Art Basel, the premier international art fair that takes place annually in Switzerland, returned for its 2022 edition, which had its VIP opening on Wednesday morning. 289 exhibitors drew crowds to the fair’s exhibition site at Messe Basel, to which mega-dealers such as David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth brought some of their most blue-chip items.
With dealers reporting an energetic return to the art market’s heralded summer enterprise, many pieces sold in the mid- and high six figures. For sales of works by both historical artists active in the 20th century to those working now, Dominique Lévy, co-founder of New York’s recently-merged gallery LGDR remarked “business is thoughtful but brisk.”
Below, a look at some of the sales galleries said they made on the preview day of this year’s edition of Art Basel, which runs through Sunday.
1.Louise Bourgeois at Hauser & Wirth
Presiding over the galleries section of the fair at the Hauser & Wirth’s booth is an 11-foot-tall metal sculpture of a spider produced by Louise Bourgeois. It is one of several examples from the artist’s series of oversized steel arachnids, rendered in poses standing and wall-mounted.
The Swiss-based gallery, which represents the French-American artist’s estate, reported on the opening day of the fair that it sold the sculpture for $40 million. Reports from fairgoers attending in person later revealed the monumental piece had remained in the collection of Ursula Hauser, mother of one of the dealer’s founders, since the 1990s.
Among the other highly-valued works to sell from the dealer’s booth was a 1948 pencil and charcoal drawing on paper titled The Betrothal by Armenian-American artist Arshile Gorky. It sold for a price of $5.5 million. Others by Mark Bradford, Philip Guston, Frank Bowling and Francis Picabia sold for prices over $3 million.
2.Félix González-Torres at David Zwirner
Featured in mega-dealer David Zwirner’s booth were some long-established art historical fixtures, whose works dating back to the 1990s brought in large sums. The most expensive of the works Zwirner brought was by Cuban-American artist and activist Félix González-Torres, whose estate Zwirner took over representation of in 2017. The 1992 light sculpture, Untitled (Tim Hotel), a single electrical cord holding 42 light bulbs that hangs from a nail suspended from the ceiling sold for $12.5 million to an Asian collection.
Another two works by Marlene Dumas, who is the subject of a current survey at the Venice Biennale’s Palazzo Grassi, brought in multi-million dollar prices. One canvas produced in 1994 and the other in 2013 and each depicting the South African artist’s crudely-rendered grey-scaled figures sold for $8.5 million and $2.6 million, respectively. The dealer reported each had sold to “major” European collections.
Other works by Oscar Murillo, Jordan Wolfson, Steven Shearer, Elizabeth Peyton, Alice Neel and Josef Albers sold at prices between $350,000 to $1.5 million.
3.Willem de Kooning at LDGR
Among the most expensive works included in a booth run by LGDR, a New York-based gallery that saw power dealers Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn join forces last year, was by American abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning. The four-dealer enterprise sold a 1970s work on paper that is mounted to canvas by the artist, which sold around its asking price of $2.9 million.
Among the other works it sold by artists whose careers peaked decades ago were Pierre Soulages, Leonor Fini, Keith Haring, and Günther Uecker, and more recent examples by Mickalene Thomas, Derrick Adams, and Magdalene Odundo.
4.Lynda Benglis at Xavier Hufkens
A grail among the grouping that Brussels-based gallery Xavier Hufkens took to this year’s edition of the fair was Lynda Benglis’s golden bronze sculpture Power Tower (2019). Benglis has since the 1960s become known for her poured-latex and metallic sculptures that take on free forms—a style that deviated from the works once produced by the artist’s minimalist peers.
Selling the work for $1.2 million on the opening day, the dealer placed sculptures and wall-mounted neons by Thomas Houseago and Tracey Emin, as well as paintings by Thierry De Cordier, McArthur Binion, Nicolas Party, Lesley Vance, Sayre Gomez and Matt Connors for prices between $52,000 and $500,000.
5.Robert Rauschenberg at Thaddaeus Ropac
Anchoring the booth for Thaddaeus Ropac, which has locations spanning London, Paris, Salzburg and Seoul, two paintings by Robert Rauschenberg produced in 1985 and 1982, respectively were among the most valuable that sold.
Street Contract / ROCI MEXICO, a silkscreened collage painting that the artist produced as part of a series of paintings and wall reliefs made for the a cultural-exchange project he founded in Mexico City in 1985 went for $3.5 million. Another of his 1980s works, All Abordello Doze 2 (Japanese Recreational Claywork), a rendering of two entangled and bed-bound nude figures overlaid with images of Japanese script and a table still-life sold for $1.5 million.
Works by Sturtevant, Martha Jungwirth and Roy Lichtenstein were also sold.
6.Hannah Wilke at Alison Jacques
At the London-based gallery Alison Jacques, which touts its roster as being focused primarily on under-represented artists, many of whom are women, a 1976 sculptural work by American multi-hyphenate provocateur Hannah Wilke was among the top sales. Titled Rosebud, Wilke made the work out of poured nude-colored latex, the layered pieces of which take on a florid form and make allusions to the body, as many of Wilke’s works did. It sold for $1.5 million, a price that rivals the mid-size dealer’s blue-chip peers.
In addition to sales of works by Sophie Barber and Maria Bartuszová, the gallery sold others by Sheila Hicks, Erika Verzutti, Graham Little and Robert Mapplethorpe at prices between $35,000 and $160,000.
7.William Copley at Kasmin
Kasmin dedicated a booth in the fair’s Feature section to painted panels and sculptures by American artist William N. Copley that he produced during a decade long stint in Paris. Being self-taught, Copley completed the works between the 1950s to 1960s during a pivotal period in which he began honing the satirical and sexual imagery for which his style became known. Copley relocated to Paris in 1951 from Los Angeles, with his work eventually forging links between Surrealist styles circulating in Europe and Pop art in the U.S.
On the opening day of the fair Kasmin sold three works from the booth at prices between $300,000-$425,000, including the 1957 painting Fête Foraine, which references avante-garde circles and the northern French commune of Longpont where Copley picked up some of his main influences.