Gotham Galleries Recap Basel Booths

NEW YORK CITY -- Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network who are looking forward to Art Basel next week can get a feel for what may be on offer -- by simply visiting Manhattan’s art galleries.

Many of the artists who will be included in the world’s biggest modern and contemporary art fair that opens to invited guests on June 16 are currently on display in New York.

For some, the local gallery may be an alternative to the booths and expensive hotels in the Swiss city. If nothing else, the Gotham dining scene is better.

“Seeing a proper gallery show is always better than seeing a work in a booth at a fair,” said Stefania Bortolami, who owns a gallery in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. “The show is the artist’s intended vision. At the fair, it’s not about the artist’s vision. It’s about a dealer putting up artworks for five days.”

Galleries traditionally mount their strongest exhibitions in May to attract wealthy international art buyers visiting New York for the big, semi-annual auctions and half a dozen of coinciding art fairs.

Unlike fairs, where visitors are bombarded by thousands of artworks in hundreds of booths, exhibitions at galleries usually focus on an artist or a theme, are free and lately, not very crowded.

For Jutta Koether’s solo show, “Fortune,” the Bortolami gallery darkened the front room and added special lighting inside to showcase how the iridescent paint used by the German artist changes in different light.

All but one of the seven artworks in the show, which closed June 6, were sold, with asking prices ranging from $50,000 to $80,000. At the gallery’s Art Basel booth, Koether’s two assemblage sculptures are each priced at $30,000.

Wool Sculpture

The centerpiece at Luhring Augustine’s Art Basel booth will be a new 14-foot-tall bronze sculpture by Christopher Wool. Priced at $2 million, it’s an outsize version of tumbling wire the artist collected around ranch land outside Marfa, Texas, where he lives part-time.

The gallery is currently exhibiting about $15 million worth of new paintings and sculptures by Wool at its Chelsea space.

The artist’s 1990 white aluminum canvas, spelling “Riot” in big chunky black letters, pictured here, fetched $29.9 million at Sotheby’s on May 12, setting an auction record for the artist.

His new silkscreen paintings, depicting a jumble of computer fonts and Rorschach-like imagery from his 1986 drawings, are priced at $1 million to $1.3 million.

Skarstedt’s Basel booth will include David Salle’s new “silver” image-transfer painting, based on the artist’s black-and-white photographs from 1992, priced at as much as $200,000.

The “silver” paintings are currently on view at Skarstedt’s Chelsea gallery along with his new brash canvases of collaged products such as cigarette packs and car parts. The show is almost sold out, with prices ranging from $200,000 to $275,000.

“A lot of people can afford these prices,” said Per Skarstedt, who operates galleries in New York and London and sold a painting by Andy Warhol for $32 million last year at Art Basel. “People don’t even ask for discounts.”

Smiley Faces

Greene Naftali gallery sold all 11 paintings in its exhibition by Jacqueline Humphries, whose large, layered abstract canvases are stenciled with hundreds of smiley faces and “X” letters. The paintings are priced at as much as $190,000, up from $35,000 to $45,000 during the artist’s solo show at the gallery in 2006.

The gallery said it will bring a painting by Humphries to Basel, priced at $170,000.

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise’s booth in Basel will include two canvases by 87-year-old Alex Katz, who’s had a solo show in the West Village gallery since May 2. The exhibition includes 12 monumentally scaled landscapes of Maine, priced around $500,000 each.

Last week, the Katz show was admired by collectors Warren Eisenberg and Leonard Feinstein, co-founders of Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc., and their wives, Mitzi Eisenberg and Susan Feinstein, who are trustees at the New Museum in New York. The group spent around 20 minutes at the nearly empty gallery.

“We used to buy at auction, but now the prices are too high,” said Mitzi Eisenberg. The couple’s latest acquisitions, made through galleries, included paintings by Christopher Wool and Albert Oehlen, whose exhibition at the New Museum opens June 10.

Art fairs offer a different experience than galleries.

“It’s like a convention,” said collector Lenore Schorr, who is skipping Basel this year. “You don’t go to fairs to look at art. People go to buy and socialize.”

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers an up-close gallery interview with Christopher Wool.