The mood at Miami Basel is a bit subdued this year—attendance is down and sales are happening more slowly, as I reported on Wednesday. On the other hand, the opening yesterday of NADA Miami Beach, which specializes in emerging artists, was as frenetic as ever. This leads to an intriguing question: How are things going at Nova, the sector of Art Basel Miami Beach devoted exclusively to the new and the young, where dealers can only show up to three artists and the work on offer must be no more than three years old? Well, it appears sales there have been proceeding apace, with a focus on freshness and more modest price points luring in collectors.
Clearing, which is based in Bushwick and Brussels and showing at Miami Basel for the first time, sold out its booth rather quickly, with works by Harold Ancart pre-sold for $30,000 and $45,000, and two large sculptures by Korakrit Arunanondchai (only one of which was installed in the booth) selling for $75,000. There was talk that people were literally running to the booth Wednesday morning to snag one of the works—a common sight in years past, but something that was basically not happening at all this year. (“We didn’t see anyone out of breath,” a gallery assistant told me, smiling.)
“We sold it all to the best people,” Clearing’s proprietor, Olivier Babin, said.
I asked if the demand for Ancarts had anything to do with the truly remarkable performance by one of his works at the Christie’s postwar and contemporary afternoon sale, where an oil stick and graphite on paper triptych estimated to sell for $80,000 to $120,000 went for $750,000. I mean, someone actually stopped me on the street in SoHo recently to talk about this lot.
“There’s been a continuous amount of attention for Harold’s work,” Babin said.
As I was leaving, a woman looking at the pieces on an iPod was informed that all the work was sold, but she can come by the gallery if she likes.
“Well, I guess I’m going to have to go to Brooklyn,” she said.
Over at the booth of Société Berlin, director Daniel Wichelhaus said he had sold most of the glass ball installations by Kaspar Müller—”my only European artist,” Wichelhaus noted—on Wednesday, with the rest going on Thursday. They were priced between $15,000 and $20,000.
He said the conceit of Nova, with its restrictions on how many artists can be shown, makes sense for younger galleries.
“If you focus on one artist, people get a better impression of what the artist is doing,” Wichelhaus said.
House of Gaga, a Mexico City gallery showing at Miami Basel for the first time, sold nearly all the works by the two artists in its booth, Josef Strau and Vivian Suter. The silver metallic works by Strau were priced from $15,000 to $22,000, and the large unframed canvases by Suter—who lives and works in the middle of the jungle in Guatemala after residing for decades in the tony art mecca of Basel, Switzerland—were going for $12,000 to $18,000.
“Things are going very well,” said the gallery’s Gabriela Magaña. “Everyone’s saying it’s slowing, so we don’t want to brag, but we have no complaints.”
And yet, the specter of the election and Zika did cast a pall over even this part of the fair. Hannah Hoffman, whose eponymous gallery is in Los Angeles, said she had sold works by Rey Akdogan and Elaine Cameron-Weir steadily over the course of three days, but the opening hours lacked their usual lucrative punch. Just over a month ago at FIAC in Paris, the opening day saw a flurry of sales.
“They’re definitely missing people,” Hoffman said. “A big Greek collector, someone who can fly anywhere at the drop of a hat, emailed me to say he was in the gallery, and I was like… I’m in Miami.”
She added that the gallery’s program leans toward female artists in their thirties, exactly the audience that might decide not to come down because of Zika. And, given the election, “the fanfare around the purchase of a work at a fair, especially in Miami, doesn’t seem appropriate,” she said.
And yet, she was able to find success in a way that might point to the future of fairs, in an era when people want more privacy when they buy.
“We’re doing a lot of business on the phone and by email here in the booth,” she said.