The Back Room: a post-American art world?



After what at times seemed to be more of an eleventh hour drama than a New Years party attended only by dropouts from couples therapy, Basel ArtThe flagship trade fair of s returned to Messeplatz this week. The event turned out to be a mix of comfort food and novelty for the post-vaccine art market.

The big story of the opening day was the small number of American collectors who made the trip. European buyers have dominated the aisles to an unprecedented extent for many years, with VIPs like Guillaume Houze, Walter Vanhaerents, Füsun Eczacıbaşı, Francesco Taurisano, and Anita Zabludowicz all present.

Still, sales at the fair were healthy anyway., albeit with two potential asterisks separating further this year from the Basel standard: upper tier dealers seemed to be offering a bit more conservative pricing, and pre-sales seemed to be approaching an all-time high.

Yet, in part due to demand from international collectors and advisers participating remotely, the high-end offerings requested by the main section of the fair included…

  • $ 6.5 million for Philippe guston‘s The poet (1975) to Hauser and Wirth.
  • Between 5 and 5.5 million dollars for an untitled Keith haring (1982) to Gladstone. (The gallery asked $ 5.2 million.)
  • $ 4.95 million for Marc Bradford‘s Kryptonite (2006) to White cube, through ARTnews.

Art Basel Unlimited displaced units too much, in large part because the large paintings had a greater presence than usual. (The high contrast was one more reason Urs fischeris literal Bread house, installed by Jeffrey Deitch, absorbed so much attention before the section opened.) Payments made to the Giants on opening day included …

  • $ 4.5 million an unidentified European institution for Robert rauschenbergthe Web Rolls (Salvage) presented by Thaddée Ropac.
  • $ 3 million for an untitled Dan Flavin light installation from 1974 presented by David Zwirner, through ARTnews.
  • “An undisclosed sum” waiting for of a private European museum to hold Sean scullythe painting suite Dark windows (2020) co-presented by Kewenig and Lisson galleries.

Another change in 2021: Art Basel also presented to its audience (you guessed it) the NFTs. Specifically, the shepherds were the people at Nagel Draxler Gallery, who collaborated with the participating artists and the curator Kenny schachter to make their booth’s back room an eye-catching physical addition to their recent “NFTism” exhibit.

In addition to the crowds and curiosity on the opening day, sales of the included editions …

  • € 40,000 for a token per Kevin abosch
  • 8 Ether (In regards to € 25,000) for Olivier Allen‘s After death or void address (2021)
  • £ 20,000 for Anna ridleris three screens Mosaic virus

All of NFT’s acquisitions were supposed to be made in cryptocurrency on the OpenSea marketplace, but Nagel Draxler wisely made a few exceptions on the floor. With the artists’ approval, the gallery charged collectors for the old-fashioned fiat currency, purchased the works with its own crypto wallet, and agreed to transfer them to the end customer upon payment.

As always in the art market, where there is a will, there is a way …


The bottom line

Compared to Art Basel 2019, when David Zwirner led the sales pack by placing a $ 20 million Gerhard Richter, even the most expensive deals at this year’s edition of the show seem unusually accessible.

At the same time, the above gallery sector agreements $ 1 million are objectively performing well almost anytime and almost anywhere, but especially after Basel exhibitors, artists, collectors, suppliers and staff had to make their way through the Delta variant demolition derby to ensure that the live fair takes place. Even more important to the ecosystem is the abundance of sales in the five- and six-figure ranges reported by galleries in the more terrestrial areas of the fair.

So it seems the payoff for many exhibitors was well worth it. But for now, the only people who will know for sure are the galleries themselves, the fair officials tasked with wooing them next year (if not for Miami Beach in two months), and the independent auditor administering the one-off solidarity fund, of which CHF 1.5 million ($ 1.6 million) participating galleries can tap into to offset their costs starting this Monday. These are all stories to tell.

