Even Ropac, buying a $40,000 painting by a young artist (he declined to say who) said he felt compelled to jump the gun. “I could feel, ‘You buy it or you lose it,’” he said.
The fever pitch doesn’t, he said, indicate a bubble. Rather, it’s an indication of the steadily growing collector base. The number of millionaires globally “has increased dramatically since 2000 (rising 155% to 2016), and among them, those with wealth over $50 million have risen the fastest (by over 215%),” according to The Art Market | 2017, with much of that growth happening in emerging markets and particularly Asia.
“It’s just because more and more people are participating” in the art market, Ropac said. “You can see the Chinese are much more secure, they have been in the market long enough that they’re serious now, they’re no longer doing unrealistic offers,” attempts at heavy handed negotiating that several dealers at Art Basel in Hong Kong had mentioned earlier this year. He did sell a
painting to an Asian buyer for $1 million, while other sales included
’s Untitled (Eagle)
(2017) for $500,000,
’s Nach unten durch die Tür
(2017) and Weiter abwärts
(2017) for €500,000 apiece, and
(2017) for $250,000.
Asian collectors were more prominent at Hauser & Wirth, which had a “record year” at Basel, said Neil Wenman, a senior director at the gallery.
“We’re selling more works to Asian collectors for sure,” he said. “We’re working very closely with them building their collections, and they’re really understanding the value of work, often by artists that aren’t in the most mainstream collections.”
He agreed the market was on a sustainable footing, or at least that the purchases made at Basel, in the millions and tens of millions, were justified and informed.
“People are being very serious, they’re researching properly...and seeing how these great works, which already have a place in art history, have an inherent value,” he said. His booth included works like the aforementioned Manzoni and Guston, as well as Guston’s Untitled
(1969) for $2 million,
’s untitled steel triangle wall sculpture from 1975 for $3.5 million, and an
oil painting (No title
, 1961) for $2.5 million, which sold to a Chinese museum.