Art Basel in Basel: Asian collectors shopping for art in Europe – round-up

Art Basel in Basel confirms growing interest and wealth of Asian collectors shopping in Europe.

Running simultaneously with the Venice Biennale and documenta 14, the 48th edition of Art Basel in Basel reported exceptional sales across all sectors and a stronger influx of Asian buyers. Art Radar takes a look at the details. 

Art Basel, 2017.

Art Basel in Basel, 2017.

Gallery sales highlights

The number of millionaires globally “has increased dramatically since 2000 (rising 155% to 2016), and among them, those with wealth over $50 million have risen the fastest (by over 215%)”, according to The Art Market | 2017 report, with much of that growth happening in emerging markets and particularly Asia. Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s sales results certainly seemed to confirm the growing wealth in the Asia region: the gallery’s highest selling work – a Robert Rauschenberg painting – sold to an Asian buyer for over USD1 million. In an interview with Artsy Rupac stated:

We’re selling more works to Asian collectors for sure. We’re working very closely with them building their collections, and they’re really understanding the value of work, often by artists that aren’t in the most mainstream collections.

Galerie Ropac Booth. Image courtesy Art Basel.

Galerie Ropac Booth. Image courtesy Art Basel.

Vice President of Hauser & Wirth affirmed that 2017 was their most successful year ever. Within the first few hours of the fair Hauser & Wirth’s Eva Hesse work No title (1961) sold to a Chinese museum for USD2.5 million. Highlighting the interest of Chinese institutions in their works to the Art Basel press team, he stated:

The high energy of the fair combined with an incredibly diverse collector base meant we placed work in collections from Europe to the United States to institutions in China, and were active across the spectrum of our program – from multimillion dollar Modern masters to more modestly priced new work.

Other galleries also celebrated the sale of represented artists’ work to institutions and museums. Neil Dundas, senior curator at South Africa’s Goodman Gallery said to Artsy:

It is true many of the big museums are suffering budget cuts, but they’re looking to private people to help fund major acquisitions.

Nolan Oswald Dennis, 'Furthermore', 2016, exhibition view at Goodman Gallery. Image courtesy Goodman Gallery.

Nolan Oswald Dennis, ‘Furthermore’, 2016, exhibition view at Goodman Gallery. Image courtesy Goodman Gallery.

South Africa’s Goodman Gallery reported healthy sales of work by all represented artists. Work by established photographer David Goldblatt sold like hot cakes, while audiences and buyers affirmed the rising commercial and critical value of South African artist Nolan Oswald Dennis’s work by snapping up everything the gallery had. The young artist’s wall mural installation entitled Excerpt: Constellations (Black Liberation Zodiac) (2017) was reportedly bought by collector of contemporary African art and photographer Jean Pigozzi for EUR20,000. William Kentridge’s video Soft Dictionary (2016) also sold for USD180,000 and Ghada Amer’s The Grid of 2017 – RFGA (2017) went for USD150,000.

Seoul- and New York-based Kukje Gallery / Tina Kim Gallery’s positive report on the positive reception of Park Chan-kyong also hinted at the success of Asian artists at this year’s fair. Founder Hyun-Sook Lee’s commented:

Park Chan-kyong’s work presented in the Unlimited sector is deeply rooted in Korean culture, we were extremely astonished how well the visitors received it.

Qu Kejie, Founder of Beijing’s Magician Space (Beijing), also reported healthy sales of Chinese artist Wang Shang’s new work at the fair.

Maha Maamoun, 'The Subduer', 2017, installation. Image courtesy the artist and Gypsum Gallery.

Maha Maamoun, ‘The Subduer’, 2017, installation. Image courtesy the artist and Gypsum Gallery.

Programme and sector highlights 

Statement’s sector – which offers visitors and collectors the opportunity to discover work by emerging artists presented by 18 young galleries – selected first time participant Gypsum Gallery – a Cairo based non-profit space. The gallery’s director Aleya Hamza spoke about the positive reception of the Egyptian artist Maha Maamoun, commenting:

Maha Maamoun’s piece generated intense responses and it’s very rewarding to see her work get this much validation from collectors and curators alike.

Consisting of 34 film and video works, presented by the show’s participating galleries, Art Basel’s Film programme was curated for the third year by Cairo-based film curator Maxa Zoller. Heavily influenced by today’s political events, highlights from this year’s programme included: the European premiere of He Xiangyu’s new film The Swim (2017) and works by Kader Attia, Maha Maamoun, Ana Mendieta, Mohau Modisakeng, la ribot and Zineb Sedira (to mention a few of the critically acclaimed).

Samson Kambalu, 'Nyau Western: American Psychogeographicals' (2017), multimedia installation. Image courtesy the artist.

Samson Kambalu, ‘Nyau Western: American Psychogeographicals’ (2017), multimedia installation. Image courtesy the artist.

In the Unlimited sector, which allows artists and galleries to create and present ambitious large-scale works that transcend the traditional art-fair stand, stand out works by Anicka Yi, Park Chan-kyong, Subodh Gupta and Phyllida Barlow could be seen. Other critically acclaimed works presented at the fair included Malawi-born, London-based artist Samson Kambalu’s Nyau Western: American Psychogeographicals (2017), which were on sale at London’s Kate Macgarry Gallery for USD10,000 apiece or USD57,000 for the whole cycle.

Rebecca Close

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