000, Gabriel says.

The exception to private buying, the gallerist notes, was the sale of two works by Vik Muniz, for $60,000 apiece, to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y., and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal.

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