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Art Basel: Big Crowds, Brisk Sales, New Collectors

“Another vibrant year at Basel,” was how Paul Gray, director of the Richard Gray Gallery of New York and Chicago, characterized the 42nd edition of Art Basel, where more than 300 galleries from 35 countries showcased artworks by over 2,500 artists to a record attendance of 65,000—a mob scene at times—up from 62,500 visitors reported

BASEL—“Another vibrant year at Basel,” was how Paul Gray, director of the Richard Gray Gallery of New York and Chicago, characterized the 42nd edition of Art Basel, where more than 300 galleries from 35 countries showcased artworks by over 2,500 artists to a record attendance of 65,000—a mob scene at times—up from 62,500 visitors reported last year.

“In addition to the Art Basel regulars, we saw a large number of new collectors, particularly from Europe and Turkey, which has become more important in recent years,” Gray told ARTnewsletter. Among noteworthy sales were two large monochrome Epson ink-jet-on-linen “paintings” by Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2006, priced at $600,000 and Untitled, 2008, priced at $700,000 and three iron sculptures by Rashid Johnson, another young American artist, at prices between $9,000/$30,000, in addition to works by Brice Marden, Jean Dubuffet and Jaume Plensa.

Reaction to three paintings by artist-philosopher Lee Ufan—whose retrospective opened at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on June 24—at the stand of affiliated “mother-and-daughter” Kukje Gallery, Seoul, and Tina Kim Gallery, New York, was “excellent”, according to Kim. All were quickly sold, including Dialogue, 2008, broad gray brushstrokes on white canvas, which went to a European collector for €120,000 ($168,000). “We had a great first day, an even bigger second day,” reported Kim. She also singled out fanciful light sculptures incorporating found objects by the up-and-coming Korean artist Haegue Yang, priced at €20,000 ($28,000) each, of which she sold three.

Works by Andy Warhol sold well at the stand of Zurich gallery Thomas Ammann Fine Art, whose silver-lined space was inspired by Warhol’s Factory. Senior partner Georg Frei said that three of the artist’s iconic boxes found eager buyers: two Del Monte pineapple-juice boxes at $1.6 million each, and one classic blue Brillo box at $2.1 million.

Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, changed its offerings regularly, generating excellent traffic and sales. On the fair’s opening day, the stand featured the brothers Gert and Uwe Tobias, whose large-scale woodcuts, patterned after 17th-century Dutch still lifes, were a sellout at €50,000 ($70,000) each. In all, 24 were sold.

Roxana Pennie, spokeswoman for Sprüth Magers gallery, with locations in Berlin and London, reported sales including George Condo’s Delineated Forms, 2011, an oil on linen that was sold to a European collector for $450,000; Sterling Ruby’s SP166, 2011, a spray paint on canvas that was sold to a European collector for $145,000; John Baldessari’s mixed-media Marilyn Monroe (Avedon): Partially Erased (5/8” Relief), 2007, for $250,000, sold to a U.S. buyer; and a digital print on vinyl by Barbara Kruger, How Much?, 2011, that sold for $135,000 to an American collector.

Considering the current Richard Serra drawings retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the well-received Serra/Brancusi exhibition at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler, it was not surprising to find numerous Serras on offer. Most were large-scale works on paper, but Galería Elvira González, Madrid exhibited Serra’s Consequence (of apples and oranges), 1990, two massive blocks of forged iron, and sold them to a Swiss collector for an undisclosed price.

There were also many small treasures to be found. At New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Valentines by the Italian artist Alberto Burri, which he sent to his wife Minsa over the course of their 40-year marriage, were selling well during the fair’s pre-opening “First Choice” event. Over a dozen of the miniature works, which displayed the artist’s entire oeuvre, were sold, at prices ranging from $10,000/85,000. The gallery also sold nine out of ten photographs by Constantin Brancusi of his sculptures for $10,000/40,000.

This was a particularly strong year for “Art Unlimited,” the fair’s exhibition platform (launched in 2000) for large-scale sculptures and installations, videos and other works that don’t fit into the confines of a show booth. There, Jason Rhoades’s 2004 Untitled (from the body of work: My Madinah: In pursuit of my ermitage . . .), a joint presentation by David Zwirner, New York, and Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, caught the eye of Dasha Zhukova, who snapped it up for close to $1 million for her Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow.

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