Art Basel Braces for Slump
The major pieces that typically define Art Basel, the world's largest art fair, are being eschewed last year in response to the largest art market plunge in nearly 20 years. If you're hoping to see the likes of Andy Warhol's work at the show in Switzerland this year, you'll have to hunt. The show opens to VIP visitors today, but you won't see much up-market art in attendance among the 300 galleries and 2,500 artists represented.
Galleries and dealers are being realistic. Average auction prices fell 76.2 percent from May 2008 to the present, according to ArtTactic, a London-based company that analyzes the market. The unexpected $93.7 million result at the Christie's contemporary art auction in May was based on lowered expectations, tainting the success. Consequently, the art on display is generally "priced to sell." A small 1964 Warhol silkscreen self-portrait is being offered for $675,000, though it would have been put up for a $1 million last year. Effectively, prices have returned to 2005 levels.
Of course, a lucky few will be able to take care of the "shadow fair" that's likely to emerge at Art Basel this year. While some will be stuck working the booths, others will strike private deals, usually involving pieces offered on consignment from collectors.