Art Basel

Despite Zika and Trump, Art Basel boasts a strong showing

Crowds at the Rubell Family Collection in Wynwood, which announced it will build a new facility in Allapattah.
Crowds at the Rubell Family Collection in Wynwood, which announced it will build a new facility in Allapattah.

In a year of upheaval — Zika, Brexit, a grueling U.S. presidential election — art stands strong.

The barometer was Miami Art Week. A week ago, anchor fair Art Basel and the many satellite fairs seemed headed for a less-than-stellar 15th anniversary. Zika visitor warnings were still in place is some areas. Economies worldwide were wobbling. The U.S. had just elected Donald Trump in an unexpected turn to a long and grueling election year.

But Miami Art Week pulled through, with premier fair Art Basel in Miami Beach matching the 2015 attendance of 77,000, Art Basel officials said Monday. Art Miami and sister fair CONTEXT attracted 78,500, down about 500 from 2015.

Exhibitors reported smaller crowds throughout the week (a welcome change for some who have complained about packed hallways at the Miami Beach Convention Center in the past). But those who did come were ready to open their wallets, gallerists said.

This year’s Art Basel in Miami Beach has been much better than we expected from start to finish.

Johann König, owner and founder of the König Galerie in Berlin

The top reported sale at Basel was a large-scale Lee Krasner painting titled “Storm,” which sold for $6 million to a private collector. The sum was less than half of last year’s biggest sale: a $15 million Francis Bacon oil from 1954 titled “Man in Blue VI.” (Participating galleries are not required to report sales to organizers, although many do so.)

Other sales with a seven-figure price tag this year: a $2 million 40 foot-by-40 foot Roxy Paine commissioned work, a $2 million Mark Bradford mixed media piece on canvas, a $1.4 million Giorgio Morandi oil painting from 1948 titled “Natura morta,” and a $1.2 million Yoshimoto Nara acrylic on wood, “Broken Heart Bench.”

“The steady flow of visitors and level of serious collectors this year has allowed us to do very well,” said Xavier Hufkens, whose Brussels-based gallery sold a $950,000 Paul McCarthy sculpture, in a statement. “We were not overwhelmed with crowds and are very happy to have doubled our business from last year.”

Mary Cork, director of Pilar Corrias in London called it their “best fair of 2016.”

77,000 Attendance at Art Basel 2016, on par with the show in 2015

At Art Miami, a $1 million Josef Albers oil on masonite, “Desert Dusk,” from 1958 sold in the first 10 seconds of the show, setting the tone for the week. The fair also sold a $2.5 million Gerhard Richter painting, a $1.1 million Robert Rauschenberg painting and a $900,000 John Chamberlain sculpture.

Galleries including Simon Capstick-Dale and Klein Sun, both New York-based, reported five and six-figure transactions. UK-based Osborne Samuels, although reporting not having one of its best years, sold several six- and seven-figure pieces.

Art Miami, now in its 27th year, announced last week that it will expand and move to the former Miami Herald site on Biscayne Bay for Art Week 2017, leaving its 10-year home in Midtown. The museum’s namesake, Jorge Pérez, took home Art Miami’s Lifetime Achievement award.

On Miami Beach at the UNTITLED fair, the top sale was Leo Villareal’s “Buckyball,” a 30-inch-tall geodesic sculpture that went for $55,000. Other major sales included KAWS’ “Permanent Thirty-Three” — painted-bronze head sculptures — to a private collection in Hong Kong for $50,000 and Tess Jaray’s “Changing Blues to Scarlet” painting, which sold within the first 30 minutes of the show for about $50,000 to a private collection in Hong Kong.

Chicago-based Monique Meloche Gallery revealed Sunday at the UNTITLED tent that Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson will have a solo show at the Pérez Art Museum Miami beginning November 2018 as part of the museum’s Focus Galleries.

The steady flow of visitors and level of serious collectors this year has allowed us to do very well. We were not overwhelmed with crowds and are very happy to have doubled our business from last year.

Xavier Hufkens, founder and owner of Brussels-based gallery Xavier Hufkens

Although sales are critical to a fair’s success, the week brought many once-in-a-lifetime, sometimes-quirky experiences. At Satellite in the Parisian Hotel on Miami Beach, performance artists Jen Catron & Paul Outlaw alternated floating in a “cereal bowl” in the hotel lobby, while upstairs a group of printmakers showed patrons how to create works, New Hampshire’s Rick Skogsberg offered hand-painted shoes and a consortium offered pole-dancing lessons. At the Fondation Beyeler booth in Art Basel, 20 pounds of pasta were cooked up daily to fill the mock-studio apartment exhibit by the Toilet Paper collective.

Real estate and art often go together, and this year was no exception. Developer Edouardo Costantini and artist Jeff Koons used the week to unveil two sensuous Koons sculptures incorporated into the Oceana condo in Bal Harbour. The Related Group hosted events including the RUSH Foundation auction and a PAMM dinner at its newly opened SLS Brickell. And in the Faena District in mid-Miami Beach, the Faena Time Capsule, video works by Coral Morphologic, artist talks and a performance by rapper Kendrick Lamar as part of its district launch festivities.

And for one lucky buyer, one only-in-2016 experience is still up for grabs.

A former Trump campaign bus — decorated in anti-Trump slogans — that was rejected by one fair and eventually displayed in Wynwood, is still available on eBay for $150,000. Serious inquiries from anyone “threatened or bullied by Donald Trump” only, please.

This story was updated from a previous version.

Jane Wooldridge contributed to this report.

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