Art Basel settles into a ‘new normal’ despite market uncertainty

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Art Basel opened its doors to top-notch VIPs today and, in many ways, business was business as usual. Most of the selling had been arranged in advance, before the Dow Jones fell 800 points, which worried Americans returning after a three-year hiatus.

Nevertheless, “Art Basel is back in full force and in great shape”, says Marc Payot, the president of Hauser & Wirth. The gallery said it sold more than $75 million worth of artwork in the first few hours, including the towering bronze by Louise Bourgeois Spider (1996), installed in the middle of its stand, which found a taker for 40 million dollars.

There are, however, signs that a recalibration of the market is underway. With strict Covid-19 measures still in place on the mainland, Chinese collectors were thinner on the ground – some sent Europe-based advisers in their place, although dealers said they welcome customers from Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. Payot says he is “pleasantly surprised” by the number of Asian collectors and advisers present at the fair.

Gagosian COO Andrew Fabricator meanwhile detected “a much wider mix of people” during the VIP opening. “There is definitely a sea change,” he says. “It felt like a different generation of people than before.”

A new generation of artists is also taking the market by storm, and even Art Basel’s traditional roster of top-notch artists seems to be giving way to a new generation of top-notch artists.

Anne-Claudie Coric, executive director of Galerie Templon in Paris, says her gallery “anticipated this slight shift in the market” and this year “focused on an intergenerational dialogue between artists”.

Established and Experimental

The gallery features “historical works” by established American artists such as Jim Dine, Jules Olitski, and Ed and Nancy Kienholz, as well as more “experimental” pieces by a “younger, globalized generation” of artists, including Kehinde Wiley, Billie Zangewa and Omar Ba—“three artists who know the history of Western art perfectly and yet have a foothold in Africa and its specific issues,” Coric points out.

Early sales included Ba’s painting something happened 1 (2022), which fetched around $150,000, as well as works by neo-pop artist Robin Kid aka The Kid (prices range from €70,000 to €90,000); Chiharu Shiota (€90,000 – €300,000); and Zangewa ($100,000).

“There is definitely a sea change. It was like a different generation of people than before”

Andrew Fabricator, Chief Operating Officer of Gagosian

By adding to his roster of abstract artists, Lisson is “expanding his remit” to include more figurative painters, according to the gallery’s curatorial director Greg Hilty. At the fair, Lisson showcases works by his new recruits – Li Ran, Yu Hong and Jack Pierson – all of which sold on opening day, for $32,000, $220,000 and $225,000, respectively. .

Mega galleries also mix. Gagosian is displaying a 1953 painting by Picasso of his wife and muse, Françoise Gilot, alongside works by newcomers Ashley Bickerton, Jordan Wolfson and Rick Lowe, artists with established careers but relatively underdeveloped markets. Manufacturer says the gallery sold over 40 works during the VIP opening; prices on the stand range from around $500,000 to around €20 million for the Picasso. Pace, meanwhile, has primary market paintings by Loie Hollowell (priced at $450,000) and Adrian Ghenie ($1.8 million) on its booth (both sold out within the first two hours of the show). opening of the lounge).

Historically, the house of emerging and unknown artists at Art Basel was upstairs. Here, Mariane Ibrahim, who is exhibiting at the show for the first time, presents all the new products on her stand. Prices range from $25,000 to $400,000 – for Ghanaian-born artist Amoako Boafo’s Puppy comforter (2022), sold on opening day to a private collector. Boafo’s market has grown rapidly in recent years, largely through a series of auctions, against the artist’s wishes.

Ibrahim notes that the “power shift” in the art market also has a cost for young galleries. “We take the risk of nurturing young artists; mega galleries won’t change layers,” she says. “But if they’re working with established artists as well as young artists, it becomes difficult – it’s like having a seat at the adult table as well as at the children’s table.”

Space to breathe

It’s also about supporting an artist through the often difficult early stages of their career, Ibrahim says. “We have to give space and time to an artist to breathe, to find their signature style,” she says, noting how each of the artists on her stand has been the subject of exhibitions and reviews. museum acquisitions.

“We’ve done the preparatory work, now it’s time to show them here,” she adds. At the end of the first day, the gallery had sold half of its stand.

“We take the risk of nurturing young artists; mega galleries won’t change layers”

Mariane Ibrahim, founder of the Mariane Ibrahim gallery

Another major factor impacting the art fair ecosystem has been the cost of transportation, which, as Coric de Templon puts it, has “exploded all over the world”. This meant the gallery had to be “extremely careful and strategic in terms of shipping, focusing on pieces we already had in Europe,” says Coric.

Known for its large-scale sculptures, the Unlimited section of Art Basel presents a significant proportion of two-dimensional works this year. Among the smaller ones are a group of miniature paintings by Mexican artist Francis Alÿs depicting barbed wire fences and closed borders around the world, including between Hong Kong and China; and India and Pakistan.

First-time exhibitor Mariane Ibrahim sold works by Amoako Boafo, Peter Uka, Raphael Barontini and Ayano V. Jackson from day one Photo: David Owens

Conceived as a single work, the series of canvases cost between $1.5 and $2 million and were transported to Switzerland in a single crate – a “distinct advantage”, says Alÿs dealer Peter Kilchmann.

Lisson’s Hilty notes how everyone has become “a bit pragmatic” when it comes to transportation; one of the gallery’s works was shipped from Shanghai, arriving with only a day to spare. “We don’t throw money at the problem, but we make the best of every situation,” he says.

Indeed, as Marc Spiegler, the global director of Art Basel, noted at yesterday’s press conference, “these are still not normal times”.

He added: “We are at the end of the pandemic and in the middle of the first European ground war in 30 years; a tragedy whose impact becomes more apparent every day.

Add to that the fall in global markets – the Dow Jones is down around 20% this year alone, while cryptocurrencies are crashing – and our “new normal” will likely be tested in a not too distant future.

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