Picasso, Basquiat Top Sales in $2 Billion Art-Market Test

Picasso, Basquiat and de Kooning works sold for $4 million or more as collectors took their pick of as much as $2 billion worth of art in London.

As the U.K. fairs closed last night, many of the biggest sales were at the Frieze Masters event. Frieze Week is the art world’s biggest concentration of commercial fairs, public sales and dealer shows primarily devoted to contemporary works.

“It’s a lot to absorb,” Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the Mayfair-based Fine Art Fund, said in an interview. “In New York, you just concentrate on the sales. In London, it’s difficult with Frieze and all the gallery openings to focus on one event.”

This year’s line-up was bigger than ever, with more than 900 lots up for auction and 30 galleries added to the second edition of Frieze Masters, showing high-value modern and historic works.

This week, dealers and collectors reconvene in Paris for the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC). In November, Sotheby’s, Christie’s International and Phillips will auction flagship selections of postwar and contemporary art in New York.

At Frieze Masters, which opened to VIPs in Regent’s Park on Oct. 15, New York-based Acquavella Galleries sold Picasso’s 1961 painting “Femme assise au chapeau” to the Greek collector Dimitri Mavromatis for $7 million.

Kooning Abstract

Fellow New Yorkers, Mnuchin Gallery, debuting at Frieze Masters, had a buyer for a 1983 De Kooning abstract priced at $8 million. Van de Weghe Fine Art and Vedovi Gallery were successful with 1980s Basquiat paintings priced at $4.3 million and just less than $5 million respectively.

A redesigned, more spacious Frieze found buyers for new works by younger living artists priced in the $20,000 to $200,000 range, its unique selling point for the past 11 years.

At Frieze, a solo installation of five pastel paintings by the Russian-born Kon Trubkovich sold out on the booth of the Marianne Boesky Gallery from New York at the preview on Oct.16. Inspired by images of worn-out video tapes, these were priced at $40,000 to $60,000.

More expensive works, particularly by fashionable names from last contemporary art boom, struggled to find buyers.

As Frieze drew to a close, there were no confirmed sales on the booth of Gagosian, which was showing five works by Jeff Koons. These included the stainless steel “Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta),” (1994-2007), part of the U.S.-based artist’s “Celebration” series, and according to dealers priced at about $22 million.

Murakami, Mueck

The unique Takashi Murakami sculpture “Naked Self-Portrait with Pom (Gold),” priced at $950,000 on the booth of the Paris-based dealer Perrotin, was still available, as was Ron Mueck’s hyper-realistic “Woman with Shopping Bags” for 550,000 pounds ($890,000) at Hauser & Wirth.

Dealers at Frieze and at the Pavilion of Art & Design in Berkeley Square, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed resentment and said Frieze Masters was a “distraction.” They said that reservations on works for the VIP day of Frieze had been canceled after the opening of Masters and that with so many events to cover, buyers weren’t making return visits.

Other dealers said collectors were simply researching prices at Frieze and other fairs before buying at auction.

Christie’s drew a capacity crowd for its evening auction of contemporary art, mainly by living artists, on Oct. 18. It found buyers for 91 percent of 54 lots. The total of 27.8 million pounds with fees was toward the upper end of the estimate.

Glenn Brown

As at Sotheby’s the previous evening, a sci-fi inspired painting by the British artist Glenn Brown took the top price. “Bocklin’s Tomb (Copied From “Floating Cities” by Chris Foss),” dating from 1981, sold to a telephone bidder for 2.3 million pounds, underbid in the room by the London-based private dealer Ivor Braka.

Auction prices for the Colombian-born painter Oscar Murillo, hailed by some as the new Jean-Michel Basquiat, settled down to under $350,000 in London after spiking at a record $401,000 at Phillips last month in New York. At Christie’s, at least half a dozen bidders pushed the 2011 abstract “Untitled (Leche)” to 152,500 pounds against an upper estimate of 30,000 pounds.

On the same night as Christie’s sale, Murillo was holding a lottery draw at a Colombian bar in Elephant and Castle district of London. The artist had sold 99 hand-painted tickets priced at 2,500 pounds each to benefit the South London Gallery. The hitherto-secret winning prize was revealed as a “memory trip to Colombia”, consisting postcards, photos and other memorabilia compiled by Murillo.

African Art

The inaugural 1:54 fair devoted to contemporary African art also made an impact among Frieze Week's satellite events. Featuring 15 dealers in the stately Georgian setting of Somerset House, the event attracted plenty of collectors, drawn by emerging talents such as Angola’s Edson Chagas, who won the Golden Lion for his nation’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale in June -- and affordable price points.

By the half-way point of the fair, Brescia-based dealer A Palazzo had sold more than 10 of Chagas's limited-edition photographs of Luanda, priced at 5,000 euros ($6,843) each. The London-based Jack Bell Gallery had sold 17 pieces priced from 1,500 pounds to 12,000 pounds.

Muse highlights include Warwick Thompson on London theater, Elin McCoy on wine and Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater.

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