Despite the US stock markets plunging overnight, a spirit of optimism persisted among dealers at Art Basel Miami on Thursday after a strong start at the VIP preview on Wednesday. As one representative at Hauser & Wirth noted, “we rehung everything.”
After the first day a few paintings had already sold in the millions, various sources reported. Van de Weghe sold a Picasso painting, “Tete de Femme,” 1971, listed for $17 million though the final price is unknown and a subject of much speculation. Hauser & Wirth sold a pair of paintings, one by Mark Bradford and another by Philip Guston, for $5 million and $2.75 million respectively. A bubblegum pink silicone sculpture by Paul McCarthy, “SC Western John Wayne,” 2016, was acquired by a private collection in Asia for $1.2 million. By Thursday evening, a few more pieces would join the seven-figure club.
“Yesterday was great,” said Sharis Alexandrian of White Cube in London, “today is a bit calmer.” After the first day’s stampede, sales tend to taper, as is usually the case, and many blue chip galleries were pleased to report they had rehung nearly everything. Even well into Thursday evening, dealers were spirited and busy as Art Basel Miami opened up to the public and a new wave of visitors snaked through the floor.
Since the inception of Art Basel Miami in 2002, organizers have conscientiously reflected the city’s multi-cultural identity, and the 17th edition is no different. This year’s edition includes 268 galleries from 35 different countries. Nevertheless, US galleries enjoy the advantages of home turf. More than half of the participants have exhibition spaces in the Americas and, of these, 31 hail from Latin America. Twenty-nine galleries join Art Basel Miami for the first time, and it is everyone’s first time in the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, which took nearly three years to complete.
Unlike past years, several dealers, including those from Marlborough in New York, White Cube in London, and Pace Gallery in New York, noted that the majority of collectors were from the US and that, compared to past years, there were “fewer Europeans.” Thaddaeus Ropac, owner of the nominal Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, elaborated, suggesting that the reason behind the diminishing presence of Europeans might be the proliferation and increased popularity of more art fairs in Europe, as well as the logistics of travel right before the winter holidays.
Following a recent trend at art fairs, Pace Gallery chose a highly curated approach and showed “Lightness in Being,” an exhibition “dedicated to West Coast artists of the Light and Space and Finish Fetish movements,” according to its description. Historically, Pace has represented a number of famous artists that thrive on the interplay of light and the environment, including Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Peter Alexander, and, more recently, Mary Corse. The latter two were on display and Corse, though the newest addition, served as the cornerstone of Pace’s booth. Corse’s blinking piece, “Untitled (Electric Light),” 1968/2018, sold early for $180,000. Peter Alexander was in high demand and sold four pieces made of urethane in the range of $40,000-$125,000. But the highest price tag was awarded to “Untitled,” 1970, by Larry Bell, an iridescent glass sculpture coated in minerals, which sold for $250,000. Although there might not be something for every collector at this booth, the curated approach has received a strong response from collectors and critics alike.
David Kordansky Gallery from Los Angeles boasted three new artists that the gallery began representing just this year. Each artist was making its US-debut under Kordansky and by the end of the second day, each had sold a sculpture in a market saturated with and skewed toward paintings. Known for making large monumental works, Lauren Halsey’s sculpture “that fuss wuz us,” 2018, sold for $40,000. A blood orange cast polyester and Instagram-friendly sculpture, “Untitled (parabolic lens),” (1974) 2018, by Fred Eversley drew the eye of every passerby and sold for $250,000. Lastly, “GM,” 2018, a crudely misshapen bust made of cork and painted black with acrylic and oil stick sold for $150,000.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, which featured many works “fresh from studio,” sold two paintings for seven figures. “Reflector,” 1982, by James Rosenquist sold for an even $1 million. At 307 x 490 cm, “Die Barrikade,” 2018, by Georg Baselitz commands a whole wall and depicts three figures void of any characteristics against a black background, painted white, upside-down, and, somehow, moon-like in their casual defiance of gravity. For something so flat, the central figure appears ready to walk – no float – off the wall, like the ghost of an astronaut, and pass right through you.
One surprising non-sale so far for Ropac is a Rauschenberg piece. Priced at $1.7 million, “Rose Pole (Spread),” 1978, was one of the few pieces that Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac had not yet sold — almost everything else on the walls was rehung.
Polly Gaer, Executive Director of the London exhibition space, observed that collectors felt “less urgent” but “still had a huge appetite for art.”
Thaddaeus Ropac agreed, and added that Art Basel Miami “gets more serious every year” and praised the trained eye of well-educated collectors. Ropac sees the shift away from “going to Miami to party” as a step in the right direction and feels Art Basel Miami is “stronger than ever.”
Art Basel Miami is on view at the Miami Beach Convention Center from December 6-9, 2018.