Apollo Magazine

Optimism at Art Basel in Miami Beach

Dealers are optimistic that sales will be strong despite a more muted atmosphere than previous years; plus the latest art market news and comment

Art Basel in Miami Beach opens | The contemporary art world has descended on the 15th Art Basel in Miami Beach (1–4 December) and, more than any other fair, coverage is as concerned with which parties to crash as it is with the best art on show. Post-election queasiness going into November’s New York auctions was allayed by surprisingly solid results, and exhibitors hope this bodes well. As Galerie Gmurzynska’s Mathias Rastorfer comments, ‘2016 has thrown a lot of unexpected political results at us, resulting in a less exuberantly growing but robust art market, especially for modern and classic contemporary’.

For the first time, the fair has its own ‘Director Americas’ in Noah Horowitz, former director of New York’s Armory Show – perhaps a signifier of the fair’s increasing independence from the original Art Basel. Miami is, says Rastorfer, ‘distinctly different from Basel and very different from Hong Kong’, with a ‘unique mix of North and South American galleries and collectors, with the top international galleries thrown into the mix.’

London dealer Stephen Friedman will wait to ‘to observe how the fair unfolds in light of the recent election result’ but remains ‘positive and buoyant going into the fair, as it is difficult to predict buying patterns in our industry. History has proven that the contemporary art market is relatively resilient during times of political and economic uncertainty.’

Tuesday’s VIP preview was, thinks Art News slightly more muted than the frenzy of previous years. But it’s all relative: Hauser & Wirth (which likes publishing a slew of results at fairs) reported the sale of a new mixed media work on canvas by LA-based artist Mark Bradford’s for $2 million, as well as The Opaque (1947), an oil by Arshile Gorky, shown publicly for the first time since 1965.

Quadrato Novo (2016), Luiz Zerbini. Courtesy Luiz Zerbini and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Latin American focus | For obvious geographical reasons, there’s always a large proportion of Latin American artists at Art Basel in Miami Beach. Stephen Friedman’s interest in Latin American art stretches back to when he launched his gallery more than 20 years ago, inspired by meeting the late Brazilian art dealer and collector Marcantonio Vilaça in the mid 1990s. Rivane Neuenschwander was the first Brazilian artist to have a solo exhibition at the gallery in 1997. On the Miami stand this year are works by Luiz Zerbini, a Brazilian artist who exhibited in New York for the first time this year at Frieze and who will have his first show in Europe at Friedman’s gallery in February. Sales on the stand yesterday included two works by Argentine artist Manuel Espinosa (1912–2006) for $200,000 and $125,000.

Virginia Dwan (1964), Dennis Hopper © Dennis Hopper, Courtesy of The Hopper Art Trust

The women who made modern art modern | One of the shoal of Art Basel Miami Beach satellite fairs is X Contemporary, founded in 2015 and this year held at the brand new Nobu Hotel Miami Beach. A small fair of 35 galleries, it runs until 4 December and is centred around an interesting exhibition titled ‘The Women Who Made Modern Art Modern’. Curated by Michael Klein, the exhibition includes 40 works that passed through the galleries of influential female dealers in the ’ 40s, ’50s and ’60s, including Betty Parsons, Jill Kornblee, Grace Borgenicht, Virginia Dwan, Peggy Guggenheim and Marian Willard.

Construction No 95 (1919), Alexander Rodchenko. Image courtesy Sotheby’s

Record for Rodchenko | The Russian art market is not the strong beast of 10 years ago but this week’s Russian Art Week in London produced an artist record for Alexander Rodchenko’s Construction No. 95, sold for £3.6 million to a Russian collector. The early avant-garde work from 1919 came from a single-owner collection of Russian avant-garde works that opened Sotheby’s 29 November sale of Russian paintings. The previous record for Rodchenko – £420,000 ($646,000) for a 1917 watercolour sold at Sotheby’s New York last year – was surprisingly low for an artist of such renown.

Paris fairs | It’s been a year of change for the Biennale des Antiquaires, Paris’s once immovable grande dame of a fair. After deciding to become a yearly event, in the summer the Biennale was rocked by the fake furniture scandal that saw the departure of two exhibitors, the Kraemer and Aaron galleries. Then the launch of another, possibly rival fair Fine Arts Paris next November drew criticism from the organisers. Now, the Paris-based dealer Mathias Ary Jan takes over as president of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires from Dominique Chevalier, who was responsible for the changes at the Biennale… which has also been renamed La Biennale Paris.

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