5 Artworks for Every Level of Collector at Art Basel, From an Early Jean-Michel Basquiat to an Intimate Portrait of Louise Bourgeois
The fair renowned for eye-watering price tags has a few bargains to offer.
Although Art Basel is reputed for mega-rich collectors flying in on private jets, the fair caters to buyers across the wealth spectrum. High-quality works vary in price from the staggering seven figures to just a few thousand dollars. While this year’s edition lacks some of the pizzazz that has earned Art Basel its reputation as the world’s leading art fair (and few eight-figure sales have been confirmed; one is Louise Bourgeois’ iconic Spider (IV) sculpture, priced at $22.5 million, at Hauser & Wirth), there is much to discover at lower altitudes. Here are some of the eye-catching works on view, from entry-level to blue-chip.
Over $10 Million
What: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Ruffians (1982)
Where: Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York
How much: Over $20 million
This early multimedia work by Jean-Michel Basquiat was made when the artist was just 22 years old. Dominated by three bespectacled male figures with stick-like bodies wearing crowns, loosely bringing to mind the biblical three kings, it’s remarkable for its level of detail. Characterized by drips, symbols, and letters, its vocabulary recalls the graffiti that Basquiat tagged under the pseudonym SAMO from 1977 to 1980. Lurking in the top right-hand corner is a figure, Joe, holding a pan of fried eggs that references another of Basquiat’s paintings. First acquired from Annina Nosei Gallery in New York, The Ruffians was included in Basquiat’s solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art from October 1992 to February 1993, and it was sold at Christie’s in 2006 for $1.4 million. Van De Weghe bought it for an undisclosed price and sold it to the unnamed collector who is now putting it back on the market via the secondary-market gallery. Basquiat exhibitions are up now at Fondation Beyeler in Basel and at Fondation Louis Vuitton and La Philharmonie in Paris.
$1 Million to $10 Million
What: Firelei Báez, the vast ocean of all possibilities (19°36’16.9″N 72°13’07.0″W / 41°30’32.3″N 81°36’41.7″W) (2022)
Where: Unlimited, presented by James Cohan, New York
How much: $1.2 million
Firelei Báez’s captivating installation in the large-scale Unlimited section reimagines the Palace of Sans Souci in the north of Haiti as a submerged archaeological ruin. Decaying arches and walls are adorned with hand-painted motifs of birds, flowers, animals, and combs based on traditional West African indigo prints. Algae and coral emerge from rocks wherein household products, women’s shoes, and a handbag are embedded—references to lives lost at sea during the Middle Passage, where Africans were forced onto ships bound for the Americas, and to migration. The monumental, walk-through piece reflects upon the legacy of the palace. It once served as the residence of King Henri I, who was instrumental in the Haitian Revolution that resulted in independence from France, and was irrevocably damaged by an earthquake in 1842. Born in the Dominican Republic in 1981 and based in New York, Báez is known for exploring diasporic histories of the Caribbean. The artist will have her first solo show in Europe at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art from October 2023 to February 2024.
$100,000 to $1 Million
What: Igshaan Adams, Byron (2023)
Where: Blank Projects, Cape Town
How much: $100,000
Shimmering with beads, chains, ribbons, and braided rope, this tapestry sold to a private collector on Tuesday. The striking work is based on a performance by a group of dancers based in South Africa’s Namaqualand, where some of the artist’s family members originate from; the piece is named after one of those dancers. The Garage Dance Ensemble made three performances at Zeitz MOCAA during Adams’s recent residency at the museum. Adams drew inspiration from the markings left on the fabric by their movements and translated them into this intricate tapestry, exemplifying the interdisciplinary nature of his practice.
$10,000 to $100,000
What: Petrit Halilaj, Here To Remind You (Coracias benghalensis) (2023)
Where: Kurimanzutto, Mexico City and New York
How much: €15,000–€45,000
On show at Kurimanzutto’s booth is a grouping of delicate, poetic bird sculptures by the Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj. This particular sculpture is characterized by just two feathers and long gold spindly legs on a blue plinth. It belongs to an extensive body of work by Halilaj that is dedicated to birds, which have fascinated him since childhood. There’s also a profound nostalgia to his work relating to the lost taxidermic collection of the former Museum of Natural History of Pristina. Kurimanzutto sold several of Halilaj’s sculptures on the preview days.
$1,000 to $10,000
What: Dimitris Yeros, Louise Bourgeois (2008); edition 1/15
Where: Karsten Greve; St. Moritz, Cologne, Paris
How much: €6,500
The Greek photographer Dimitris Yeros won the trust of the late Louise Bourgeois and was allowed to photograph her in her rudimentary New York studio. The sittings culminated in an astonishing series of intimate portraits. On view at Karsten Greve is this picture of the artist in her late nineties, two years before she died in 2010. It captures the artist, smiling at the camera, sitting at her desk. A painting of a red-hued, female figure covered in eyes lies in front of her, spilling onto the floor. The peeling yellow walls behind her are lined with exhibition posters. Karsten Greve sold three editions of this photograph during the two preview days.
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