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Art Basel 2024 Opening Day Highlights: Major Sales and Gallery Successes Amid Market Fears

  • Grace Angelique
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  • June 14, 2024
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  • 4 minute read
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Art Basel 2024 Opening Day Highlights: Major Sales and Gallery Successes Amid Market Fears

Art Basel’s opening day saw strong sales despite worries about the art market.

Dealers and collectors reported both challenges and opportunities with high-value transactions.

Key Takeaways
  • Despite market fears, Art Basel's first VIP day saw substantial sales, proving the art market's resilience.
  • High-value artworks by Joan Mitchell, Arshile Gorky, and Yayoi Kusama were among the top sellers.
  • The fair's slower pace allowed for deeper engagement and stronger relationships between dealers and collectors.

Market Uncertainty and Early Reactions

There was a feeling of careful hope on the first day of VIP previews at Art Basel in Switzerland.

Many dealers were nervous about the outcome because the art market had slowed down, which some called a “correction.”

Samanthe Rubell, president of Pace, mentioned the high expectations and that people were closely watching recent auctions that did well.

“We were all waiting. We were watching the auctions very closely, and they did well. We didn’t know how this was going to go,” she said.

Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz agreed, saying the market was adjusting. Despite this, he noticed that the excitement on the first day showed the market was still strong.

“The market is very much still here and very strong,” Horowitz said in a press conference.

Opening Day Sales Reflect Market Strength

By the end of the day, the sales activity suggested a successful fair. Dealers noted an increase in in-person purchases compared to previous years, indicating a desire to experience artworks directly.

Hauser & Wirth cofounder Iwan Wirth expressed confidence in the market’s resilience, dismissing negative media narratives.

In spite of the ‘doom porn’ currently circulating in the art press and along gossip grapevines, we are very confident in the art market’s resilience,” Wirth commented.

Major Sales and Gallery Successes

David Zwirner sold a Joan Mitchell diptych titled Sunflowers (1990–91) for $20 million, although sources suggested the price might have been closer to $18 million.

Zwirner also sold Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Painting) (2016) for $6 million, and Yayoi Kusama’s Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023) for $5 million was another major sale in the Unlimited section.

Hauser & Wirth sold Arshile Gorky’s Untitled (Gray Drawing (Pastoral)) for $16 million and other works by artists like Jenny Holzer, Blinky Palermo, and Louise Bourgeois.

Pace Gallery also had a successful day, selling Agnes Martin’s Untitled #20 (1974) for a reported $14 million and multiple editions of Jean Dubuffet’s bench sculpture Banc-Salon.

Thaddaeus Ropac sold Robert Rauschenberg’s work for $3.85 million and several Georg Baselitz sculptures for $6.75 million, including Julie Mehretu’s painting.

High-Value Transactions and Market Trends

Secondary market markups appeared more reasonable than usual. At Gagosian’s booth, an Ed Ruscha painting, Radio 1, priced at $2.8 million, had sold for $2.1 million the previous year.

Similarly, Andy Warhol’s Hammer & Sickle (1976), on offer for $8.5 million, had last sold for $5.5 million in 2017.

Alex Forbes, vice president of galleries and fairs at Artsy, said that galleries were doing better overall compared to 2019.

It’s always important for folks to zoom out and take in the longer trend, rather than just focusing on year to year,” Forbes said.

He also mentioned that the European Central Bank’s recent interest rate cut provided stability, contributing to his long-term optimism.

Slow Sales but Long-Term Opportunities

Even though overall sales were good, many dealers noticed a slowdown, with deals taking longer to complete.

A New York art adviser mentioned that the market slump and poor auction results had made it easier to get high-quality artworks that were previously hard to find.

They will call you up, and before they didn’t have the time,” she said, pointing out that dealers now have to work harder.

Marc Payot, president and partner at Hauser & Wirth, said slower times can help build better relationships.

We have always done well when the market was not as hot,” Payot said. He also mentioned that the gallery sold more pieces on the first day of this year’s fair than last year.

Art Basel’s Influence and Future Prospects

Art Basel remains a significant event in the art world, attracting attention from all over the world, not just Europe.

Overall, the first day of Art Basel showed that the art market can adapt and stay strong, even when things are uncertain.

The slower pace of the fair ended up being a blessing in disguise. It allowed for better relationships and a focus on high-quality art, which is good news for both artists and collectors.

Art Basel continues until Sunday, offering more opportunities to assess the art market’s health and direction, which should help provide valuable insights into the industry’s future.

Grace Angelique

Grace Angelique

An accomplished Art News Journalist with a decade of experience, Grace has covered global art events, exhibitions, and emerging trends. Her work has graced major publications, offering readers a fresh perspective on contemporary art and its evolving landscape.

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