NEW YORK — The final days of an art fair are somewhat like the last week of a gallery exhibition: By now the real business is done, but the dealer is obliged to go on with the show. The bigger the art dealers, the less likely you are to find them minding their booths. They’ve moved on to other deals, and other fairs, in other cities. Nothing more to sell means nothing more to do.
This year sales seem to have been good, though it depends on whom you talk to: some dealers are peppy, reporting lots of sales and even a few sold-out booths. But there are also quite a few dealers that have yet to close a deal, particularly at the smaller galleries that, arguably, are most in need of recouping their fair costs. For them, participating in fairs is a real financial gamble.
Anecdotally, it seemed that the big buyers were well known to the dealers, with fewer galleries reporting sales to new collector clients. Most dealers also reported an overwhelmingly domestic audience, with fewer European and Asian collectors in evidence. This makes sense, for with so many similar fairs in other parts of the world, collectors no longer need to travel to New York. Or maybe it has something to do with Frieze Art fair arriving in May, during the auctions.
No doubt the accent on domestic buyers influenced the recipe for booth success. The dealers who did well seemed to be those with local standing and existing clients, or who brought with them the work of internationally recognized brand-name artists. After all, Americans love their brands. New York dealers did especially well, along with the big British galleries.
Both Eleven Rivington and Sean Kelly had a great week, selling out their booths on opening day and rehanging work for day two. Sprueth Magers, based in London and Berlin, did exceptionally well, selling 12 works by gallery artists including Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled (The Meaning of Life Is That It Stops),” 2008, for an undisclosed price, three works by George Condo between $45,000 and $250,000, a Sterling Ruby collage for $65,000, and four works by Cyprien Gaillard for €18,000. The gallery said the majority of these sales were to American collectors.
Zurich-based Andreas Huber, a first-timer at the Armory, sold out on opening day. Works by Florian Schmidt went for €16,000 at his booth. Kavi Gupta reported selling his Theaster Gates work — the commissioned artist at last year’s edition of the fair — for $125,000. British dealer Thomas Corvi-Mora reported a similar smattering of sales. Works by his artists Lunette Yiadom-Boakye, Imran Qureshi, Brian Calvin, and Anne Collier all sold in the $20,000-30,000 range.
The last word goes to Warhol, whose work and legacy were everywhere at the fair. It might be the anniversary of the original Armory Show, but it felt more like a celebration of the Pop art master, who died 25 years ago.