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Paint drips

Shannon Cartier Lucie. Photo: Matt McKnight

This week, Fresh paint sketched the burning market for the Nashville-based artist Shannon Cartier Lucie, whose exhibition has just opened at Loubov Gallery in new York was crammed with warmth-seeking art heads – and who amassed a waiting list of 196 names for the six paintings available there, according to the founder of Lubov Francisco Correa Cordero.

The first patrons of the artist’s work (with an aesthetic once described as “Norman Rockwell meets David Lynch“) understand Massimo De Carlo partner Alberto Chehebar, principal director of Hauser & Wirth, and even an old one Playboy rabbit. Its prices on the primary market have swelled by $ 7,000 in 2019 at a minimum of $ 30,000 today, said Correa Cordero.

Demand on the seller’s side is also increasing. Sources say Cartier Lucy has already turned down an offer of White cube for a solo OVR last summer, as well as an opening of “at least one top gallery in downtown New York”. And while his work has yet to be auctioned off, it’s only a matter of time before the first pinball machine makes its debut.

Here is what has marked the industry again since last Friday …

Art fairs

  • Listing premiered alongside Art Basel, but this time in one of the biggest halls of the fair rather than in the labyrinth of the ex-brewery that List normally calls home.
  • List’s first sales were led by Pictogrampresentation of the artist Nils Alix-Tabeling, including the “life-size tank, commanded by commedia dell’arte-style characters and drawn by wild felines ”, will go to a private buyer for € 50,000 unless the Polish Ministry of Culture exercises a permanent option to acquire it first.
  • Cosmoscou, Moscowthe contemporary art exhibition, brought out a different crop of buyers than the oligarchs operating at the height of the market.

Auction houses

  • Sotheby’swill offer Frida Kahlothe double portrait of herself and Diego rivera, estimated at more than $ 30 million, during its newly renamed evening sale (formerly Imp-mod evening sale) at new York in November. If the painting reached its estimate, it would become the most expensive work of a woman artist to ever be auctioned.
  • Christie’s will accept offers live in ether for its post-war sale to today in new York October 1.


  • Peres projects will open a second space in Seoul early next year; Kacey choi will lead the new location as gallery director for Asia.
  • Gagosian now represents Rick lowe of “Project Row Houses” fame. The gallery is showcasing works by the artist of social practice (and winner of the MacArthur “Genius” Prize) at Art Basel this week and will present a solo exhibition at new York in September 2022.
  • Figurative painter Buzzy Hilary pecis joined David Kordansky (where she previously worked as a registrar). His first personal exhibition will arrive there in 2023.


  • The Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will debut in 2026, according to director Richard armstrong in The arts journal. This is 20 years after the originally planned opening of the institution.
  • The Walker Art Center appointed Seena Hodges, founder of the consulting firm DEI Coach awake, its next chairman of the board. This makes Hodges (who is black) the first person of color to take the job.
  • The national gallery in London venture capitalist, philanthropist and conservative funder John booth be its new chairman of the board. Despite Booth’s long history of cultural sponsorship, his political affiliation has revived accusations that Boris Johnson charges the country’s institutions with conservative leadership.

NFT and more

  • On the “and more” front: starchy David Adjaye will serve as the exhibition designer of “King Pleasure, a show never seen before Jean-Michel Basquiat the work being organized in new York by the artist’s family. Doors open April 9, 2022 in historic Chelsea Starrett-Lehigh Building.

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Data drop

The hammer bounces

© 2021 Artnet and Artnet Analytics database

© 2021 Artnet and Artnet Analytics database

Art auction sales were just as loud as sales at art fairs in the first half of 2021, if not more. The houses have moved $ 7.8 billion fine art value from January to June—138 percent more in value than the equivalent period of last year, and 12 percent more than the same frame in the blissful pre-social-distancing ignorance of 2019.

The volume results were even more impressive. A mind-boggling 181,438 fine art lots changed hands in the first six months of this year, the highest number since the art auction market’s all-time peak in the mid-2010s.

What is behind the ascent? For the answer to this and other questions in the art market in 2021 – as well as the rest of this decade – download the latest issue of the Artnet News Intelligence Report below.



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