— THE BIG STORY —
There are art fairs, and then there's Art Basel, the oldest, largest, and most prestigious contemporary art bazaar in the world, where dealers bring their absolute best wares and the most serious collectors come to buy, buy, buy (and in a hurry). And this year's event, with $2 billion in art on offer, crackled with ferocious energy.
Powered by an art market that seems to have achieved nuclear fission—with Christie's record half-billion-dollar auction fresh in memory—and coming on the heels of the Venice Biennale's stellar opening, the fair gathered a city's worth of megacollectors (the Broads, the Horts, the Brants, the Rubells), celebrities (Leonardo DiCaprio, Kanye West, Cate Blanchett), and curators (the New Museum's Massimiliano Gioni, L.A. MOCA's Jeffrey Deitch, the Whitney's Scott Rothkopf).
By all reports, sales were rampant, with many artworks at the 304 booths present fetching auction-level prices. Among the notable transactions: White Cube sold a gargantuan Mark Bradford canvas for $725,000, David Zwirner parted with a '90s-era Luc Tuymans painting for $1.4 million and two more for $900,000 apiece, Pace sold an Adam Pendleton mirror painting for $65,000, Paula Cooper took in $200,000 for a Claes Oldenburg watercolor of scissors, Lehmann Maupin sold a Mickalene Thomas painting for $55,000, 303 Gallery parted with two signature Jacob Kassay mirrored canvases for $150,000 each, and Sadie Coles sold a Rudolf Stingel self-portrait (a version of one included in his Venice show) for $2 million, and Blum & Poe found $250,000 for a Yoshitomo Nara painting.
Other big transactions included a $12 million Calder and two $2.5 million Lucio Fontanas at Helly Nahmad Gallery (which was manned by the indicted namesake dealer's father and brother), two other $2 million Stingels at Massimo di Carlo and Gagosian, and a $7 million Robert Ryman from 1966 at Dominique Levy. Prices like these seemed to sustain dealers, who somehow managed to field nonstop activity despite the fair coming at the end of a unending gantlet of market events that began in March with the Armory Show, continued with the May auctions and Frieze New York, shifted to China for Art Basel Hong Kong, and then to Venice for the Biennale debut before finally concluding in Basel—which, thankfully for all involved, is also an epicenter of the global pharmaceutical industry. Now everyone can be happily tranquilized for the slow summer months… until FIAC, the Istanbul fairs, and Frieze London start things up all over again in the fall.
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— QUOTE OF THE WEEK —
“You can be contemporary and be blue-chip, but you have to have had an impact on a certain generation of artists. A shooting star is not blue-chip." —Dealer Thaddeus Ropac on the growing and evolving category of "blue chip" art in today's contemporary market.
— MUST READ —
Light Art to Become More Energy Efficient — With the European Union banning low-wattage incandescent lightbulbs last year, curators and collectors of light-based artworks like those by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Jason Rhoades are looking to the late artists' wishes to determine how to properly replace and refit sculptures that use outdated lightbulbs, writes the Art Newspaper's Julia Halperin. (TAN)
James Franco Won't Be Patrick Bateman for Kanye West — Though Scott Disick will be reprising the role of the financier-turned-serial killer in an upcoming music video for Kanye West, which will adapt the "Huey Lewis" monologue that Christian Bale made famous in the movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho, Mr. West's first choice for the part was actor and artist James Franco, who's current show at Pace London is coincidentally called "Psycho Nacirema." (NY Post)
Secret Drawings Discovered by Renaissance Master — While hiding in a tiny underground chamber during an attack on the city of Florence in 1529, Sistine Chapel painter Michelangelo created a number of wall drawings, which were made available to public viewing on Monday. (La Presse)
Google's Art Project Gets Aesthetic Upgrade — As if taking virtual tours of major museums while at your computer weren't fun enough already, Google has recently made some significant stylistic changes to its Art Project's presentation, improving its search function and increasing the amount of white space, which puts more emphasis on the images and gives the entire design an institutional look. (TechCrunch)
New Flavins Get the Green Light — Speaking of illuminating artworks, some of the 20 posthumous sculptures that Dan Flavin's estate had manufactured since 2007—when they reversed their previous decision to not create any of the 1,000+ sculptures the artist planned before his death—will be part of an exhibition at the Tate next year. (TAN)
Bye Bye, Ducky! — Much to the dismay of local Hong Kong residents, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman's 54-foot-tall inflatable duck, which has become a beloved public art icon, will be leaving the harbor where it has been docked for the past month and a half to head to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the next stop on its 13-city world tour. (Artdaily)
A Spotty Collection Becomes More Conclusive — While Damien Hirst continues to work on various spot painting projects, including one work that contains 1 million dots, his publisher, Other Criteria, will release a catalogue raisonné of the almost 1,400 spot paintings that have been made to date, a move that is rumored to add value to the works as it removes any doubt about the authenticity of the easily forged paintings. (NYT)
Lady Liberty Has Real Punk Appreciators — Timed to the release of the documentary "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer" set to air on HBO, the freed Russian activist band members gave New York magazine a "covert tour of New York," where they pointed out their admiration for the Statue of Liberty, a female figure also advocating for freedom. (NY Mag)
Basquiat Goes to Broadway — As if the iconic artist's Q rating couldn't go any higher recently following his recent series of blockbuster shows and auctions, plans have been put in motion to adapt the much-beloved figure's lifestory to the stage in the upcoming "Basquiat the Musical." (HuffPost)
— ART MARKET —
Basel Buyers Bring Big Bucks — Moods are positive at Art Basel in Basel, writes Bloomberg's Scott Reyburn, as collectors approach the expansive (and expensive) contemporary and modern art fair with confidence following last May's record setting round of auction sales. (Bloomberg)
Mass Market Illustrations Become Must Haves — While the average art enthusiast may only be familiar with the big name illustrators like Norman Rockwell, the entire market for original illustrations is heating up with prices increasing at auction for both high and low-end items. (WSJ)
Paying a Little More for an Extra Dimension — It isn't only the illustration market that's booming lately, sculpture is also seeing something of a revival as art dealers and collectors begin reevaluating the medium's sizeable potential in light of a scarcity of Old Master and Renaissance paintings on the market. (FT)
Long Live Abstraction! — If there's one major trend at this year's Art Basel, it's abstract art, which has apparently has finally pulled off the upset over figuration that it's been working towards since 2008 in the eternal back-and-forth battle for most popular collector eye-candy. (TAN)
— IN & OUT —
Los Angeles-based art dealers Tim Blum and Jeff Poe are on the hunt for a New York gallery location, which will focus on gallery artists without representation in the city and special historical projects.
Lauren Cornell of the New Museum, already co-curator of the institution's upcoming 2015 Triennial, has been named a full-time curator.
Artist Julian Schnabel will be presenting an exhibition of paintings by Nick Mead at, get this, the bottom floor of his West Village home, which he has transformed into an exhibition space he calls "Casa del Popolo" or "House of the People."