Sales, Speculation and a Ghost at Art Basel Miami Beach

Fairgoers and dealers alike seemed largely in good spirits by the end of the day at Art Basel yesterday, as

The Miami Beach Convention Center. (Andrew Russeth)

Fairgoers and dealers alike seemed largely in good spirits by the end of the day at Art Basel yesterday, as the tenth edition of the fair kicked off, and informal, off-the-record polling of gallerists suggested that business was clipping along comfortably.

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“People here have been very positive,” a smiling Marianne Boesky told us, as she took a momentary break from talking to visitors and fielding client inquires on her phone. “The farther we get from 2008, the better it gets.”

Ms. Boesky’s booth was swarming with people right before the vernissage yesterday, and she said people were snapping up ceramics by William J. O’Brien, most priced between $6,000 and $12,000.

“The ghost of Adam Lindemann” even came by, she quipped, referring to the collector and Observer columnist who called for a boycott of the fair and then decided to attend after all.

After a few hours, galleries began firing off news of sales. David Zwirner reported selling five pieces by Carol Bove—the gallery’s latest addition to its roster (she is jointly represented by Maccarone)—at prices ranging from $60,000 to $150,000.

The “major centerpiece” of the booth, a multipart Bove comprised of concrete, feathers, driftwood and other found objects, went to La Colección Jumex, the private collection of leading Mexican collector Eugenio Lopez, Mr. Zwirner said. Mr. Lopez is currently building a new home for his art in Mexico City.

James Cohan Gallery reported selling a $500,000 Fred Tomaselli “within the first hour of the fair.” The five-foot-by-five-foot psychedelic image of an owl—made of photo collage, acrylic and resin on wood panel—now belongs to an American collector. (Marion Maneker is keeping score of sales over on his Art Market Monitor blog.)

At Michael Werner Gallery’s booth, positioned in a choice location right near the entrance of a the fair, a circa 1940 Picabia had sold. A Werner representative declined to disclose a price, though judging by past auction results, it should have easily been in the high-six or low-seven figures.

Swiss powerhouse Galerie Gmurzynska had red dots next to a circa 1970 Chagall oil and a choice black Lucio Fontana “cut” painting from 1960. We asked Gmurzynska co-owner Mathias Rastorfer about his sense of the market.

“We have had some important sales, so I am happy,” Mr. Rastorfer offered, though he emphasized that many collectors take their time. “Last year was very strong,” he said. He is waiting for the end of the fair to pass judgment. Here, here.

“At the highest end, it is a seller’s market,” Mr. Rastorfer said, noting that quality work by major names often garner high prices in even the toughest times. (On that note: a Yves Klein diptych, made with a flamethrower, is on offer in his booth for $4 million.) He added, “In the middle range, though, it is a buyer’s market.”

Sales, Speculation and a Ghost at Art Basel Miami Beach