There seems to be a rush in the press to declare a Basquiat effect from last month’s record sale. First, Artnet got all hot an bothered about the number of works on offer at the fair. Now Bloomberg is repeating dealer’s sales pitches as if they were fact:
“People realize this is a moment to cash in on Basquiat,” said Phyllis Hattis, a New York private dealer who attended the fair. She noted that many Basquiat works were “placed conspicuously to be a drawing card for a booth.”
One work, “Three Delegates,” depicting three heads surrounded by scribbles, sold in the first hour on Tuesday at Acquavella Galleries. The work had an asking price of $18 million. While the gallery declined to reveal the sale price, the canvas last sold for $6.7 million at auction in 2015, according to Artnet.
The most expensive of the bunch, “Baby Boom” from 1982, had the asking price of $32 million at Levy Gorvy gallery. Its seller, newsprint magnate Peter Brant, acquired it for $1.2 million in 2001. The gallery was in negotiations with a potential buyer, according to Brett Gorvy, a co-founder.
A closer look at the markets show there is a rush to “cash in” mostly coming from the supply side. Demand has not appreciably picked up. The same dynamic can be seen in the auction history for Basquiat. May’s $110m price will need confirmation in the market. The perception of strong demand has not been helped by the buyer of the two top works revealing himself as the same person which adds to the need for more market confirmation.
Have we seen that at Art Basel? Well, not exactly. Of the numerous works on offer, the only reported sales have been from Acquavella and Richard Gray who Bloomberg reports sold Untitled (Solanamum) (1984) which was priced at $14m.
Here’s where it gets interesting. None of the works on offer at Art Basel can be considered major Basquiats. If the Maezawa sales have an effect on the market immediately, they will be on these lower level lots possibly making $5m works into $10m works.
That’s what may have happened with the Acquavella work which was bought for a third of the asking price at auction to years ago. The way the sale was announced, however, does leave open the possibility that the buyer had been approached before the fair and was only consummating the sale in the fair’s first hour.
Why is that important? Because the only other Basquiat reported took several days to close. That work too has an asking price that would suggest a Maezawa-effect but the selling price is not known.