BASEL—Art Basel 37, the latest edition of one of the most prestigious international art fairs, held June 14-18, posted strong sales and equaled last year’s record attendance of 56,000.
Quality sounded the keynote with museum-worthy presentations, notably at Galerie Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie, Geneva, and Helly Nahmad Gallery, London. Dealers strategically targeted selected collectors and institutions with a pre-fair buildup via e-mail. Consequently sales were brisk from the moment the doors opened for the by-invitation-only preview.
PaceWildenstein, New York, which reported “very good, very steady business,” sold Untitled XII, 1976, by Willem de Kooning, on opening day for approximately $15 million, reportedly to financier David Martinez. At Helly Nahmad’s stand, Pablo Picasso’s dark Nature morte à la cafetière, 1947, and Henri Matisse’s Interieur à Nice, 1918, each fetched around $6 million, according to gallery spokeswoman Eva Wolfe.
Timothy Taylor Gallery of London, showing at Basel for the first time, enjoyed a successful debut, selling an Andy Warhol self-portrait triptych for $800,000; Songbird, 1982, by Bridget Riley, for $470,000; several paintings by Philip Guston, priced from $200,000/1.6 million; and two Kiki Smith sculptures, among other works, according to spokeswoman Faye Fleming.
Los Angeles gallery Blum & Poe sold a huge triptych of a sharp-toothed cartoon figure by Takashi Murakami, 727-727, completed just a few weeks before the fair, to “a very prominent collector” for $1.2 million, according to Tim Blum. Another just-completed work was Violent Peace/Violent Healing, by young American artist Jules de Balincourt (b. 1972), which fell “for $60,000 to $70,000,” reports Thorsten Albertz, director of Arndt & Partner gallery, Berlin.
Works by Louise Bourgeois were snapped up at several galleries, including Galerie Karsten Greve of Cologne, Paris, Milan and St. Moritz, which sold seven drawings, paintings and sculptural pieces.
The Gagosian Gallery took nearly £4 million ($7.2 million) on the first day, including £1.2 million ($2.16 million) for a painting, St. Benedict, by Jeff Koons, which had made half that price at auction last year. A huge conveyor belt in aluminum, by up-and-coming Indian artist Subodh Gupta, earned £550,000 ($990,000) at Gallery Nature Morte, New Delhi.
But the greater volume of art that sold was by younger and less expensive artists. This year Basel gave more space than before to this area of the market, perhaps to shake off challenges from the new and popular local fair Voltashow 02.
In one day South African artist Frances Goodman sold 21 small sculptural works—among them, pin cushions with sequins and Swarovski crystals and emblazoned with popular phrases such as “Shattered Dreams” and “Craving Attention,” priced from £550/2,000 ($990/3,600) each.
The young London gallery Hotel was besieged by buyers for new works by Steven Claydon that were selling for less than £10,000 ($18,000).
Four sculptures by Los Angeles artist Terence Koh (featured in the Charles Saatchi show “Artists in the USA Today,” opening Oct. 4 at the Royal Academy) were quickly sold, including gold-encrusted excrement that was bought by Manchester collector Frank Cohen for £68,000 ($122,400).
One of the most successful contemporary Chinese artists at Art Basel was Zhang Enli, 40, who will exhibit in New York this year. Five of his paintings went fast for as much as £7,000 ($12,600) each through the Shanghart Gallery, Shanghai.
Art Unlimited, a hangar-like space given over to more than 70 works that exceeded the limitations of show booths, was stronger than ever. Bit, Fall, 2006, an installation by young German artist Julius Popp, released a curtain of water in the form of words taken from a news Website. Exhibited by Paris dealer Jocelyn Wolff, the first of an edition of four was sold to a Swiss collector for €100,000 ($126,000); two others were reserved by museums in the United States and Australia.