Elbows were flying as crowds descended upon the VIP preview of Art Basel in Switzerland early this week. Showcasing $1.75 billion worth of modern and contemporary art from 300 top-tier galleries, the 42nd edition of the fair may host upwards of 60,000 people through June 19.
It was a buying bonanza for choice artworks priced in the six-and seven-figures, with dealers likening it to the heady days before the 2008 financial melt-down. Swift sales included an orange abstraction by Mark Rothko, priced at $5.5 million, from New York-based L & M Arts.
New York's David Zwirner gallery sold a huge installation of Fred Sandback sculptures at almost $500,000 as well as the late Jason Rhoades' 96 dangling neon signs of suggestive words, priced nearly $1 million.
A black wall sculpture by Anish Kapoor went for 550,000 pounds at Lisson Gallery while two of Andy Warhol's screen-printed boxes of Campbell’s Tomato Juice, priced at $1.1 million, were snapped up from Zurich dealer Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Bloomberg reports.
Damien Hirst's 2008 piece "Nothingness," made of glass, steel, MDF, aluminum and drug packaging was a draw at the White Cube gallery booth.
Marlborough Fine Art, of London and New York, reportedly has a few major Francis Bacon oils, priced in the tens of millions, with one placed on reserve during the preview.
While attendees flocked to the Gagosian stand to see Maurizio Cattelan’s wax-work sculpture of two policemen standing on their heads, which is rumored to have been sold, art critic Blake Gopnik says he was drawn to the meaty substance of underground work made under communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
Gopnik writes in the Daily Beast that dealer Gregor Podnar was showing so-called Iron Curtain art such as "a lovely 1970s series of photos in which the Croatian artist Goran Trbuljak took an image of signage from the supermarket chain “Konzum,” and crudely retouched it to read “conceptual” instead – as though he could imagine the kind of art he made posing a challenge to consumerism, as even communism couldn’t."