Art Basel Offerings Aren’t Just for Billionaires. Here Are 5 Notable Sales at Every Price
There's more to Art Basel than multimillion-dollar transactions. Here are five notable sales at the fair for prices as low as $3,000.
Switzerland is said to be one of the world’s most expensive countries to live in—so perhaps it’s not surprising that the artworks on view at Art Basel, the mother of all art fairs, tend to be equally pricey. Not long after the doors of the Messeplatz opened to VIPs on Tuesday, triumphant emails began flooding in announcing multimillion-dollar sales, while some visitors grumbled that global inflation seemed to be reflected in the hefty asking prices on the floor.
Still, sales were not limited to blue-chip artworks at exorbitant prices. Galleries from around the world brought a range of material by emerging, mid-career, and historic artists. Here is a rundown of five artworks, each at different price points, that sold during the fair’s early days. Allow us to make the caveat that all prices here are provided by the galleries, and therefore do not account for any discounts that may have been extended to the buyer.
Over $10 Million
What: Louise Bourgois, Spider (1996)
Where: Hauser & Wirth
How Much: Listed at $40 million
One of the most eye-catching artworks on the Messeplatz, Louise Bourgeois’s monumental sculpture towered over the booth of Hauser & Wirth. The gallery announced the sale, to a European client, on Art Basel’s opening VIP day, although it had arranged the transaction in advance. The late artist’s sculptures were rarely traded during the pandemic, but they have been resurfacing recently: Another Spider sold for $16.5 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April, making it the most expensive sculpture ever sold in Asia.
Also traded at this atmospheric level during the fair was Joan Mitchell’s Bergerie (1961–62), which sold for a price listed at $16.5 million at Pace Gallery.
$1 Million to $10 Million
What: Milton Avery, Bikini Bather (1962)
Where: Xavier Hufkens
How Much: $2.5 million
One surprise at this year’s fair is that works sold in the $1 million-to-$10 million bracket were not the most common, at least based on the reports during the first VIP days. Nevertheless, Xavier Hufkens from Brussels sold this late, brushy painting of a swimmer, Bikini Bather (1962) by Milton Avery, for $2.5 million. The gallery just announced its representation of the artist’s estate, which is also repped by Victoria Miro in London. The sale is among the highest known prices ever paid for Avery, whose auction record, set just last month at Sotheby’s, is $6 million.
$100,000 to $1 Million
What: Yee I-Lann, Tikar/Meja (2022)
How Much: In the region of $200,000
Probably the most talked-about sale among dealers, art advisors, and collectors who have connections with Asia, the Manila-based gallery Silverlens sold the wall-engulfing textile Tikar/Meja by Kota Kinabalu-born and -based artist Yee I-Lann at Unlimited just 30 minutes after opening the doors to VIPs on Monday. The work, a collection of 60 Sama-Bajau DiLaut mats on which the artist has woven images of tables, was snapped up by the National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne for a price in the region of $200,000. The gallery’s co-founder Isa Lorenzo said the sale carried tremendous meaning for the Southeast Asian art scene.
“It is the first time in a long time that an artist from our part of the world has been included in Unlimited,” she told Artnet News. “The institution bought it on the spot.”
Korean masters also sold well at this price point. Kukje from Seoul sold Park Seo-Bo’s abstract work Ecriture No.140416 (2014) for around $460,000 and Conjunction 94-95 (1994) by Ha Chong-Hyun, who is the subject of a collateral exhibition at Venice Biennale, for around $220,000, to Asian collectors who traveled to Basel.
$10,000 to $100,000
What: Zineb Sedira, Dreams Have No Titles #1 (2022)
Where: Kamel Mennour
How Much: Listed at €80,000 ($83,341)
Strictly speaking, it’s considered a little bit gauche to sell artworks that are still on show at the Venice Biennale—but what about selling an edition of the very same work elsewhere? Parisian gallery Kamel Mennour has taken the opportunity to present an edition of Zineb Sedira’s lightbox Dreams Have No Titles #1—the same one featured in the artist’s acclaimed French Pavilion in Giardini. The version sold at Art Basel is one of the three, and it was priced for €80,000 ($83,341).
What: Pélagie Gbaguidi, De-Fossilization Of The Look, Dialogue With Madonna Del Parto (2018)
Where: Zeno X Gallery
How Much: Listed at €3,000 ($3,120)
One might be surprised by the availability of works priced below $10,000 at Art Basel, but this lower point is important for galleries wishing to cultivate a younger following. Zeno X, for example, mainly offers works in the five figures but it also brought a handful under $10,000. Pélagie Gbaguidi’s lively work on paper sold to a private Swiss collection for €3,000 ($3,120), and another work on paper by the artist sold for €5,000 ($5,201) to a collection in Canada. Meanwhile, a work on paper by Grace Schwindt sold for €4,000 ($4,161) and a bronze sculpture by the artist sold for €8,000 ($8,322), both to U.S. collectors.
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