Basel art fair suggests boom times are back

Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:22am EDT
 
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By Silke Koltrowitz and Nathalie Olof-Ors

BASEL (Reuters) - Wealthy collectors at Art Basel, the world's top fair for modern and contemporary art, had to dig deep into their pockets this week to get hold of high-quality works, amid signs the market was returning to pre-crisis peaks.

In times of low interest rates, many investors seek to diversify their portfolios, and masterpieces by 20th century artists like Picasso and Miro, or contemporary stars such as Anish Kapoor or Antony Gormley, are in high demand.

Almost 300 private jets landed at Basel airport during the first day of the fair to fly in VIPs like supermodels Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, and the crowds were still large on Wednesday and Thursday when Art Basel was open to the public.

Art lovers and dealers peered at the works on display, took pictures on the latest mobile telephones to send back to clients and slipped handwritten notes into expensive designer handbags.

"There were more people than last year at the opening. The market feels solid, not crazy, but very solid," said Sukanya Rajaratnam, director of New York art gallery L & M Arts.

She said the gallery had already sold some of its best lots on display. An orange Mark Rothko was sold for a price "in the range of $5 million," while a giant red tripod by Paul McCarthy changed hands for about $2.5 million.

"FEEDING FRENZY"

Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the Fine Art Fund Group which has assets under management of around $100 million, said his fund had sold pieces for around $8 million on the first day of the fair alone.   Continued...

 
<p>A woman looks at an untitled painting from 2011 by U.S.artist George Condo at the Art Basel art fair in Basel June 16, 2011. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>