June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Leonardo DiCaprio and Roman Abramovich were among the VIPs at a bullish preview to the Art Basel fair in Switzerland, where a $12 million Alexander Calder mobile was among the rush of early sales.
The Hollywood star and Russian billionaire, browsing separately, had more than $2 billion of art to choose from. The world’s biggest fair devoted to 20th and 21st century works is seen by many international collectors as the one must-attend event in an increasingly crowded calendar.
“With regulators turning their attention to tax havens, we’re seeing more and more money released into art,” the New York-based adviser Todd Levin said. “What we’re witnessing is a melt-up of the market.”
The London-based dealer Helly Nahmad sold Calder’s 1961 red mobile “Sumac,” priced at $12 million, to an unidentified client. Two white slashed canvases by Lucio Fontana, both marked at $2.5 million, were also among the gallery’s early sales. The dealer’s New York-based namesake, who has been charged with racketeering and money laundering, didn’t attend the fair.
The New York dealer Dominique Levy sold the 1966 Robert Ryman canvas, “Untitled, or The Painting of the Mysterious Shadow,” for more than $7 million.
Levy, exhibiting at Basel for the first time under her own name, also attracted a reserve on a blue and orange 1992 “Abstraktes Bild” by Gerhard Richter, priced at $20 million.
“If dealers want to tempt collectors to consign works to them, rather than the auction houses, they have to offer big money,” the London dealer Emanuel von Baeyer said. “Though the prices can seem high, the next round of auctions can go higher.”
Expectations were great among the 304 exhibitors at this year’s 44th edition. Dealers make an effort to hold back their best pieces for Art Basel.
Three works by U.S artist Rudolf Stingel priced at $2 million sold -- at Massimo De Carlo, Sadie Coles and at Gagosian: a larger abstract bought by Montreal collector Francois Odermatt.
“When people feel that the values of certain artists are going to increase, they jump on the bandwagon,” Odermatt said at the booth of Gagosian, where Abramovich was viewing big-ticket works by Jeff Koons, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
The multi-gallery dealership Hauser & Wirth and New York-based Cheim & Read were among the exhibitors reporting their best-ever start to Art Basel.
Hauser sold the 2013 work “Hairy Bottom,” priced at $725,000, by the U.S. painter Mark Bradford; Cheim found a Swiss buyer for a 1956 “Untitled” canvas by the France-based Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell, marked at $6 million.
Other big sales included Zurich-based Galerie Gmurzynska’s Yves Klein “F 38,” with the asking price of $2.8 million, and Joan Miro’s “Composition,” with an asking price of $1.6 million. Paris- and Salzburg-based Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac sold the 1977 painting “Terrarium” by James Rosenquist for $2 million.
Art Basel’s VIP previews began yesterday and the fair closes on June 16. Information: https://www.artbasel.com/
Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on the art market, Robert Heller on pop, Ryan Sutton on New York dining, Philip Boroff on theater and Jorg von Uthmann on Paris culture.
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