Art Basel 2019

Art Basel is one of the most influential art fairs in the world and is represented by 290 galleries from 34 countries. Almost 100,000 people headed to Basel in Switzerland to find out what the best world galleries had to offer.

Jeff Koons

Among the names at the 50th edition of Art Basel VIP opening was singer Rihanna, megacollectors Leon Black, Eugenio López Alonso, Jean Pigozzi, and Monaco based art collectors Laurent Asscher and Maurice Amon.

Rihanna at Art Basel

The most scale-striking and discussed artwork was the massive Jeff Koons stainless steel sculpture Sacred Heart (magenta/gold) with an asking price of $14.5 million. The artist has proven to be the most expensive living artist at auction with his $91 million Rabbit sculpture, which was sold at auction last year by mega-collector Steven Cohen.

Art Basel recorded a new record sale with David Zwirner Gerhard Richter’s 1966 photo painting Versammlung, which sold for $20 million. The piece has been in a private collection since 1970 and is fresh to the market. The gallery also sold a large 1967 painting by Joan Mitchell for more than $6 million.

Richter

Landau Fine Art from Montreal represented one of the most affecting masterworks of the fair, Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Caroline’ 1963, with an asking price of $18.5 million.

Hauser & Wirth representing the John Chamberlain estate sold its sculpture for $3 million and a Louis Bourgeois sculpture for around $2 million. The most expensive works presented at their booth was by Cy Twombly and Lucio Fontana (no official report on the sales of the latter).

The Art Basel fair opened just a few weeks after the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, and one art-market adage is “See in Venice, buy in Basel”, as many works featured in Venice appear in the booths at Basel.

The #MeToo Movement has been widely represented at the art fair, with the Unlimited section focussing heavily on sexual harassment at work place, which sparked numerous negative and positive reactions. Many women who were the collective image in artworks at Unlimited were survivors and had been through a lot before they decided to come forward. Andrea Bower’s work Open Secret documented international movements against sexual harassment and assault based on approximately 200 photographic prints on a red background listing the name and occupation of the accused person.

Hans-Peter Feldmann

Another strongly representational work was ‘Sex Doll’ by Hans-Peter Feldmann with the Mehdi Chouakri (Berlin) gallery and an asking price of 100,000 euros.

‘Gender pay gap’ was another topic discussed at the fair. Living female artists are nowadays making the historical correction of underrepresentation of female artists throughout art history and it was clearly seen at the fair from mega galleries like David Zwirner to smaller ones.

Mary Weatherford has been extremely contested among 20 to 30 collectors at Gagosian gallery who sold it to a distinguished European collector for just under $500,000.

Andrea Bower Open Secret installation on show
Andrea Bower Open Secret installation on show

Another painting was also sold for $400,000 to a foundation in Asia at David Kordansky Gallery (Los Angeles). Hauser & Wirth represent approximately 30 to 40 female artists in their gallery, similar to the David Zwirner gallery which has 50/50% gender representation of both living artists and the estates that the gallery represent.

However, on average across all galleries the gender representation is 30% women and 70% men. Of the 100 top-selling artists, only five are women.

By Liliya Tippetts

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