Art Basel

Hefty sales, big crowds at Miami Art Week fairs

Art Basel Miami Beach 2018 opens serenely in newly revamped venue

Art Basel Miami Beach opened on Wednesday morning, Dec. 4, 2018, to the very VIPS invited to the fair for an early look-see. There was no mad crush at the door, no unseemly Black Friday-like rush to the booths as in former years.
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Art Basel Miami Beach opened on Wednesday morning, Dec. 4, 2018, to the very VIPS invited to the fair for an early look-see. There was no mad crush at the door, no unseemly Black Friday-like rush to the booths as in former years.

Art gallerists are heading home this week with thicker wallets after Sunday’s wrap of Miami’s annual art week.

At Art Basel Miami Beach, veteran gallerists from Europe, Latin America and the U.S. applauded this year’s strong sales and completion of the Miami Beach Convention Center renovation, which resulted in roomier booths with increased space for art.

“The outcome surpassed our expectations a lot,” said Fred Snitzer, a Miami gallerist who has offered works every year since the fair launched in 2002. “The feedback I’ve gotten was that the quality was excellent and the quality of the venue was excellent.”

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Snitzer said he sold about 70 percent of the pieces he took to the fair, including by Cuban-American Hernan Bas and South Korea’s Hiejin Yoo.

New York’s Hammer Galleries said this year was the gallery’s best Miami year yet. The firm sold a 1980 Marc Chagall painting that carried an asking price of $3.6 million.

“Though Art Basel is mostly thought of as a contemporary fair, we always have a wonderful response to the classic modernist works that we bring,” said Howard Shaw, gallery president, in a statement.

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Philip Guston’s “Shoe Head”, 1976, sold for $7.5 million at Art Basel 2018. Hauser & Wirth gallery, Art Basel

The most expensive sale reported at Art Basel was a 1976 Philip Guston painting called “Shoe Head” for $7.5 million. It helped to contribute to total sales of more than $2.5 billion, according to estimates by art insurance company AXA ART.

About 83,000 people visited Art Basel Miami Beach over the event’s five days, said the fair’s organizers. Galleries are not required to report sales to Art Basel organizers, who charge only for booth space.

At both Art Basel and Art Miami, blue-chip artworks rode a wave of strong sales at the major auctions. The highlight of New York’s November sales was the record-breaking price of $91.9 million for Edward Hoppers “Chop Suey” at Christie’s auction house.

Miami’s oldest art fair, Art Miami, broke its previous attendance records, drawing 84,000 visitors. Director Nick Korniloff said $1 million-plus, traditional works sold well, among them Sigmar Polke’s 2007 “Women” for $3.8 million, Henry Moore’s 1946 “Reclining Figure” for $1 million.

But collectors also plopped down their credit cards for living artists like Kaws and Shepard Fairey.

“It seemed that as long as [collectors] felt that the work had future ability to increase in value, they were acquiring,” he said.

Other art fairs — often called satellite or parallel fairs — also reported strong sales.

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Fernanda López’s “Modos de Calzar,” 2014, on display at Pinta. PINTA Miami 2018

Pinta, set this year in Wynwood, reported record attendance with 42,000 visitors compared to last year’s 30,000, said Pinta projects director Ari Gonzales Vigil. He was pleased with the turnout from powerhouse art institutions like the Moma San Francisco, MALBA in Buenos Aires and the Tate Modern. The Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, run by Miami collector Ella Cisneros, acquired an art installation by Chilean artist Fernanda López at Pinta. The installation features a pair of boots that tilt the foot in the opposite direction of a high-heeled shoe, and a video of the artist attempting to walk in them.

Visitors flocked to Pulse Miami Beach, a contemporary art fair in its 14th year, to see many issue-driven works and interactive models. Doug Kacena, owner of K Contemporary in Denver, said he would definitely be coming back to Pulse next year after “strong sales” at his gallery this year.

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Jay Durrah, an artist from Maryland, sold his painting at the Spectrum art fair during Miami Art Week. Jay Durrah

A charity auction held by Sotheby’s and Bono’s organization in support of HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa, RED, at the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District raised $10.5 million, including $5.5 million in matching funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Artist Theaster Gates of Chicago set a personal record with the sale of his work “A Flag for the Least of Them” for $807,000.

Jay Durrah, an artist from Maryland, came to the Spectrum fair in Wynwood for the first time this year. He sold one of his paintings for $750 to a couple from Atlanta.

“I would come back,” said Durrah. “I was pleased with the foot traffic and pleased with the contacts that I got with clients and other artists.”

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