Work by overlooked artists from the 1960s and 1970s is proving popular.
By Gareth Harris
A New York collector attending Tuesday’s VIP preview of Frieze New York was wilting in temperatures reaching 30C. “Sometimes it’s just so hard to make decisions in the heat,” she said. She was in good company, joining scores of other distinguished fairgoers at the Randall’s Island Park venue, including the actress Scarlett Johansson and the new director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Max Hollein.
Sales were strong at the lower end of the market during the first few hours of the preview. Rachel Uffner gallery immediately sold a work by the Brooklyn-based artist Strauss Bourque-LaFrance, “No Sun, No Mars, No Man” (2018), for $18,000. Tif Sigfrids of Athens in Georgia, sold more than seven expressionistic works by the Los Angeles artist Gracie DeVito, priced between $2,500 and $6,500. “They were bought mainly by US collectors, some from Los Angeles,” Sigfrids said. “The climate is right for a certain type of painting.” And the Los Angeles gallery Château Shatto sold a pair of paintings by the emerging artist Van Hanos, priced at $15,000 each, to a US buyer.
Château Shatto and Tif Sigfrids are part of the Frame section of the fair, which caters to galleries less than eight years old. The hot topic among the younger participating dealers was the so-called “Robin Hood” tax suggested by the heavyweight New York dealer David Zwirner at a conference in Berlin last week. He proposed that the larger, more profitable dealerships should pay higher stand fees at fairs, in order to subsidise smaller galleries. Olivia Barrett of Château Shatto struck a note of caution, saying that “it is not easy to assess the size and scale of a gallery. Do you look at their tax returns, for instance?” And an unnamed New York-based art adviser argued that “other issues are more pressing, such as high property rental charges and how bigger galleries poach artists from smaller ones”.
Over in the Spotlight section, which is dedicated to solo presentations by 20th-century artists, business was brisk at the stand of Los Angeles-based Royale Projects, which is showing recently discovered works by the late US abstract artist Clinton Hill, a contemporary of Kenneth Noland. Three pieces, all dating from 1964, were sold for $95,000 each at the VIP preview, two to a London-based collector and another to a Californian buyer. “There is quite a bit of 1970s inventory by Hill, but finite supply from the 1960s,” said the gallery’s Rick Royale.
Other overlooked artists are making waves. The London-based art adviser Arianne Piper believes that “there are lots of rediscoveries of works from the 1960s and 1970s at the fair, namely abstract pieces that have been ignored previously”. She points to the late Argentine artist Manuel Espinosa, a leading proponent of Concrete art, whose canon is attracting interest; London’s Stephen Friedman gallery sold a work by Espinosa for an undisclosed price.
Certain contemporary artists are also making their presence felt. Jack Shainman gallery sold three works by the New York-based artist Hank Willis Thomas, including the sculpture “Larger than Life” (2018, $135,000). McArthur Binion’s minimalist paintings at Lehmann Maupin gallery were also a draw. “Binion’s dna: transition: i” (2015) sold for between $50,000 and $75,000 to a trustee of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and “DNA: Study: Zero” (2018) sold for about $150,000-$175,000 to a board member at Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Other key sales above the mid-market level of $50,000 included William N. Copley’s “Untitled” painting of 1987 ($175,000) and Barry Flanagan’s sculpture “Musical Hare on Crescent and Bell” (1995, $550,000). Both were sold by New York’s Paul Kasmin gallery. Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac sold two works by Georg Baselitz for between €500,000 and €700,000 each, as well as a piece by Robert Rauschenberg for $725,000 and a Tony Cragg bronze for €175,000. Sprüth Magers gallery made several sales, including Sterling Ruby’s “VERT. POWWOW” (2018, $125,000) and Thomas Scheibitz’s 2017 painting “Porträt Marco Dente” (2017, €65,000). “Every fair has a price level at which buyers feel comfortable,” said Andreas Gegner, senior director at Sprüth Magers. “At this fair, it’s $60,000.”