The Art Market: Spats and ’gators

Art Basel Miami Beach opened to VIP guests on Wednesday with hopes high, particularly among many of the New York exhibitors, that the fair would produce good sales. They need them after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, and while no dealers cancelled, fair organisers said they had given the worst-hit exhibitors payment terms, enabling them to participate. They had also changed booth layouts, as some dealers were unable to bring the pieces they had initially planned. Casey Kaplan explained that a 5ft-high wall of water had destroyed his personal collection of art, along with works in the gallery and all his archives. “It’s 17 years of work gone,” he said. “When I reopen in January, it can’t be the same – it will be like a new venture.”

The other talking point at the fair was the “fiscal cliff” of January 1, when the Bush-era tax cuts expire. It seems that many US taxpayers are rushing to transform cash into art to avoid paying higher taxes in the new year. Dealers also pointed to the excellent results of the November sales of contemporary art as another example of money looking for a tax-free haven, with buyers particularly looking for safe, “blue-chip” art.

The fair ends on Sunday, so I will report on sales next week.

Alligators are to Florida as kangaroos are to Australia, so it’s not surprising that artists were inspired by the reptiles during Art Basel Miami Beach to make a – er – snappy statement. A gigantic “gator-barge”, conceived by the Californian artist Lloyd Goradesky, was designed to bring awareness of the Everglades. Made of recycled materials, it was due to float along the waterways during the fair. Another ecologically inspired initiative was a group of brightly coloured resin alligators and other reptiles by artist William Sweetlove and the Cracking Art Group. They were installed on Miami Beach’s Freedom Tower during the fair, put there by the Rome-and-Miami gallery Ca d’Oro. After their clamber over the tower, the critters will be “looking to be adopted”. Gloria Porcella of the gallery says, “We’ve had lots of requests to install them in other places,” adding that small ’gators are $2,500 and $3,800, while the large ones are $16,000 and $17,000.

A resin alligator by William Sweetlove, Miami

Hong Kong artists have never had an international profile and the lack of a strong museum infrastructure in the region has certainly contributed to this. However, London is now hosting not one but two shows of Hong Kong artists. Just opened at the Saatchi Gallery is Hong Kong Eye (until January 12), an exhibition of contemporary art curated by the leading academic and dealer Johnson Chang (Chang Tsong-Zung) of Hanart TZ gallery. Chang was a trailblazer in his promotion of contemporary Chinese artists, and helped Sir David Tang put together his famed collection at The China Club.

More classic art is on show at Rossi and Rossi, where Hong Kong Masters (until January 25) focuses on seven artists. Fabio Rossi says: “I have always loved the older generation of Hong Kong artists and, since I moved to Hong Kong last year, I have seen more and more of their work. I think there is a lot of depth in terms of quality, subject matter and originality.” He was inspired, he says, by a survey he saw a few months ago at Hanart Square, Hanart’s Kowloon gallery. “I thought it would have been good to bring a selection to London where, as far as I know, they have never or rarely been exhibited. I believe they are a very important generation of artists, still fairly unappreciated and undervalued.” Prices at the show range from £2,000 to £40,000.

An extraordinary number of satellite fairs clustered around Art Basel Miami Beach this week – 20 in total, not counting other small groupings such as Seven, which, as its name indicates, brought together seven dealers. The fairs varied from the well-established, such as Pulse, to newcomers Overture and Just Mad Mia. A spat broke out when another inaugural event, Untitled, was announced in October – the New Art Dealers Alliance (Nada) sent a letter to exhibitors asking them to withdraw from Untitled, or be excluded from the Nada fair, also held in Miami Beach. The problem was swiftly resolved after the Untitled lawyers sent a “cease and desist” letter and Nada backed down. Judging by the well-heeled crowd attending Untitled, held in a tent on the beach, the dust-up had no lasting consequences.

‘Bifocal’ by Gaylord Chan

Flash Art, the Italian magazine, is launching its own art fair. The event will take place in Milan on February 7-10 and will feature 80 dealers who will each put on a solo show or curatorial project. According to the organisers, the fair will be a chance “to discover an emerging artist or rediscover an artist of the past”.

The Moscow Fine Art Fair returns next week, four years after the organisers cancelled the fourth edition following the global financial crisis. The decision to revive the event was taken, according to director Thierry Salah, because of “the vivid Russian economy, the willingness of the exhibitors to return to Moscow and the public’s desire to have an event of this quality”.

The fair starts on Thursday in a new location – a futuristic-looking exhibition centre on a bend of the Moskva river. The 50 dealers include French classic furniture specialists such as Steinitz and Aveline, paintings dealer Berko and a number of jewellers.

Georgina Adam is editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper

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