Celebrity visitors to Art Basel were also out in force at the satellite fairs, although overall results were mixed.
Design Miami/Basel, now partially owned by Messe Schweiz (who also own Art Basel), proved fashionable as ever with actor Brad Pitt spending close to $1m on objects including Atelier Van Lieshout’s Family Lamp, 2007, from the Carpenters Workshop for E36,000 ($55,800). Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich followed closely behind, buying 12 pieces of vintage furniture by Danish designer Poul Kjaerholm from Brussels dealer Philippe Denys. “The nice thing about Brad Pitt and Roman Abramovich is that they want historical material,” he said. Both were seen chatting together in the VIP lounge at the fair.
This year, the Scope, Volta, and Bâlelatina fairs were located in Basel’s warehouse/dock district which they are keen to re-brand “the Rhine Arts District”. In particular, Scope’s new pavilion home gave the fair a facelift and extra space, but an early opening on 1 June (the Sunday before Art Basel opened), when most of the exhibitors were still installing, did not do it many favours. Ludovic Bois of Chinese Contemporary said he was happy to have sold Zhang Dali’s AK-47, 2008, for E30,000 to a Greek collector, but seemed wary about the early opening when most of the stands were bare. “[Collectors] think they’ve done Scope,” he said, “so will they come back?”
Bâlelatina, newly branded the “Hot Art” fair, also had a lukewarm opening on 3 June, the same day as Art Basel’s preview. Few galleries reported sales on the first evening, although the New York gallery Freight+Volume sold Michael Scoggins’s I Heart Chewy, 2007, for $9,000.
Contrary to the shaky starts of Scope and Bâlelatina, Volta 4, now owned by MMPI (backers of New York’s Armory fair) opened to a steady stream of visitors on 2 June. Many works were sold in the first few hours. This fourth instalment of Volta confirmed the fair’s reputation for quality of content and slick organisation, which no doubt added to dealers’ confidence.
Liste, the self-styled “young art fair”, selects galleries with less than five years’ experience who mainly show younger artists—the idea being that the galleries will graduate to Art Basel. But this year exceptions were made as Liste invited back a few older galleries that had failed to secure invitations to Art Basel including Los Angeles’ David Kordansky Gallery and London’s Herald Street. Liste and dealers reported that the majority of sales went to artists with a track record.