Basel. The opening of Art Basel yesterday saw the now customary surge of collectors rushing to get in and race around the stands. According to Netjets, 100 private planes are landing in Basel this week, an increase of 25% over last year.
Yesterday we reported that the buoyancy of the modern market, has attracted a record number of unseen Picasso works to the fair. In the contemporary field, supply is limited only by an artist’s ability to produce work and dealers’ strategies to regulate their market. The quality on offer this year reflects the extent to which dealers have stockpiled work specifically for the fair or are showing new pieces fresh from the studio.
A case in point is Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. The most expensive of his works on the primary market at Art Basel–with Blum and Poe (H8) and priced at $1.5m–is a huge acrylic on canvas, 727-727. It was completed at Murakami’s studio in Japan just two weeks ago and is one of the artist’s few recent pieces that he has physically worked on himself; nowadays a team of assistants translate his concepts into reality (see right). “All the big fish came by as soon as the fair opened and we sold it to a North American collector in the first hour,” says Tim Blum.
Top US collectors spotted in the aisles as the fair opened included former Disney president Michael Ovitz, Don and Mira Rubell from Miami, the Los Angeles film agent Beth Swofford, the Chicago patrons Nancy Lauter and Fred McDougal, president of the Guggenheim Jennifer Stockman, real estate mogul Aby Rosen, and Henry Kravis.
Despite the strong US presence, most sales reported by dealers in the initial hours were to European collectors. Prominent among these was “Team Arnault” scouting for LVMH chairman, Bernard Arnault: art advisor Patricia Marechal, Jean-Claude Claverie, LVMH’s art supremo and Hervé Mikaeloff, who recently organised an exhibition of contemporary Indian art at LVMH’s new gallery in its Parisian shop.
From the UK was Manchester collector Frank Cohen who told The Art Newspaper he purchased work from Art Unlimited (see p1). Chatting on a mobile– perhaps to Moscow?–was the Cologne dealer Alex Lachmann, who often buys for Russian collectors.
In the first hour a private German buyer had acquired Eberhard Haverkost’s Lady Souverän, priced at $47,000, from Lehmann Gallery (M6). By 1pm a French art advisor had reserved the newly-unveiled, astonishing Picasso from 1971, Reclining Nude, priced at $12m, on Gmurzynska’s stand (V1) for a client. A “major” Dutch collector bought Izumi Kato’s Untitled 2006 from SCAI (V8); Francesca Minini (B4), who sold Vanessa Beecroft’s 2003 photograph VB 52 on offer at e40,000, said she was visited mostly by German collectors within the first few hours while an European collector bagged Suling Wang’s Cloud Seeder, 2006, at Lehmann Maupin (M5).
The same gallery also sold Bloody Mooning (1996) by Gilbert & George to a Belgian collector. The British duo’s works are proving popular at the fair prior to a major retrospective at Tate Modern early next year which will include Bloody Mooning.
Other reported sales included: Karen Kilimnik’s Ian playing Soldier, 1997, sold by 303 Gallery (F7) for a record $250,000 to a private collector and George Condo’s 1996 painting Existential Traveller for $115,000, one of five works sold by London gallery Sprüth Magers Lee (D4) within five minutes of the opening.
“The quality this year is very high and so are the prices,” says one New York art consultant. “People always say great material is hard to find, but we’re seeing it here–because right now, this week in Basel, is an excellent time to sell.”
“There is a big return of painting and drawing this year,” says Jérôme Sans, the new head of programming at the Baltic Centre in Gateshead, England. Photography is thin on the ground in the fair and videos are mainly confined to Art Unlimited.
Over at Art Unlimited, many installations have sold including Kadar Attia’s Infinities, 2006, (F4) to an American collector for around e150,000. The silver-painted luggage carousel, Across Seven Seas, 2006, by the Indian artist Subodh Gupta (D11), was sold for e800,000. In the main hall, his dealer Art & Public (Q4), sold a smaller piece of his, a trolley, to the Delhi dealer Arun Vadehra for around e80,000.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'European collectors on their annual shopping spree'