Art Basel Dealers Report Tsunami of Sales in First Few Hours—See What Sold

Did aphrodisiac oysters have anything to do with it?

Keith Haring Untitled (June 1, 1984), (1984); acrylic and fluorescent acrylic on canvas.
Skarstedt Gallery.
Danny MacDonald. The Thirst (2014). Courtesy the artist and Maccarone, New York.

Danny MacDonald. The Thirst (2014).
Courtesy the artist and Maccarone, New York.


“I haven’t had such a good Day One at Basel in 10 years,” New York dealer David Nolan told artnet News in his crowded booth at Art Basel on Tuesday afternoon. The first half-hour was especially frenzied, he said.

New York’s Van de Weghe Gallery sold a $5.5 million Christopher Wool canvas in the first hour. Skarstedt Gallery reported selling a $5.5 million Keith Haring on day one (see Art Basel Boasts Strong Sales Straight Out of the Gate).

No one was sure whether the pre-preview VIP breakfast in the convention center courtyard, featuring aphrodisiac oysters and champagne, contributed to the wild atmosphere.

“It’s as if they were giving stuff away,” said New York collector Ralph de Luca.

“I’ve never seen such a tsunami,” said Sarah Watson, a director with Sprüth Magers. And that’s at a fair known for its nearly 300 exhibitors.

Top global collectors, such as Peter Brant and Ulli Sigg were seen prowling the aisles, along with curators like the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sheena Wagstaff and auction house specialists such as Christie’s Brett Gorvy and Alexander Rotter.

Celebrity collector Leonardo DiCaprio was on the hunt, checking out a Giacometti bronze bust at Gagosian, Picasso canvases at Nahmad Gallery, and Jasper Johns at Matthew Marks.

In an extremely unusual sight, DiCaprio was seen actually stroking the face of mega dealer Larry Gagosian. With his hands.

Rumor has it DiCaprio is on the prowl for works for a July auction in St. Tropez to benefit his environmental preservation foundation. Sources say he eyed works by George Condo, Takashi Murakami, and Pablo Picasso.

At Nahmad, several Picasso canvases dating from between the 30s and the 70s were priced at between $7.5 million and $16 million. One is a version of Les Femmes d’Alger (see $140 Million Picasso at Christie’s Is World’s Most Expensive Painting at Auction).

Picasso is a huge driver of the modern market, which prompted Eleanor Acquavella of Acquavella Galleries to tell artnet News, “We sold a Picasso, so we’re happy.”

Lee Ufan, From Line No. 790136.Blum&Poe.

Lee Ufan, From Line No. 790136.
Photo: Blum&Poe.

Other historical material also sold well, with Blum & Poe notching its highest sale of day one with a Lee Ufan at $900,000, which sold to an American collector. Jeff Poe pointed out a strong presence of the Korean Tansaekhwa School at the fair, along with Mono-Ha; Lee Ufan is a major figure in both.

Ufan’s sculpture and canvases made a great impression at Kukje Gallery, with a floor sculpture juxtaposing sheets of metal and large rocks, recalling a 2014 exhibition at the Versailles Gardens.

“Let’s just say sales have been very, very, very good,” said Kukje’s Randy Moore. “We just had a moment to have a quick bite of lunch at five o’clock.”

Upstairs, younger dealers were also abuzz. Reena Spaulings sold two $100,000 Seth Price paintings emblazoned with the logo of payroll processing company ADP, though, as Jake Palmert pointed out, “To be fair, those were pretty much sold before the preview.”

303 Gallery had moved some $100,000 Karen Kilimnik canvases by midday, along with a $90,000 Sue Williams, and more.

“Everyone is very well behaved and elegant in Switzerland,” 303 Gallery’s Katy Erdman observed.

Younger artists like Danny MacDonald could also be found upstairs at Maccarone Gallery. A sculpture showing an Arnold Schwarzenegger action figure sucking on a straw stemming from a dildo about his own size drew chuckles from activist investor Dan Loeb and friends.

Keith Haring Untitled (June 1, 1984), (1984); acrylic and fluorescent acrylic on canvas.Skarstedt Gallery.

Keith Haring
Untitled (June 1, 1984), (1984); acrylic and fluorescent acrylic on canvas.
Skarstedt Gallery.

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