MIAMI BEACH — The contemporary art market continues its upward thrust on the contrails of the big November auctions, with additional strong signs of hunger for both emerging and established artists at the 11th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach.
New work by Russian-born painter Kon Trubkovich made waves at New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery, with three 72 by 60 inch paintings from 2012 in oil on linen sold for $25,000 each.
Self-appropriated from a videotaped image of the artist’s mother on the eve of their departure from the Soviet Union in 1987, the paintings, including Set All of it Down and set Fire to it Before you set off, have a digitized, Warholian edge to them, scented with memories of the Cold War.
Smaller, mixed-media on paper diptychs of Ronnie — featuring the visage of former President and Cold War warrior Ronald Reagan — sold at $5,000 each.
Of more mid-career examples of serial commerce, Robert Longo’s accomplished and appropriated Untitled (After de Kooning, Woman 1, 1950-52) from 2012, in charcoal on mounted paper and measuring a trophy-sized 91 ¾ by 70 inches, sold at Paris-based Thaddaeus Ropac in the region of the $300,000 asking price.
At Pace Gallery (New York, London, Beijing), Hiroshi Sugimoto’s large-scale photograph, Lightning Fields 222 (2009) sold for $80,000. At Berlin/London’s Sprueth Magers, Barbara Kruger’s brand-new and aptly titled Buy Low Sell High, a screen print on vinyl from 2012 and measuring 110.5 by 11 inches, sold to an American collector for $275,0000.
The gallery also sold Andreas Gursky’s jumbo-scaled Bangkok VI, an inkjet print from 2011, from an edition of six for €400,000 ($518,000). At first glance, a Monet-like and beautiful river view seems to dominate until you gaze closer and see the muck and garbage-polluted waterway. And it sold Jenny Holzer’s Secret 22 painting from 2012 for $175,000 to an American collector, affirming, it would seem, the strong participation of American buyers.
The mid-career, master painter Albert Oehlen made a big impression at New York’s Luhring Augustine, the artist’s former primary market dealer, as Untitled (7/94) from 1994 sold to another American collector for a sum under the $1.5-million asking price.
“People realize the time element of the art fair,” said partner Lawrence Luhring, “and so it was sold in that instant.”
Passing through the stand, Damien Hirst, hard to miss in a red denim jacket with sunglasses perched on his forehead, accompanied by collector pals Aby Rosen and Alberto Mugrabi, said, “I don’t like art fairs, really, I came in for a coffee.” As if embarrassed by his attendance, Hirst continued, “I’m in Miami for a vacation and got here by chance.”
Nearby, at London/Hong Kong’s White Cube, an example of Hirst’s new work, Capaneus from 2012 — comprised of densely layered scary insects and household gloss on canvas, and measuring 60 by 48 inches — sold for £600,000 ($962,000). The piece is part of his “Entomology” series, which is chock-full of big spiders, moths and hairy tarantulas, and will debut at White Cube’s Hong Kong space along with his “Incision Paintings” in February.
A vintage Hirst medicine cabinet from 1989, in glass, steel, MDF and drug packaging, was still available mid-Thursday afternoon for an asking price of $4 million.
Although the prime time, VIP preview here on Wednesday appeared strangely subdued to the unpracticed eye, there were plenty of serious transactions in the works — as if the new style of buying is more about tip-toeing than shouting. The lack of conspicuous consumption, however, was strictly illusory.
Collectors and art traders encountered high asking prices (or so it seemed) as Paris dealer John Sayegh-Belchatowski’s $5.5-million offer for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “The Ruffians” from 1982, an acrylic, oil, paintstick and paper collage on canvas, was rejected by Seoul/New York Kukje/Tina Kim Gallery.
“The asking price was $7 million,” said a disappointed Sayegh-Belchatowski. “I don’t know how it’s possible to buy anything after that.”
But there were some big transactions brewing and finalized, as Richard Prince’s bloodied Nurse on Horseback from 2004, and measuring 78 by 58 inches in the inkjet print and acrylic on canvas, sold at New York’s Helly Nahmad Gallery to a European collector for close to the $6.5-million asking price.
“It’s the best nurse painting I’ve seen,” said Joe Nahmad, the younger brother of the eponymous New York gallery, referring to the blonde-tressed nurse with stained surgical mask and striped nurse’s cap.
Two other Prince nurses were apparently still available at the fair, including Nurse in Panic at Gagosian Gallery for an undisclosed asking price, and another, Millionaire Nurse at Van de Weghe Fine Art for $4.85 million.
Though his Prince was still available, Van de Weghe sold a late and rare Andy Warhol, Statue of Liberty from 1986, to another American collector for $3.8 million.
According to the dealer, Warhol made only seven of the large-scaled works — this one, resplendent in a warm, sunset pink tone, was the only one not done in his camouflage style.
There was more action at New York’s Barbara Gladstone Gallery as works by Jim Hodges, Rosemarie Trockel, Anish Kapoor, Carroll Dunham and Allora & Calzadilla sold at prices ranging from $150,000 to over a million dollars.
“It’s lucrative but tiring,” said gallery founder Barbara Gladstone on Thursday afternoon, affirming as many would agree that “the market is going strong and all the big things on the booth have sold.”
Still, the louder buzz permeating the fair was about a major and rumored gallery defection, though still unannounced, that super-star Jeff Koons was leaving the Gagosian stable to join the David Zwirner Gallery. The gallery wouldn’t comment apart from affirming that the artist would be having a show in 2013, and in good company — Zwirner already represents the estates of Dan Flavin, John McCracken and the Judd Foundation.
Ironically, or so it would seem (and this fair has a healthy dose of it), Koons’s rather slapstick, 72 by 72 inch polychromed wood sculpture of silent film star Buster Keaton perched on a beribboned pony was hard to miss at Gagosian’s stand. It sold yesterday.